•  •  •

SAAFI BROTHERS: Mystic Cigarettes (UK import CD on Blueroom Records, 28-30 Rivington Street, London EC2A 3DU, UK).

Extremely exotic techno rave stuff. Very impressive use of undulating ethnic percussives, swimming electronics and enchanted lyrical utterances.
The melodies quickly build to epic electronic grandeur, blinding with their sinuous cosmic rhythms. Trance that severely kicks ass! Imagine early Astralasia gone trance to the ultimate.

This 73 minute CD is definitely one of the most outstanding E-music releases I've heard in years. Major recommendation.

•  •  • 

SANDOZ: Digital Lifeforms (CD on Touch Records in UK).

Sandoz is aka Richard Kirk (one-half of Cabaret Voltaire, the industrial trance faves of the late Seventies and early Eighties). This release is quite harsh and intense, primal techno of a very dark nature.


SCALA: Slide (UK import CD EP on Too Pure Records).    

Scala is three-fourths of Seefeel. This incarnation produces a grittier edge to trance music, drenched with swimming electronics, thick bass, peppy E-perc and heavy female vocals. Imagine an electrified version of Curve with less raw impact. This 20 minute EP features remixes by Richard Fearless (of Death in Vegas) and Bruce Gilbert (of Wire).    Other incarnations of what is left of the fragmented Seefeel band can be found operating under the names: Locust, Disjecta, and Echo Park.    

•  •  •

SCENIC: Acquatica (CD on World Domination Records, PO Box 8097, Universal City Station, North Hollywood, CA 91618-8097).

This 74 minute CD starts off very eerie and experimental, then percussion in the second song mutates the music into slick guitar rock. The introduction of such instruments as trumpet, harmonica and wood flute throws it all into a very unclassifiable state.

Scenic is the brainchild of ex-Savage Republic founder Bruce Licher, whose sonic vision of the Mojave Desert is powerfully evoked with every note.

The melodies are carefully crafted and intensely interesting. Brilliant multi-guitar dominated power rock--a mutant fusion of Glenn Branca and Cocteau Twins, producing a wall of ethereal twang akin to Dif Juz. A triumph of inspirational instrumental music.

Supremely recommended.

•  •  •

IRMIN SCHMIDT: Anthology Soundtracks 1978-1993 (triple CD on Spoon Records in Germany).

Schmidt used to be in CAN. Among his solo works, he's done lots of European movie soundtracks, some of which got released in the "Filmmuzik" series of albums. Not easy stuff to find these days...so along comes this release collecting his soundtrack music. And to make it even better, there's about 70 minutes of previously unreleased material.

Haunting ambient, full instrumental range stuff--very cool and very recommended.

•  •  •

SCHNITT ACHT: Subhuman Minds on the Firing Line (CD on Cheetah Records, 3208-C East Colonial Dr. #131, Orlando, FL 32803 USA).

This release is a pure sonic bloodyletting of extremely industrial heavy metal music. Very slick and very hoarse. Alas, their subsequent releases have tended more towards a heavy metal sound.

•  •  •

CONRAD SCHNITZLER: Ballet Statique (CD on Tempel Records in France).

This is a CD reissue of his classic "Con" album from 1978, with twenty minutes of new bonus material . Certainly one of the more uptempo Con releases, this CD features over 20 minutes of bonus tracks that are suitably frenzied and strange. Data trivialists will be interested to remember that the "Con" LP was produced by Peter Baumann (another Tangerine Dream alumnus).

CONRAD SCHNITZLER: Blue Glow (CD on Artgallery/E.P.S.L., 91 rue Eugene Labiche, 78290 Croissy sur Seine, France).

This release contains a variety of tracks from Conrad's cassette concerts (circa 1972 through 1979). It is a reasonably lively sampling of his quirky electronic stylings. The music is a virtual sea of unearthly sounds: space drones and softly metallic percussives and chittering computers and wobbly noises and swooping pitches and scrabbling robotics and rapid cyber-xylophonic rolls... The rhythmic nature of the music is subtle, and even the frantic pieces have a dreamy quality to them that is quite interstellar.

CONRAD SCHNITZLER: Charred Machinery (CD on E.P.S.L. Records, 91 rue Eugene Labiche, 78290 Croissy sur Seine, France).

Hey--the new Con CD is a classic oldie! Three long bubbling industrial tracks (two from 1971 and one from 1980) digitally remastered directly from the original analog tapes. This is the stuff with which Con molded the electronic music field, paving the way for industrial and ambient with his non-keyboard electronics mastery.

Hard, synthetic gurgling drones and shimmering pulses with scraping metal for 64 minutes--imagine Forbidden Planet meets Throbbing Gristle on an atonal battlefield. Man, some of this stuff is over 25 years old, yet it could blindingly pass as modern post-industrial ambience.

CONRAD SCHNITZLER: Con Brio (CD on Tempel Records in France).

This is a blend of Con's electronic and classical cassette concert pieces.

CONRAD SCHNITZLER: Constellations (CD on Badlands Records in Germany).

More zany electronics by the grandfather of modern electronic music. Very cool.

CONRAD SCHNITZLER: Control (CD on E.P.S.L., 91 rue Eugene Labiche, 78290 Croissy sur Seine, France).

Whimsical jaunts into erratic tempo pulse and bubbling electronics. There are rhythms, but they can hardly be called prominent. Indeed, this music treads ever so closely near the atonal realm. This is not music for dancing (unless you are an air-whale and have a ticket to the Jovian ballroom), it is music for sense-of-wonder contemplations.

Digitally remastered from the original tapes, the material on this CD dates from 1980-81. One half of the disc is a reissue of Con's "Control" album, while the remaining music comes from one of Con's numerous cassette releases. This time, though, the 25 short pieces are presented with titles.

CONRAD SCHNITZLER: Convex (CD on E.P.S.L., 91 rue Eugene Labiche, 78290 Croissy sur Seine, France).

More quirky tempos cavort like sonic robots through a glistening field of twinkling electronics. Con's music is often like a collection of timepieces ticking and boinking in a mad dance of counterpointing meters. This CD features an exemplary array of strange noises and electronic weirdness.

This CD is one of Con's finest moments. It is mainly a reissue of Con's "Convex" album from 1982 with six additional tracks from one of his cassette releases from the same period.

CONRAD SCHNITZLER: Electroqravity (CD on E.P.S.L. Records, 91 rue Eugene Labiche, 78290 Croissy sur Seine, France).

Again featuring old material, this time 65 minutes from 1977 and 1980, bearing a far spacier edge to the electronic sound.

For the two long pieces: gurgling pulses dance in a marsh of seething drones, often with a revolving astral tone in the background. Full of Con's signature sounds of quirky rhythms and sparkling noises appearing like fireworks throughout.

The music becomes darker and more pensive for a series of shorter pieces (one of which is highly charged with rushing heat).

Again, extremely recommended solo work by a member of Bugtown's legendary Bulidaggers.

CONRAD SCHNITZLER: The Piano Works, Volume 1 (CD on Individuelle Mythologie/Plate Lunch, PO Box 1503, D-53585 Bad Honnef, Germany).

Con unplugged? Well, maybe.

This release is a surprising deviation from the grandfather of modern electronic music--62 minutes of solo piano compositions.

Expect Con's quirky sensibilities to flourish on savage, untreated piano. Classical structure becomes gene-spliced with melodies encased in interweaving patterns of cacophony. Keys dance wildly as the pieces thrash away. But this is not angry thrashing; a sense of joy pervades this frantic music, deeply communicating a sonic thrill.

CONRAD SCHNITZLER: Rot (CD on Plate Lunch, PO Box 1503, D-53585 Bad Honnef, Germany).

"Rot" is the CD reissue of an incredibly rare privately released album by Schnitzler from 1973. An entertaining exploration of a strange auralscape in long mode, this 40 minute CD is made up of a pair of 20 minute pieces: electric organ tones and oscillations mixed with electronic grinding and popping and zooping.

CONRAD SCHNITZLER: 00/44 (German import CD on Marginal Talent, Erlanger Street 7, 90765 Furth, Germany).

Very dramatic electronic music by Con this time, almost a sedate soundtrack for some cryptic movie with lots of Bergman close-ups and Cocteau lighting in haunted alleyways. Thoroughly melodic, complete with ambient pauses in a neo-classical structure. Sonically, you're in store for a surging electronic soup in which swim: dense bells, dancing keyboards, drawn cellos, whistling snowflakes, quasi-horns, deep drones and pulsing synths.

No gimmicks, no pretense--just straight-out music, Schnitzler style--62 minutes of primo electronic melodies by the maestro. Oh, rest assured, Con's quirky sense of composition dominates, producing an enjoyable unpredictability to the music.

CONRAD SCHNITZLER: 00/106 (CD on Plate Lunch, PO Box 1503, D-53585 Bad Honnef, Germany).

"00/106" is a brand new Schnitzler release! A grand mix of percussion, electronics, orchestral and weirdness to produce 60 minutes of brief pieces, each startling in their individuality, yet blending into the next passage to cavort with synthi pulses, then pass into the next piercing E-pitch and spiral rhythm.

Visit Schnitzler's Web Site at http://www.conrad-schnitzler.net4.com for info on more releases and to see some cool art by Howarth.   

•  •  •

PAUL SCHUTZE: Volume 1, Deus Ex Machina (The Soundtrack Panic Heat Vengeance) (CD on Tone Casualties Records).

Dense ambience is the intention here. Utilizing a multitude of instruments and environmental samples, Schutze weaves a surprisingly vibrant ambience. The music thrives with a slow rhythm of soft percussives and distant fusion bass. Although the CD contains a single 59 minute long track, the music unfolds as a series of tenser pieces, rooted in jazz, and bridged by more somber passages.

Really quite thrilling.

PAUL SCHUTZE: Volume 3, Regard: Music by Film (CD on Tone Casualties Records).

Again, ambience with a dash of drama, this time delivered in 22 brief but powerful songs. The melodies are unobtrusive but not unnoticeable, with full instrumentation range: soft percussives, sax presence, oozing bass, trickling keyboards, even a taste of flamenco guitar...and of course, eerily atmospheric electronics.

•  •  • 

KLAUS SCHULZE: Are You Sequenced? (double CD on Eye of the Storm Records in Germany).

Pulsing sequencers and seething electronics--high energy and maximum flash predominate on this new release of modern electronic music. The compositions have a high tempo structure that fairly cooks with pep and there are several stretches of true brilliance in the 80 minute epic weld on the first of the two discs.

The second disc features 62 minutes of remixes by techno trance musicians, Pete Namlook, Thomas Fehlmann, Sam Pets, Humate, Jorg Schaaf and Peter Kuhlmann.

KLAUS SCHULZE: Beyond Recall (CD on Venture/Virgin in Germany).

This CD is quick and energetic, full of electronic percussion and toe-tapping rhythms. Comprised of intricate melodies born out of cyclic repetition, the music has a strong tempo, yet still drifts along with its blend of synthesized instruments: cello, some very exotic percussion, keyboards, and even guitar for a lengthy passage in the first song. That heavenly big room quality possessed by Schulze's music is dominant like rhythmic velvet.

KLAUS SCHULZE: Conquest of Paradise (CD EP on ZYX Records in Germany).

This is a CD single (a rather short one too, at eight and a half minutes). Two brief versions by Schulze of this Vangelis tune. Schulze duplicates Vangelis' sound perfectly rather than lending his own sound to the melody.

KLAUS SCHULZE & PETE NAMLOOK: The Dark Side of the Moog 1

KLAUS SCHULZE & PETE NAMLOOK: The Dark Side of the Moog 2

(both CDs on Fax Records in Germany).

These two CDs are a pair of collaborations between Schulze and Pete Namlook--yowl Two creative geniuses working together--what a surprisel No...the real aorta clencher is how dreadfully boring these two CDs are.

Okay, I'll try and be objective. The music is generally atonal wandering. Each disc is about an hour long, but things don't start to get interesting until over halfway into the discs. Frankly, these two CDs strike me more as tributes to experimental sounds and textures than containing any interesting application of said sounds and textures (something that both musicians individually excel at). Pity they forgot to add a melody...

KLAUS SCHULZE & PETE NAMLOOK: The Dark Side of the Moog 4 (CD on Fax Records in Germany).

Here's the peak, an outburst of dynamic creativity and top notch electronics. There are a few ambient passages, but the music is mainly on the hyper-tempo side in the style of Schulze's work from the early 1980s. This time--surprise!--Bill Laswell is added to the collaboration with wonderous results. The pieces with his presence fairly leap from the CD and dance about with electronic frenzy.

KLAUS SCHULZE & PETE NAMLOOK: The Dark Side of the Moog 5 (CD on Fax Records in Germany).

This time the ongoing collaboration between these two electronic musicians results in 60 minutes of cohesive instrumental tunes (seven of them, with an eighth track being a spoken word intro by Robert Moog giving his Email address and welcoming the listener to this Dark Side outing). Rich sequencing and pinnacle drones... the pieces range from ambient (not unlike Namlook's solo work) to dynamic (with remarkably strong Schulze influences). The CD'a final piece bears a surprising distinct similarity to the sound of Delerium (aka Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber, aka Front Line Assembly).

Add Bill Laswell to two tracks and you get a solid and highly recommended dose of superb electronic music.

KLAUS SCHULZE & PETE NAMLOOK: The Dark Side of the Moog 6 (CD on Fax Records in Germany).

This 64 minute CD has an awkward start with a vocal effects piece, but swiftly turns into a blinding explosion of truly awesome and highly rhythmic electronic music. This time, the collaboration between Pete Namlook and Klaus Schulze (with Bill Laswell on one track) produces a near perfect gene-splice of Namlook's dreaminess with Schulze's dynamics. This time, the music shines with an utmost brilliance--absolutely the gem of this collab series. Energetic keyboards and rushing pulses abound in this very melodic release.

KLAUS SCHULZE: Das Wagner Desaster (Live) (double CD on ZYX Records in Germany.

This is a double CD, over two hours of thrilling music from a pair of 1994 Schulze concerts--but this time he's added a twist. This time Schulze has done several mixes of the music from his awesome concerts in Paris and Rome. The results are remarkably dissimilar. Very tasty stuff.

KLAUS SCHULZE: The Dome Event (CD on Virgin Venture Records in UK).

This is another live release (with one studio inclusion to fill the disc out to 74 minutes) recorded in May 1991 at the Cologne Cathedral. Schulze is in typical form--meaning utterly in control and masterful in his sonic sculpture. Another mandatory item for the heavy handed electronic music shelf. And it also features cover art and booklet design by Dave McKean (in fact, his cover for "The Dome Event" is a decidedly interesting computer graphic turn for this collage/painter--is very cool too).

KLAUS SCHULZE: Dosburg Online (CD on Eye of the Storm Records in Germany).

Continuing to produce modern electronic music of the finest quality, Schulze delivers 79 minutes this time of snappy tempos and a tasty synthetic balance of drama and hypnotics. Joining Schulze this time is Jorg Schaaf, the pair producing sinuous E-perc, fluting keyboards and dreamy treble tonalities that cavort with a hybrid of swelling orchestral strings. Two songs feature the operatic in English vocals of Roelof Oostwould. This CD's compositions are strong, and heavy with a new groove and sensational sequencing.

KLAUS SCHULZE: Goes Classic (CD on ZYX Records in Germany).

This one is self-explanatory: Schulze plays the music of Smetana, Schubert, van Weber, Saint-Saens, Rimsky-Korssakoff, Brahms, Grieg and Beethoven. Schulze synthesizes an entire orchestra, producing pure classical versions of these classics.

KLAUS SCHULZE: In Blue (double CD on ZYX Records in Germany).

This is a double CD and happens to be one his best releases ever. Schulze's first real studio album in years, it's rich with power and electronic drama. It's really long too, clocking in at over two and a had hours. And there's a special guest appearance by Manuel Gottsching (from Ash Ra Tempel) on one disc, adding his space guitar mastery to Schulze's glimmering keyboard sweeps.

KLAUS SCHULZE: Inter*Face (CD on Manikin Records, Postfach 450274, D-12172 Berlin, Germany).

Unavailable for some time, this classic Schulze album from 1985 has been reissued on CD by Mario Schonwalder at Manikin Records. Ah, you say, there are lots of old Schulze albums, each full of wonderfully epic layered synthesizer music. What makes this one special?

This album marked an evolution in Schulze's electronic style, injecting more pep to his majestic swells and E-perc rhythms. The keyboards became less rushed, taking time to weave tender melodies. Ah, but the music is still rich with drama and hypnotic splendor. And the best reason in favor of this 49 minute CD is the music itself: specially outstanding compositions, gripping harmonics applied to energetic trances.

This is not a part of history you can afford to overlook.

KLAUS SCHUI.ZE: Le Moulin de Daudet (CD on Virgin Records in France).

This movie soundtrack is another not easily found disc. Pity. It's refreshing to hear Schulze apply his epic mastery to shorter pieces. His drama is not diminished here, but condensed to hard brilliant diamond.

KLAUS SCHULZE: Miditerranean Pads (CD on Magnum Music in Germany).

One learns early in life that only the worst puns are any good. No one remembers a tasteful jape.

Those of you familiar with Schulze's long and respected career are used to these things--the awful puns, the awesome music--by now. These people will view this release as the next in a long line of intensely gratifying experiences. Schulze's mastery of electronically induced sounds is, in itself, enough to make one gasp; his abilities to arrange these sounds into melodies make one sigh. Inhale, exhale...the cycle, once complete, endlessly repeats.

But what about those ignorant of Schulze's music? You people are in for such an eye and ear-opener, it will be like an ape discovering how to use its thumbs. You will hear intricately slippery tempos snaking through the soft but exotic synth-percussion, predominated by neo-computerized bongos, and backdropped by a mountainous choir of atmospheric keyboard drones and generated orchestral strains. This music is majestic and dreamy, just this side of trancelike repetition. It is evocative of vast fields of sighing grass and lazy waters, carrying in its rhythmic thread all the inspirational gist of the best of all possible sunrises.

KLAUS SCHULZE: Tontentag (double CD on ZYX Records in Germany).

This is a double CD, and it's an opera. Thick it might be with Schulze's rich synthi tones and rhythms, but with lots of German vocals--it's an opera.

KLAUS SCHULZE: 2001 (CD on Brain Records in Germany).

Simply put: a Klaus Schulze sampler featuring tracks spanning nearly two decades of his solo music. Electronic mastery at its best--from the dense and somber early material to the fanciful and mighty recent works--Schulae is the unsurpassed king of electronic music. The pieces are tightly mixed together into a seedless 77 minutes of the highest quality.

A decent introduction to Schulze's music should you happen to be unfamiliar with his long and splendid career.

•  •  •

PAUL SCHUTZE/PHANTOM CITY: Shiva Recoil (CD on Virgin Records in UK).

Minimalist maestro Schutze reunites with the Phantom City band for a superb live performance of improvised fusion. Schutze's luscious keyboards are relentlessly enhanced by Raoul Bjorkenheim's searing guitar, Bill Laswell's foundation bass, Toshinori Kondo's trumpet blare, Alex Buess' bass clarinet, and Dirk Wachtelaer's sinuous drums. A slowbuild of dreamy fusion evolves into blazing outbursts of sonic passion as the music drifts like the fire that dances on newborn lava. Often reminiscent of a Miles Davis concert from the 70s.

Wildly recommended.

•  •  •

SEEFEEL: Fracture/Tied (CD EP on Warp Records in UK).

This release by Seefeel hits your ears with an unexpected surge. The two pieces are considerably more intense and savage than the band's previous trance sound. Heavy on the E-perc and shrill electronics, the music is nonetheless an evident evolution of Seefeel's sound. Very tasty, albeit short at 12 minutes.

SEEFEEL: Quique (CD on Astralwerks in USA).

Up front guitar of a totally different nature can be found in Seefeel's music. Dreamy yet gritty, ambient music with an edge, highly inventive and distinctive.

•  •  •

SEVEN: Seven (CD on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

Delicate ambience that rips into medium energy techno that progresses into dark underworld tunage that crawls buglike into the light of another world where a robot dance contest is going an that crescendos into a heavenly ascending passage to finish as a cyber rock piece.

A busy dose of tasty trance music.

•  •  •

SEVERED HEADS: Gigapus (CD on Volition Records in Australia).

A wonderful 63 minute dose of Severed Heads' peculiar brand of industrial pop: almost candified electronics with gritty sensibilities and uptempo delivery. From hauntingly nerdy to operatic to sampled radio announcers--a variety of vocals add a very twisted edge to the head hopping pop tunes. Inventive use of composition results in extremely catchy melodies. Major dance floor item here.

•  •  •

SHEEP ON DRUGS: Double Trouble (CD on Invisible Records in USA).

Sheep on Drugs give a maximum dose of speed electro industrial music with a taste of hip hop--stiletto sharp and full of kickboot rapid E-perc. The vocals are vicious and rich with cynicism. Inject a snakepit of vocal samples peaking through at breath-breaks. This trip there are a few mellow pieces thrown in, like woozy dreams in a smokefilled cabaret, lulls in the electrostorm, chances to catch your breath before the next song commences its relentless psychic rollercoaster plummet.

It's taken Sheep on Drugs a few years to produce a follow-up to their awesome debut album, "Greatest Hits''. The wait was worth it.

•  •  •

SIGNAL TO NOISE: Hostile Takeover (cassette tape on Arts Industria, PO Box 4142, South Bend, IL 46634, USA).

This 30 minute tape has growing electronic rhythms moving at light speed, E-perc engines a'churning and thick-echo vocals. If you go for FLA, Skinny Puppy, X Marks the Pedwalk, or Leather Strip--you'll find much of interest in this independent release.

•  •  •

SIMPLE MINDS: She's A River (CD EP on Virgin Record).

A while ago I picked up the UK import of Simple Minds' "She's a River" CD EP. Well, recently I picked it up again by accident--this time a USA release--only to discover it contained much more material than the import. (It used to be the other way around, but the last few years have seen the USA re-issue containing more material than the UK original release. You can't always bide your time and wait for a domestic release to happen though, for often it never does.)

So, the USA version of the CD EP of "She's a River" features 5 tracks: LP version, edit and a slick Duo Mix of the title track and two kick-ass nonLP tracks--a total of 25 minutes. Only one of the nonLP tracks, the edit and an instrumental dub of the title track were on the original UK version.

I also picked up Simple Minds' "Hypnotic" CD EP which also features 5 tracks: LP version and 2 remixes of the title track, an emotional live piece, and yet another nonLP track--a total of 30 minutes.

I enjoy Simple Minds.Their style of rock always takes on epic proportions (even with the band in its current pruned-down-to-a-duo status), and the compositions are always strong and catchy.

•  •  •

SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES: O Baby (Versions 1 and 2) (both CD Eps on Geffen Records in UK).

A pair of CD EPs from Siouxsie's "The Rapture" LP. (A quick refresher: Siouxsie's dense gothic sound oozes further into commercial ground with this LP, but it's still highly interesting and snappy.)

"O Baby" (version 1): this track ranks pretty low on my interest meter, but you get a manhattan cafe remix and a real kick-ass nonLP track with some cool Siouxsie vocal screeching.

"O Baby" (version 2): besides the LP version of the title track, there are two excellent live tracks: "Swimming Horses" and "All Tomorrow's Parties". Very dark, very biting.

SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES: Stargazer (Versions 1 and 2) (both CD Eps on Geffen Records in UK).

A pair of CD EPs from Siouxsie's "The Rapture" LP. (A quick refresher: Siouxsie's dense gothic sound oozes further into commercial ground with this LP, but it's still highly interesting and snappy.)

"Stargazer" (version 1): this one is a knockout, featuring 3 techno remixes (and the obligatory LP version) that churn and chug and moroccan roll along very happily.

"Stargazer" (version 2): LP version plus 2 nonLP tracks that have more bite than most of the songs on the LP.Also comes in a nice foldout pack with metallic ink printing effects.

•  •  •

SKINNY PUPPY: The Process (CD on American Records in USA).

To most, it hardly matters how good this is--it's the long awaited final album by Skinny Puppy, the original industrial deity. But for all the brouhaha over it's odd musical nature, I can honestly report that the CD is thoroughly a worthwhile experience. It has its commercial moments (which undoubtedly prompted the rumors of "different" content), its periods of noise, and its godlike peaks. Personally, I found "The Process" far more satisfying that their "Last Rites" album.

Now that founding member Dwayne Goettel is deceased (such a sad loss to us all), Skinny Puppy's future will apparently continue under the guise of Download.

•  •  •

SKY CRIES MARY: Every Iceberg Is Afire (UK import CD EP on World Domination Recordings, PO Box 8097, Universal City Station, North Hollywood, CA 91618-8097).

This 22 minute CD EP sports two versions of the title track, normally quite the funky modern pop tune remixed by Steve Hillage (aka System 7, in UK; or 777, in USA). Psychedelic guitar and sinuous percussion intertwine with vocals and sensuous crooning--all swimming in a thick but very subtle E-mix. The nice touch here is that Hillage resisted the urge to do techno remixes of the song, choosing to further pursue the band's progressive psychedelic approach.

You also get two more tunes: an alternate version of "Deep Sunless Sea"--a dose of Middle Eastern rock with trance overtones; and a remix of "Cornerman" (a non-LP track from a CD EP released in the USA as "Exit at the Axis" and in the UK as "Gone")--a dose of Bayou funeral march with twang rock'n'roll overtones.

(Note: "Exit at the Axis" is a wonderful EP too. The UK "Gone" release of the EP features a radio edit of a track not on the USA version. Both are also on World Domination Recordings.)

SKY CRIES MARY: This Timeless Turning (CD on World Domination Recordings, PO Box 8097, Universal City Station, North Hollywood, CA 91618).

Start with a vial of hard rock...add a dash of Pink Floyd, a dash of Cocteau Twins, shake well, transfer the mixture to a vial of progressive rock--you have the beginning of an idea where this band's sound starts. Go further...searing guitar, hyper rock percussion, haunting vocals, dreamy keyboards, a touch of gonzo sampling. With compositions that are very intellectual in structure, the music achieves a lofty degree of epic emotionalism.

A superior musical experience and highly recommended. The band also has a dynamite earlier release, "A Return to the Inner Experience" (also on World Domination) which comes with equally enthusiastic recommendation.

•  •  •

SOFT MACHINE: Spaced (CD on Cuneiform Records, PO Box 8427, Silver Spring, MD 20907-8427 USA).

When Soft Machine made this previously unreleased studio recording in 1969 (commissioned for a London multi-media event), the music was undoubtedly considered minimalist and highly experimental. Although the instruments are normal --bass, organ, electric piano, and drums--the sound produced on these instruments is strange and eerie.

Today, this music can be honestly classified as trance ambient with soft jazz diversions. It would not be out of place to hear this album in the humble store where you buy incense or herbal concoctions--or maybe in a romantic cafe on some artsy French backstreet.

Now or then, Soft Machine are legendary masters of progressive music. Unreleased material by the band (much less from the classic early trio line-up of Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge and Robert Wyatt) is a gem of sonic wonder to be celebrated by many far and wide. This majesty is found throughout this 67 minute CD, but especially so on a 32 minute track that is a masterpiece of cohesive free form with almost industrial qualities at times.

•  •  •

SOMA: The Inner Cinema (CD on Extreme Records, PO Box 147, Preston 3072 Victoria, Australia).

A sampled extravaganza of percussion, keyboards, electronics, choirs, robot crickets, harpsichord, horns--all utilized in the construction of some very exuberant electronic art rock. Strong trance rhythms, sinuous melodies and dark sensibilities all blend to produce an enthralling listen.

Imagine a more intense Orb, heavy on the bass and often a spaghetti western mood. I enjoyed this 63 minute CD very much, especially the band's inventive way of splicing different genres into cinematic soundscapes. Very recommended.

SOMA: Stygian Vistas (CD EP on Extreme Records, Extreme North America, 233 Carlaw Ave. Unit B5, Toronto, Ontario M4M 2S1, Canada).

Soma is a pair of Australians: David Thrussell (from Snog) and Pieter Bourke (who has worked with Dead Can Dance). The music here is an entrancing blend of dance, ambient and weirdness with a strong undercurrent of spaghetti western soundtracks filtered through an arid alien landscape teaming with curious sonic life forms. Some of them are vibrant non-LP tracks, some of them are LP tracks from "The Inner Cinema" LP (also on Extreme) remixed by Nonplace Urban Field, Francois Tetaz, and Fetisch Park. 44 minutes of melodic intensity. Highly recommended.

•  •  •

SPACE EXPLOSION: Space Explosion (CD on Captain Trip Records, 3-17-14 Minami-Koiwa, Edogawa-Ku, Tokyo, Japan).

Imagine what you might get if you put Dieter Moebius (from Cluster) together with Mani Neumeier (from Guru Guru) and Jurgen Engler (from Die Krupps) and Chris Karrer (from Amon Duul) and Zappi Diermaier (from Faust) and Jean-Herve Peron (also from Faust). A lot of heavy hitting Euro talent there.

You'd get raspy sax, chaotic percussives and orderly drums, searing guitar and electronics monstrous in their scope. This 57 minute collaborative jam CD is often energetic, but basically directionless. Having some good moments, the music is generally too non-melodic, meandering in experimental turf too long.

•  •  •

SPACESHIP EYES: Cheebahcabra (12-inch single on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

Electro dub rasta style with mega E-perc patterns, thunder bass and a host of electronic effects warping the vocals. Prime Drum and Bass--solid dance club fare. Major breaking goin' on on side two.

This 12-inch single features two remixes from the upcoming album "Truth in the Eyes of a Spaceship".

•  •  •

SPAHN RANCH: Collateral Damage (CD on Cleopatra Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

Spahn Ranch produces a hard industrial dance music in the FLA or Leaether Strip mode, with a special vibratory quality that bestows a distinctive style to the music. Their attack electronics swim in a sea of lively and dark percussive threads. Some of the sampling reproduces a wall of growling guitars, adding a Ministry touch to the sound. The angry vocals resemble gravel filtered through arcane but ominous machinery. Excellent hooks abound throughout the tasty rhythms.

SPAHN RANCH: In Parts Assembled Solely (CD EP on Cleopatra Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

Gritty rasping industrial dance music in the vein of Skinny Puppy or Leaether Strip. Urban tribal in that it's heavy on the mechanoid rhythmic sound with electronics, percussion, guitar effects and dense gothic vocals. The compositions are seething with pressure.

This 49 minute EP features 6 remixes and 4 live tracks which exhibit a more human side with the E-perc being replaced by a pair of live drummers.

Very tasty.

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SPEKTAKEL: Spektakel (CD on The Laser's Edge, PO Box 2450, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034-0199).

This music explores a region of structure peppered with outbursts of solo performances. The strong sustain guitar and the astral keyboards (both executed in the classic style of progressive music) dance and mesh until they become almost undiscernible from each other in that peculiar style of Seventies prog rock. The percussion displays a powerful delicacy that is extremely reminiscent of "In the Court of the Crimson King". The vocals are kindly and wise, comfortably setting the stage so as to allow the improvisational jam portions to florist. This music's utterly British sound is surprising, considering that it is German in origin.

Shortly after recording these songs in 1974 (including the 20 minute bonus live track), Spektakel disbanded, with members going their own way (two of them joining with Gerd Fuhrs to form Schicke Fuhrs Frohling). This 62 minute CD release is a testament to a richer time of early prog rock.

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SPHERE LAZZA: Incinerate (cassette tape on Arts Industria, PO Box 4142, South Bend, IL 46634, USA).

This 40 minute tape is excellent industrial electro rock...harsh vocals in your face, rapid intense electronics in your gut, cruel percussion ripping the flesh from your feet. Very nasty stuff...cool! If you go for FLA, Skinny Puppy, X Marks the Pedwalk, or Leather Strip--you'll find much of interest in this independent release.

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SPICELAB: Lost in Spice

SPICELAB: A Day on our Planet

(both CDs on Harthouse/Planet Earth Recordings in USA).

Now here's a band (actually it's just one guy: Oliver Lieb) I stumbled across by chance whose music delivered superbly on every level. Hard driving ambient rave, high on the flash and insectoid noises, deeply into a space groove that glistens like a Chris Foss alien ship fifty miles in diameter. All instrumental--thousands of synthis and razor sharp rhythmatics --and long!

"Lost in Spice" is 76 minutes long with 5 songs.

"A Day on our Planet" is 71 minutes long with 4 songs.

Both LPs are absolutely awesome! The music is relentless. The melodies are intelligent and catchy and never tedious--there are constant twists and hooks going on within the music. The progression is constant, always tweaking your attention.

SPICELAB: Spy Vs Spice (CD on Under Cover Music Group in USA).

Spicelab has long been an absolute fave in this attic studio, so the sudden appearance of a new release after many years is truly cause for passionate anticipation.

Outstanding trance strains mutate into driving techno dance rhythms, punctuated by outbursts of synthetic weirdness. Wonderfully sinuous and crackling electronics played in a percussive manner lend the sound a unique quality, with impacts interplaying and cavorting.

The masterful trance appeal of Spicelab's two previous releases is harnessed into shorter pieces on this 73 minute CD, compacting the fluid dynamics into tight tuneage. This release carries Spicelab's sound to new heights of surge pounding ecstasy, striding a wavering line between ambience and dance.

Breathlessly recommended.

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MALKA SPIGEL: Hide (CD EP on Swim/ World Domination Recordings, PO Box 8097, Universal City Station, N. Hollywood, CA 91618-8097 USA).    

Malka Spigel (ex- of Minimal Compact) joins with husband Colin Newman (from Wire) to produce a 38 minute EP made up of three new songs, a new version of a Minimal Compact song ("Returning Wheel" from their 1985 "Raging Souls" album), and three remixes by Incarnate, Immersion (aka Newman and Spigel), and g-man/Nigel Walker.     Gone are the sweeping Middle Eastern influences, leaving behind strong modern pop sensibilities--crisp percussion that sounds natural but vibrates with a quirky artificial overtouch, almost subliminal thunder bass, versatile sighing keyboards, and Spigel's dreamy vocals.   

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SPIRAL REALMS: Crystal Jungles of Eos (CD on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

Ambient rave textures from Simon House and Len del Rio, comprised of a multitude of soaring synthis, violin and special noises. The achieved effect with this is akin to a slick new age album, easily rivaling most of Tangerine Dream's output during the last decade. No, Rivaling is wrong--"topping" is more direct. This is a solid electronics album whose melodies coast on astral winds between the stars, conjuring alien landscapes and extraterrestrial sensibilities.

Really REALLY good stuff.

SPIRAL REALMS: Solar Wind (CD on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

This time, Spiral Realms are: Simon House, Del Dettmar (both ex-Hawkwind) and Len del Rio (from Pressurehed, and Anubian Lights). This is a 55 minute live release featuring material from the Space Ritual 1995 tour.

While Dettmar and del Rio are pretty heavyhanded (and wonderfully so) with their electronics, the music is savagely dominated by House's intense violin. Intense is a very key note here, the trance aspect of spiral Realms t previous two releases is replaced here with enough power to make your eyes bulge. And the elegant melodic quality remains a constant.

Very impressive as live shows go--you even get a new song, an old Hawkwind song and Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" as the encore.

Highly recommended.

SPIRAL REALMS: Trip to G9 (CD on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

Spiral Realms is Simon House with Len del Rio (from Pressurehed). "Trip to G9" is a superb ambient rave space LP. Dense electronics create a seething pool of cosmic dust alive with soaring violin outbursts and grinding E-perc building from epic peak to epic peak...sure are a lot of epic peaks to this dose of ambient rave music.

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SPOOKY: Found Sound (CD on A&M Records in UK).

I long for crashingly abrasive electronic music that is strong with a melodic sense--like Aphex Twin used to be in the old days. Boy, am I ecstatic to have found Spooky.

Their rhythmic handling of artificial sounds and harsh electronics is brilliantly channeled into hypnotic melodies that have substance far beyond bland bass-heavy repetition. Spooky rely upon cyclic sounds, but they weave these different patterns together, achieving a very jarring yet dreamy effect.

The presence of Cocteau Twins members on one track adds a tasty surprise to an already convincing masterpiece of industrial dance music.

STEROID MAXIMUS: Quilumbo (CD on Big Cat Records, PO Box 1561, London NW6 4SW, England.)

A non-vocal outing for Clint Ruin (aka Foetus, aka J.G.Thirlwell), this dose of razor edged music is teeth shattering, mind numbing and downright dangerous. Heavy on the epic percussion and growling synthesizers, the rhythms are ultimately as enthrallingly tribal as they are urbanized. Very creepy stuff. And very rhythmic in an astoundingly captivating manner.

Heavily recommended.

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TIM STORY: In Another Country (CD on Eurock Records, PO Box 13718, Portland, OR 97213).

Delicate sonic passages of ethereal tones, softly punctuated by crystal notes. The relaxing flair of shimmering piano is a prominent aspect of many of the songs. Calmly melodic and quite unrobotic for instrumental electronic music.

TIM STORY: Three Feet from the Moon (CD on Eurock Records, PO Box 13718, Portland, OR 97213 USA).

Delicate solo piano contemplations share this 53 minute CD with unobtrusive atmospheric keyboards. These calm, drifting melodic pieces coax the listener to relax, allowing the soft music to inflate you, carrying you on a pleasant ascension until you find yourself hanging three feet from the moon. Often the calms are tempered with just a dab of solemn grandeur.

This CD was originally released in 1985, and is reissued here with two previously unreleased solo piano tracks.

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THE STRANGLERS: Friday the Thirteenth (CD on Cleopatra Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).    

I've always been a big fan of the Stranglers, at least until a few years ago when Hugh Cornwall left the band, surprisingly reducing their powerhouse rock to a mild attempt. The band replaced Cornwall with two people (one of them ex-Vibrator John Ellis who has worked with Peter Hammill), but the music still lacked that epic quality.   Well, it's back. With this live CD, recorded at Royal Albert Hall in June 1997, accompanied by the orchestration of the Electra Strings, the Stranglers have resumed their nasty, refined sound, replete with echoing guitar, dramatic drumming, sinuous keyboards and lizard bass. With a song repertoire that stretches back two decades, the band has produced a 66 minute live performance that rocks the sewers as it soars for the sky.    You may've heard live Stranglers before, but you cannot imagine how tight they sound with string accompaniment.  I was impressed--you will be too.    

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SUN ELECTRIC: Kitchen (Belgian import CD on R&S Records).

This band produces delicate techno strains, surging but not harsh. Belltone keyboards and squeaky effects trancing into denser electronics with padded E-perc. 

Tasty stuff. And more of the same can be found on their "Present" CD (on Apollo Records in Belgium).

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SUSPENDED MEMORIES: Earth Island (CD on Fathom/Hearts of Space Records in USA).

This is a collaborative effort by Steve Roach, Jorge Reves and Suso Saiz. If this release had come from Europe, it would be called ambient rave music; but it comes from the midwestern USA, so it's called progressive electronics. (Don't you just hate the politics involved in labelling?) Bah--this music is actually a superbly crafted blend of aboriginal instrumentations, aerial guitar and lush but soft electronics. The melodies are passive, but the mood is often quite thick, almost gothic. Peaceful but haunting. Very recommended.

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SWINEBOLT 45: Spank (60 minute cassette tape on Audiofile Tapes, 209-25 18 Avenue., Bayside, NY 11360, USA).

What starts out with a very slick garage sound soon transforms into a tight extravaganza of electronic rock. Powerful and melodic...strong twisted psycho stuff with a gritty instrumentsal version of nHendrix's "Manic Depression" thrown in to counterbalance the guitar dominated weirdness. Extremely recommended.

It seems that "Spank" is a companion to SW45's "Wank" tape (on Harsh Reality Music, PO Box 241661, Memphis, TN 38124 USA). "Wank" features a full range of temperments from strong rock-out to grinding trance. The guitarwork is stunning, and not the endless chord sequence stuff of most space rock. SW45 excels at brilliant lead guitar, often reminescent of Terje Rypdal's searing sound from his ECM releases in the early Eighties. There's percussion too, but the real star of any SW45 release is the guitar.

And SW45's "Do You Remember Belinda Portion" tape (available from SW45 at: PO Box 41112, Memphis, TN 38174 USA) features more typically brilliant sonic attacks. (And cover art by Matt Howarth.)

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SWIRLIES: Strictly East Coast Sneaky Flute Music ( CD on Tanng! Records, 706 Pismo Ct., San Diego, CA 92109 USA).

We have a weird one here. Very weird.

The music on this 65 minute CD is already strange enough, but add the factor of the songs getting thick remixes by various DJs, including DJ Spooky and DJ Soulslinger.

What this album comes out as: a wild dive into Drum & Bass with strong influences alternating between Aphex Twin and ambient trance. Upfront E-perc, liquid bass, and a plethora of exotic electronics. Fun melodies and hyper rhythms abound.

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SWITCHBLADE SYMPHONY: Bread and Jam for Frances (on Cleopatra Records,13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).    

Rich female vocals dominate this dark gothic rock, with the other instruments in tow: upfront drums, torture guitar, gnashing bass, and sinuous keyboards.  For 41 minutes, you get songs about witches, exploding stars and supertense life styles--set to steady rhythm grind compositions that exude delusional drama.   

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SYNAESTHESIA: Desideratum (double CD on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

On the surface, this release is an excellent aural construction, expertly grafting trance and active electronic strains together into a sonic experience of utmost gratification. Flowing fields of undulating electronics punctuated by sinuous E-perc and geysers of sampled sounds...a treasure trove of surprises await the listener on this 137 minute journey through Synaesthesia's ambient tribal laboratory of scientific expressions.

Ah, but hidden beneath this enticing surface lies an even bigger surprise! The music itself--the compositional brilliance tying the sounds into melodies, the melodies into songs--here lies the true strength of Synaesthesia. This is where the band's monstrous power burns the brightest.

And who is Synaesthesia? The music is written by R. Deckard and produced and sonicly maniopulated by Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber (aka Front Line Assembly, Delerium, Noise Unit, Intermix).

Maximum recommendation.

SYNAESTHESIA: Embody (CD on Cleopatra Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

Hard edged industrial dance music. Rapid tempo and ruthless sensibilities: percussion, keyboards, noise and lots of sampled vocal snippets--all snarling together to drill into your head like an eager electronic earwig of ecstasy. And who's responsible for these luscious sounds? Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber (Front Line Assembly, Delerium, Intermix, Noise Unit), burnishing the music's shine to a painful brilliance.

SYNAESTHESIA: Ephemeral (CD on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

This time Leeb and Fulber (aka Front Line Assembly) do moody astral music. Somber tones flicker with fanciful keyboards dancing like thin air through wind chimes. Add soft percussion with a hint of tribal to the rhythms. Strong melodies of a apacey alowburn nature give this 60 minute CD a vibrant charm.

•  •  •

SYSTEM 7: Alpha Wave (CD EP on Big Life Records in UK).

Boy--do I love bug music! And this EP by SYSTEM 7 (sometimes known as "777" in USA) delivers a termite mound of sound that ocludes the very sun at noon. Okay, technically this is ambient rave techno; the EP features 3 mixes of the title track from the band's "Fire and Water" LPs (2 single CDs in UK, one double CD in USA). But it's bug music--bug music of the highest caliber. Thick with redundant rhythms of electronic origin which slow build into a seething hyperactive nest of hypnotics. Lots of percussion, synthi-threads and pulses, and--oh god--even more electronics! Yow--ya gotta love it!

Two of the mixes are by Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy (System 7's core) and more huge megamix at 20 minutes by Richie Hawtin.

SYSTEM 7: Golden Section (CD on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

Again, Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy serve forth a delectable dose of electro dance music. The sound is still flush with Hillage's ethereal pingpong guitar wizardry along with the usual electronic brilliance and snappy bass and E-perc. The main difference on this 78 minute CD is the pace: super frantic. The sound is intrinsically System 7, but it sounds as if Hillage put on a Harthouse hat for the mix. All the music surges with an electricity that streaks through your brain, etching out a hyper tempo.

The track "Don Corleone" features a grand use of live sax by the late jazz great Don Cherry (recorded back in 1976 for Hillage's "L" record and appearing here in a strikingly different mode via posthumous sampling). The presence of eastern percussion throughout this piece adds a world quality to the techno jazz sound. Not to be confused with the overt Eastern sound of the "Sinom X Files" track.

Thoroughly wonderful and highly recommended.

SYSTEM 7: Point 3-Fire Album

SYSTEM 7: Point 3-Water Album

SYSTEM 7: Limited Addition (UK import limited edition CD EP)

(All on Big Life Records in UK, 2 CD Lps were reformatted in USA as one double CD release on Astralwerks).

System 7 is Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy (plus various guests), and the music is strictly trance stuff with high energy. With each new release, their music ascends higher, trembling with emotional purity. "Point 3-Fire" is the basic album, and its music is awesome beyond belief. Ahh, the glistening guitar highs, the sweeping electronics, the sultry percussives. "Point 3-Water" claims to be a remixed version of the "Fire" album sans drums--but it is far more. "Water's" tracks are rearranged, softened into dreamier pieces, and new material (songs not on "Fire") is added. Ecstasy--pure and simple, heavily structured and wonderous in its brilliant synthesis of human and machine. The "Limited Addition" single contains 33 minutes of alternate mixes and edits from both albums and comes in an oversize box. A real lot of new music, considering that both albums contain more than 73 minutes each.

SYSTEM 7: Power of Seven (CD on Big Life Records in UK, CD on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

Quiveringly rapid techno (no words) music clustered with hordes of electronic rhythm threads and Hillage's ricochet guitar, but the real dominator on this 77 minute album is the frenetic E-perc. The compositions are solid as usual with a structured use of repetitive cycles and rhythms. Whether you're talking techno or electronic music, there are some dynamite tunes of this CD.

Of special note is the LP's first track "Interstate", possessing a clear and authorized Neu sample used to brilliant results. There is also an "Interstate" CD EP (on Big Life in UK) with 32 minutes of remixes of this awesome crossbreed of Krautrock and techno music at their finest.

SYSTEM 7: System Express (CD on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

This release presents a selection of mixes from various System 7 EPs, with six of the eleven tracks coming from other sources (so most people can call them new). Numerous peppy and dance-mode retakes of Steve Hillage'a guitar oriented techno music can be found on this very tasty 79 minute disc, seamlessly melted together. 

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