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Meditation in Green by Kelly David
- posted by Robin B. James on 10/1/2020
Meditation in Green
Meditation in Green is an organic ambient electronic soundscape, music that is challenging at times and soothing at other times, where tensions build and release. These are your new ears. Once you hear Meditation in Green, things will never be the same. Even after you hear it, when you listen again there will be some surprises. There is much to listen to, and to listen for. My expectations are constantly confused by the new musical forms displayed here. No worries, I suggest just letting it flow and cautiously listening to what happens. As far as I know, we have not physically lost anyone to the jungle or delta just by listening to this, but some precautions would probably not lessen the thrill of the listening experience. The sounds are varied and change constantly. Meditation in Green makes good use of all the echoes. Listen and wonder.

Meditation in Green is a continuation of a musical journey that began with Kelly’s first album, Broken Voyage, mixed and produced by Steve Roach. On his second album, Angkor, the sounds came from a first reflection of Asian travels and deep fascination, both academic and experiential, of the ancient Khmer civilization that dominated SE Asia in the 10th century. Steve Roach mastered Angkor, contributing his sonic treatment to the mixes. After that, for a shared album, The Long Night, is a full-on collaboration with Steve where they worked side by side in Kelly’s Denver studio and Steve’s Arizona studio, creating a deep work meant for the virtual dead of night. Meditation in Green was composed, recorded and mixed entirely by Kelly, using analog and digital synthesizers, large format and Eurorack analog modular synthesizers, samplers, loopers, a wind synthesizer, field recordings, gongs, bells and various percussion instruments.

No beat or melody -- is any of this music? Yes, if music is an organization of sounds, and it sounds to me like water, rain, thunder, ringing metal, a little shortwave radio, a few birds, some frogs, a sustained buzzing and rumbling, with some percussive moments, shimmering echoes, things get louder, then things quiet down a bit. Then it changes some more. Sometimes echoes start loud and then fade or diminish in a short moment, and sometimes they just continue on and on. When played backwards they get louder rather than fading out. Hit a gong and it sort of hangs there reverberating, and then fades away. The sound is constantly changing and transforming, which is a very dreamlike experience. I think that some echoes sound like being in a wet cave or a big old church. You can play sounds of field recordings in those chambers and you get a whole new kind of imaginary drama. There actually are places on Meditation in Green where traditional musical instruments are heard, but just for a few fleeting moments.

Press play. The album starts with some echoey tones, maybe there is a choir, some metallic bell pinged a few times and then there is even more echo. Also, the first song has the album’s title “Meditation in Green” (9:37) I hear a distant subway tunnel where trains come and go, and there are some monks, there is some whistling or ringing, a waterfall, some rattling in the echoes. Shortwave radios can make lots of interesting sounds, and this composition uses what sounds to me like the sound of shortwave radios very sparingly, just a hint.

There are frogs doing their love calls, and it sounds like they were recorded at night. Eckhart Buehler provided the frog field recordings. Kent Antognini brought in some of the wildlife field recordings. Kailani Jurasek played the temple bell. From Kim Miner came the “processed sake babble,” imagine what that might be. The famous Vietnamese composer Vu Nhat Tan recorded various samples of Vietnamese instruments. Kelly David has lots of amazing friends.

We are next visiting the “Imperial City of Drone” (9:19) where the weather is pleasant but mysterious and a little dark. Ringing echoing Vietnamese instruments were recorded and then maybe played on a radio on a hot afternoon in a shimmering rainbow wind. Rumbling synthesizers come and go, they are baying in the distance and they are nibbling very close, both at once. The shimmering grows dense in places, I hear slow sustained old church organs, I think there are layers of them. Then it fades and quiets down, this is in the middle of the “song” and it never goes completely quiet, but it almost does. The shimmering rainbow wind returns and eventually becomes what sounds to me like a train in the distance, fading away while there are new things tinkling close to your ear. I think they sound like broken windchimes for a few moments.

The sound of water. A thunderstorm emerges, with rain and gushing water splattering. That fades and there is a sprinkling shaker rattling in some interesting patterns. Lots of excited birds chatter somewhere far off, jungle sounds. “A Bend in the River” (8:20) flows from the bird infested jungle down into a deep cave with winged jeweled bats, and on to something that sounds like it might be the putter of a friendly old motor on a boat. Vu Nhat Tan recorded samples of Vietnamese instruments and Kelly David did the rest. The old tribal beat takes over for a while, accented by the rattles, then the echoes take over, all in the cave of shadows. I think there are kids’ voices playing in there, just for a moment. Then the sun comes out again and stands bright and shimmering.

The next track is sparser, with chimes tinkling through the echo-mist, gradually sprinkling in some classic synthesizer atmospheres, then the sound of a rain-stick. This is the “Plain of Reed” (9:45) and there are places where the sound seems to stop for a moment or so, dead silence, and then later it almost bounces fog troupes off of natural cliff echoes, they call slowly back and forth. Seven minutes into the song a banging starts, with those sprinkling shakers (maybe from the previous track), and a sequencer is making that interesting rhythm again. Most of the sounds on the album do not keep a rhythm or even sound like the usual EM synthesizers, the sounds here mostly do other things, but this passage is a remarkable exception. This exception too fades and changes.

A big gong, a really mega-big one, possibly sixty yards across, or even more, being gently tapped, and only heard from a distance, but I am guessing, it is hard to tell for sure. “Lauko” (8:28) has lots of delicate details. It has a quiet section at the beginning after the gong fades, where the distant echoes creep in closer and closer, still in the dark caves. Bells reverberate with supersonic jets passing by overhead. Metal chimes and more bells and big pipes. Tiny pings. Big echoes. Sustained strings heard from a distance, they fade in and up and then pass by. I hear more really big bells being gently tapped. Coiling synthesizer snakes dance to an emerging percussion. The string section gets huge and then drops away. It ends on a gong, barely like the mega-gong heard at the beginning of this track.

Higher pitched ringing, shimmering chimes and maybe some river boat motors far off in the distance behind us. “Moonlight Mekong” (6:16) features Drew Redfield playing electric guitar. I hear something like an organ, but it fades slowly, and the echoes blend in with the guitar. It settles down and now I hear running water. The high-pitched ringing returns, with shimmering chimes that rush back and forth slowly, over great distances.

Thunderstorms and rain on the thatched roofs. Windchimes played like a flute in the wind. The “Bells of Can Tho” (4:07) take many forms. Ominous sustained glowing metal pieces being energized. Also, artificial night wind playing an imaginary aeolian harp, some ringing heard sometimes far away, sometimes further away. Then the whole thing fades to a close.
Rating: Excellent
21 Pulse Eclipse by Bart Hawkins
- posted by Robin B. James on 10/1/2020
21 Pulse Eclipse
21 Pulse Eclipse by Bart Hawkins is best described by the artist himself. “I think what I am musically and sonically creating right now is a meditative process, both in creating it and listening to it. The music I am producing is meant to be experienced with your eyes closed, sitting in the ‘sweet spot’ between your speakers or with your headphones on, with no distractions. This is active listening, meant to engage your mind’s ability to visualize what you are hearing and using your imagination to create your own listening experience. It’s art for your ears and inner eyes.”

Spotted Peccary Music composer Bart Hawkins is electronic music made using modular synthesizers and spiced with some field recordings from the composer’s world travel adventures. With the modular synthesizer there is an option to create sounds entirely without the use of a keyboard, and Bart has chosen that path. What you will hear is the meditative sound of electrical energy, textures and sustained or gently sequenced layers of tones, with little hints of field recordings deep in the mix, such as a distant marketplace, or the sounds of birds and human voices speaking languages foreign to my ears.

This collection of 8 tracks is in the Berlin School of traditional Electronic Music, and here it is made with no words anywhere on this album, besides those written in the liner notes and otherwise on the cover packaging, of course. Sequencers are most often used in Electronic Dance Music; however, this is entirely a meditative approach. Working with a modular synth, there is much to know about the science behind electricity — waveforms, voltage control, modulation, envelopes, filters, etc…

There is always a journey to this process, and such sound sculpting will take the listener (and the composer) into uncharted places that might be thought of like rabbit holes or falling through looking glasses, leading to the discovery of new musical ideas that previously did not exist. There are plenty of ‘happy mistakes’ to be uncovered and collected when going down such unpredictable rabbit holes. Combining these newly discovered or invented elements together in the mix, the songs come to life. A composer working with modular synthesizers first creates the elements of the sounds, like a painter that makes her or his own paint. Then these elements are arranged and somehow come together in new ways, taking on forms that eventually emerge as complete compositions.

I had the opportunity to discuss 21 Pulse Eclipse with Bart, and he had some interesting things to say. “This whole album is about energy and my exploratory world into modular synthesis. I do like to think that the modular synthesizer is like a control panel at a Tesla lab and its operator is the mad scientist, creating new and exciting sonic experiences out of harsh electronic sound waves. The title track, 21 Pulse Eclipse, is based on the fundamentals of energy currents. I wanted to capture the powerful, raw, undulating currents that create the life and breath of electronic music. I wanted to learn from and know these currents as I would know a human being. To listen to each voice, to know their own unique life cycles as they come into being one moment and dissolve into the next.”

After many years of working professionally as an electronic media artist primarily in visual realms with cameras, Bart’s current phase of his artistic odyssey has led to his recent emergence as a sound composer. He began in the early 80’s when his practice of Zen Meditation and love of the Berlin School style of electronic music drew him into a world of musical landscapes. Landscapes full of sonic textures, and silence, sparking a spiritual awakening into the power of sound. He has been a professional film & video producer and cinematographer but all of that was predicted by a deeper background in the fine arts. He started off as a sculptor, working with metal. You can hear the sounds of electrified metal all throughout the album.

The album opens with “Dream Meditation Part 1” (12:20) the sound fades in, glowing and sparking, emerging layers take form, I can hear birds and strange machines in there. And the process continues, growing, taking new forms from the ether. This must be what it feels like to be canoeing out of an inky dark cave into the dreamy dim jungle on a dark river, continuing on and on through the strange wilderness until the sound fades out.

The second track is the title cut “21 Pulse Eclipse” (17:13), with powerful electronic buzzing energy. Increasing ringing sounds emerge. I hear metal resonating and fluttering, I imagine machines because of the sounds of the sequencer, intricate patterns and throbbing layers, an electric motor, power sweeping overhead and all that progresses continues along to a more organic cicada sound, towards the last part and then it fades.

Bart provides some deeper insight: “The title track was composed on August 21, 2017 during the full solar eclipse in Oregon. I wanted to sit down in front of the modular synth the day of the eclipse to, as I would like to think, pull down the energy of that special astrological event and let it evolve through the modular synth, as the eclipse evolves through its cycle. It’s as if I am just a conduit and the modular synth is just a medium to give this energy a voice.”

Humming and buzzing grows into the third track, “Your Breath Is Electric” (07:15), featuring a new approach to the power of electricity. Initially gentle it continues to strengthen and brings fire, there are repeating cycles, rotation and the sound of growing energy. It certainly sounds like electricity, the rotation pattern fits with the breath in and out, rising and falling. Towards the end I hear crickets or night frogs breathing in the cool wet darkness.

The album closes with “Dream Meditation Part 2” (08:16) forming what might be taken as bookends with the first track, rippling power, infinite glowing energy morphing slowly along. From the artist: “I even pulled audio off of my old video tape of a Tibetan dance I recorded when I traveled to India in 1994. I recorded sounds of a small local music festival, so that I could weave it into the tracks, “Dream Meditation” Parts 1 and 2. Also, I wanted to embrace not only electrical energy from the modular, but also electrical energy found in nature and elsewhere. I believe this gives 21 Pulse Eclipse more of an organic experience.”

Now we are left to reflect on what just happened, and to synthesize the thoughts of the artist with my own observations. 21 Pulse Eclipse is all about the sounds of electricity and energy, lingering in the mind. When certain tones and sounds are combined, they can produce harmonic or inharmonic values. This becomes the core of creating tension and release within all music. With the right combination of sounds, you can levitate the human experience to a very high level or down to its lowest depth in the unconscious mind. Sound can transform, not only mental states of being but can transform physical states as well. Also, sound can physically heal cells in the body and also destroy cells. Sound can levitate objects, create geometrical patterns (cymatics), travel between universes, can be expressed in mathematical and astronomical equations. Finally, sound can be personal and universal at the same time.
Rating: Excellent
Dreams Beyond by Sverre Knut Johansen
- posted by Robin B. James on 10/1/2020
Dreams Beyond by Sverre Knut Johansen
A dream is a succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. Dreams are also sometimes seen as a means of seeing into other worlds, dreams often function as a “signpost” motif to mark certain stages in life, the unexpected discovery of one’s own jewels. Perhaps knowledge cannot be defined through perception. This album Dreams Beyond presents an opportunity for using your ears to explore impossible and fantastic landscapes in alien worlds, sometimes resembling the mountains of earth, sometimes resembling nothing you have ever seen. Are dreams experiences?

Melodic electronic music from the symphonic side of the vast universe of ambient sound arts; extraordinary voyages through time and space, exploring original landscapes of exotic imagery and providing an imaginative soundtrack for nurturing dreams and fantasy.

Dreams are the shadow of something real. Dream scenes may be indistinguishable from those set in the dreamer’s real world. Sverre Knut Johansen has now opened a new portal to worlds transcending dreams and other imaginative experiences, allowing listeners to move in and out of dreams and reality, to explore Dreams Beyond. The music on this album is deeply inspired by visual artwork — “THE BEACON” by MichaŁ Karcz, which can be seen on the album’s cover design. The music was recorded between May and November of 2019 at “Space Center Music Production” studio in Sweden. The Cello on the final track, “Human Connection,” is played by Henrik Silfverhielm. The OSCar Programmable Music Synthesizer was used to create alien singing/calling birds.

The study of dreams is called Oneirology. During the day, the soul receives images; during the night, the soul produces images. While most people think of time as a constant, the famous theoretical physicist Albert Einstein showed that time is an illusion, it can vary for different observers depending on their speed through space, and he further revealed that gravity can bend time. The story never begins or ends – it merely ‘becomes.’

THE LAST OF THE SUMMER MOONS HAVE BEGUN TO WANE and the old crows break their long silence and begin to shriek strange cries from the darkness, expressing dark moods framed by adventurous melodies that haunt the ancient mountains. These are the Tatra Mountains, the highest mountain range in the Carpathian Mountains, which form a natural border between Slovakia and Poland. Their topography causes one of the most diverse climates in that region. Leo Frankowski mentions the Tatras several times in his Conrad Stargard series of science fiction novels, also there is mention of these same mountains in The Wolves of Time, a series written by William Horwood. The composer Karol Szymanowski on occasion found inspiration with the distinctive traditional music of the Tatra mountains in southern Poland. The opening track sets this listening adventure in motion, “Tatra Mountains (Introduction)” (4:40).

There might be a science of dreaming, crossing the ancient chasm, cautiously emerging into percussive motion and pulse, a dance into the fullness of time and what lies hidden. Before the magical time of the chimera ends one might sometimes be aware while dreaming that one is dreaming, “Awakening” (9:37).

To look through the ceiling, through the roof to dream of reaching the sky, weaving awe for the soaring landscape, is sometimes a simple matter, requiring only a “Skylight” (8:58). Such openings allow for rhythm and pulses to lead the way up into the vast beyondscape. With a sound signal like whistling the title track emerges, leading into a stop and start sequencer pattern that keeps repeating and building: “Dreams Beyond” (10:54). Unseen creatures continue to whistle from the void, calling out to each other to enhance their telepathic illusions, thoughts dance upon the pillows of oblivion. What I hear next reminds me of the majestic beauty of creation and all those who love silence and calm in the mountains, “Dawn” (4:01) is the frontier of the void, light emerges with varying shapes of the crystal-image spreading luster across the sky.

The term Tatra is a general expression in Slovak for barren or stony land, and in Russian for rocks and small stones in a river. The Tatra Mountains are home to many species of animals and insects and this song includes many imaginative clues that may trigger your ideas of what those beings might be doing. The track “Tatra Mountains” (8:35) presents a melody that haunts the wonderful meadows just under huge lime cliffs, walk through the valleys and then climb the higher parts of the range and behold the soaring landscape all around. The Legend of the Sleeping Knight is a folktale from the Tatra region, was inspired by the outline of one of the most famous peaks, Giewont, which is said to resemble the silhouette of a sleeping knight.

You are now floating gently above the delicately painted sleeping knight, now surging towards ecstatic climaxes, now yielding to the hypnotic strains of a wordless dance. My favorite track is “Causeway” (9:48), an interesting journey through many layers and textures on a raised road across wet ground. I hear electronic insect sounds, portraying a trail through night and mystery, time and room variously for romance and terror, and letting go. Imagine discovering that you have already fallen into some accidental time travel to prior historical settings and have been left stranded. Imagine being suddenly transported into the past and managing to make something by exploiting all the things you know from having studied history. The mood is slow and vast, ever stranger events rekindle the fires of a dying universe. “Echoes of the Past” (9:19) .

The final track is titled “Human Connection” (6:38) and is a reflective processional meditation, in my mind’s eye I can see lines of pilgrims climbing the mountain to find gems holding the powers of the season. The cello is played by Henrik Silfverhielm, and the synthesizers provide the situation.
Rating: Excellent
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