Awakenings 2006 volume 1
John Sherwood who is
responsible for the Awakenings series of concerts in Leeds has put
together another compilation for us (the first being 'Awakenings 2005')
featuring both known
and lesser known acts. Much of the music is exclusive to this set. The
by Chaos Research certainly covers a lot of ground. Peaceful shimmering
tones develop an
oriental / classical feel then we move on to a melodic sequencer line.
Overall the track is
gently rhythmic with many a twist and turn. Modulator ESP donate 'Gynomatik',
bubbling sequencer based number mixed with metallic tones. The first of
the bigger names,
Skin Mechanix, are represented by a live version of 'Dimension Jump'. The
Arc-ish rhythm burst into life along with a bass beat. As with the studio
version the foot is
full down on the accelerator and its impossible to keep the body still but
the live setting
gives it more of a fun feel. The leads, if anything, have greater bite
here than on the original.
Another of the more known names is
The Glimmer Room who give us the previously
unreleased 'One Room Flat'. After a spoken intro we get a series of
melodies accompanied by sedate put perfectly placed rhythms. It is a track
have been very much at home as part of his classic 'Grey Mirrors'. Simply
Ramp's fantastic 'Ozone' is from their latest album 'Oughtibridge'. It has
powerful feel but with an evil twist. There is a growl to the pulsations
and depth that will
shake the floor. Another sequence joins the first, as do fascinating
little melodies that
at one moment seem quite bright but then morph to a more ominous refrain.
add to proceedings almost sounding like distorted laser fire, as if heard
from a great
distance. Another sequence is hurled into the pot fizzing with pent up
things to almost apocalyptic proportions then there is a steady stripping
back as a tinkling
sequence, like a warning beacon, becomes the main feature. 'A Call
to Arms' by Cult of
Ashand is a slow relaxed track, subtly melodic but also with an excellent
At around the half way mark a guitar enters to give extra bite and we get
flourish to finish.
'Lost Dreams' by Create is a
rather sedate track beginning with melodic echoing tones.
Mellotron takes over then a shuffling rhythm. A jaunty tinkling sequence
is next up, mingling
nicely with more tron. The Omega Syndicate are always entertaining and
they donate yet
another new track 'Out of Hibernation'. A superb sequence slowly emerges
reverberating sonic growls- and what a superb one it is too, the best on
this two CD set.
Some lovely little melodic motifs add another lovely element until the
lead line proper raises
its head- and very effective it is too. More sequences are added as the
music continues its
spellbinding, hypnotic build. 'Good Wolf' by Awen starts off superbly with
and anthemic melodies. A bit like T Bass (UK), but then I thought it fell
apart a little around
the half way mark which is a real shame as it showed great promise. Gert
'Rendezvous with 2004 MN 4' rounds off the first disc. In the third minute
a pleasant melodic
sequence emerges through brooding atmospherics. Another sequence and
rhythm are added
and we are soon moving along at a nice steady pace with dreamy lead lines
floating over the
top, ideal driving music for a summer day.
Disc two gets off to a fantastic
start with 'Space Junk' by Rogue Element. A slow sequence
provides a little structure around which spooky effects come and go. The
and mellotron choir becomes the main feature taking us to a classic TD,
mid 70s sounding,
atmospheric section. A bit too close for comfort maybe but so wonderfully
done. With five
minutes to go metallic clangs herald another sequence. This one has much
than the first, rumbling along nicely and combining excellently with a
splashing one as it slowly
moves into formation. 'Spring' by Nick Robinson was pleasant enough but
not really my thing
so probably best left to another reviewer. Starseed Transmission give us
'Live in Melbourne
(part 2)', a curious mix of sequencer line and more contemporary clicking
stabs- the sort of
thing I would expect from Surface 10. Rene van der Wouden's 'Blue
Traveller' is a laid back
relaxing meditative number until the fifth minute when a high register
sequence then rhythm
comes in- not bad but just a tad too plodding maybe. 'Icethrone' by 'Hyper
Ex Machina' is a
very pleasant crystalline tinkling atmospherics track ideal for chilling
out to (no pun intended-
honest!). Astrogator come up with the longest track on this double album
with the 16 minute
'Standing Waves'. It begins with windy sounds accompanied by electronic
twitters and effects.
In other words a fairly standard intro but effective and very pleasing
nevertheless. A slow pulse
can be heard low in the mix. Some nice relaxing string sounds are added
then in the fourth
minute a sequence starts to form but it isn't for another four minutes
that it develops into
something of any substance and it is around the same time that a second
sequence is brought
in and it is here that things start to become a little more interesting.
It's OK I suppose but didn't
really grab me as much as their debut album. The last proper track is
'Alien Landscapes Part 1'
by Glen Alexander and a very enjoyable piece of music it too with some
excellent foot tapping
rhythms, first class melodies and blistering solos. It's sort of like a
cross between Synergy,
The Nightcrawlers, Stephan Whitlan and 80s Ian Boddy! One of the best
tracks on the album.
There are then two final indexes
on the CD. The first is simply a minute's silence for Bob Moog
whilst the second, I assume, is the man himself sharing some of his
thoughts. I must admit
that even though I am sure that this was all done with the best of motives
I am a little uneasy
about these inclusions on a project such as this. Maybe it's just me.
David Law / Synth
Awakenings 2006 volume 2
This is a double album set
containing (as far as I can work out) all previously unreleased material
probably the Entity track). We start with two of the best pieces of music.
First up is 'Omnicron' from The Omega
Syndicate's Xan Alexander. Lovely bright tones hang in the air gorgeously
fading into the distance, as if reaching
out. They are answered by an echoing sequence which just gets better and
better as it develops. A fantastic slow
melody rises from it like a gentle mist from a waterfall. The pace starts
to quicken with the introduction of another
superb sequence and rhythm. The lead line gains extra bite as we go. This
is wonderfully composed stuff- no
meandering waffle. I am very much reminded of a cross between Chris
Franke's 'London Concert' and 'Pacific
Coast Highway' albums. Yes - it's that good!
Brendan Pollard from Rogue Element
gives us 'Modac'. We start with windy 'War of The World' ('The Weed' I
think) sounds. A bright sequence emerges from the excellent atmospherics
accompanied by mellotron, in classic
Berlin School fashion. This really is a stonking piece which gets even
better with the introduction of a high hat line
and subtle little melodies. We keep in sequencer driven mode for René van
der Wouden's 'Mountain Steamer'. The
sequence itself is decent enough but we have to wait until just a couple
of minutes from the end before it is given
any real support, this time in the form of bouncing rhythm and lead lines.
Excellent they are too, I just wish we
they had been introduced earlier. Create contributes 'Saturn Dreaming of
Mercury (part 1)'. We get a beautiful
mellotron start and it is no surprise when a high register sequence enters
in the second minute. Another sequence
joins the first and they both seem to increase in pace as if racing each
other through the ether, the tron still doing
its own wonderful thing. Lead lines join in the fun. In the sixth minute
the sequences seem to stutter as if decaying
only to regroup and surge forward again accompanied by more lead lines.
Broekhuis, Keller & Schonwalder are
represented by a unique twenty-minute track called 'Another Mysterious
Concert Tape - Part 1'. To me these guys
are some of my favourite Electronic Musicians on the planet. Soft pads are
punctuated by ticking percussion.
Flutey synth adds to the serene atmosphere. Gradually we are brought to
wakefulness as a slow delicate sequence
rises to the surface. By the ninth minute a drum line in introduced and
the sequence starts to increase in pace as
the excitement builds. A wonderful delicate piano melody adds a
contrasting softness to proceedings, its
juxtapositions with the ever more energetic pulsations being devastating.
B,K & S must have been on more
Various Artist albums than any other EM musician but I would reckon that
this track is better than any of the
other tracks they have donated. Absolutely stunning.
Entity gives us 'Space and Time'.
A rapid sequence / loop does its energetic thing, starting to morph this
that in the third minute but remains fairly aggressive throughout. We
finish the first disc with 'The Oligarch' by Vietgrove.
If you like your EM with a heavy dose of prog then you will no doubt be
well aware of the band already. Real sounding
drums (though I am sure they are not) mix with a lovely lead line then
blistering guitar. All a bit like instrumental early
Yes maybe but mainly it reminded me of Sheffield band Haze. Whatever, if
fairly heavy prog is your thing I am sure
you will love it. I know I did (took me back to being 17 again!).
The second disc kicks off with
'Clone' be Awen. There were some humorous vocal samples at the beginning
that I would now probably find it harder to become pregnant! We then get a
cacophony of noises then an explosion out
of which surges powerful dance rhythms. It certainly covers a lot of
ground in its five minutes duration. Probably the most
in ye face and non compromising track on the whole double album. I have
always had a soft spot for Mooch but they have
never been a big seller for SMD because they plough a somewhat different
path to that followed by our core customers.
'Flow- Thing (Flute Thing mix)' is initially rather abstract and full of
various percussive elements A four note loop becomes
the main focus before things take a more Eastern tinged, well out there,
psychedelic turn. Sounded all rather Gong like to
me. Modulator ESP has been refining his craft for some time now and is
getting better all the time (he is also one half of
Astrogator- along with Create). 'Time Running Out' begins with some rather
melancholy drift. Indeed it keeps a rather moody,
even menacing feel throughout. A sequence can be heard very low in the
mix. A bass one comes to join it but both are
rather restrained, biding their time. Rhythms then tron are added to the
slow build up. It is certainly an impressive track
but needed more than its nine-minute duration to really blossom.
Nattefrost is represented by 'Near UFO'. He goes for the
big epic massed strings type heavy drones over which meanders a brass
melody. A sequence is unleashed as laser fire
sonic blasts flash above. Both stylistically and sound wise it reminded me
very much of Synergy or even the first album
by Tontos Expanding Head Band. Then in the fourth minute it is all change
as we descend to an abstract organic gloop.
From that we move to twittery computer communication type effects - then
back to a sequence! Wow, what a trip! The
string pads return to join the pulsations - then back to abstract realms.
No chance of getting board here. Yet another
sequence is brought into play accompanied by echoing high register
embellishments. The sequence seems to gain
extra oomph all the time only calming down again just before the finish.
Altres is up next with 'Black
Point'. They create quite a complex collage of often seemingly
structureless sounds and
effects. Nearer the end things become more conventional with gentle
plucked strings. The Glimmer Room is a real class
act as is demonstrated by 'Fields Full of Poppies'. From a gently
syncopated beginning the most beautiful and heart
rending melody emerges. This is a stunning composition that is as ample a
proof as any that Electronic Music can be
anything but cold and unemotional. Terje Winther finishes this collection
with his twenty-one minute 'Green Light
Intervention'. It starts with the most wonderful deep reverberating throb.
Twittering effects surge then break. Sonic
whooshes explode almost like a warning siren. It is certainly an
uncompromising beginning! Buried very deep in all this
is a sequence. You really have to strain your ears to hear it at first,
but slowly. Oh so slowly, it emerges though never
rises to the top of the mix. A lead line is brought into play but to me it
spoilt the brooding mood somewhat. In the fifth
minute it is all change as some sonic stabs herald a full on rumbling
sequence. By the tenth minute another sequence
has been added and we are belting along in fine fashion. The lead lines
are again slightly oddball but if you liked Tim
Blake's 'Crystal Machine' you might quite like them. In the fifteenth
minute we return to spooky atmospherics only for
normal sequencer driven business to return soon after and blast us forward
right to the end. There is quite a variety of
music to be found on this 2 CD set, some real gems included.
David Law / Synth
Awakenings 2006 volume 2.5
There was so much material submitted for volume 2 of this series that
they couldn't fit it all on the planned
two CD set. They therefore decided to take all the more 'ambient' tracks
to one side and place them on an
album of their own. What's more they are all cross-faded together to make
one continuous 77-minute piece!
The results are reviewing here.
'The Rapture' by HyperEx Machina mixes mournful dronal backing with
equally melancholy piano detail.
The combination of sounds chosen are excellent and it serves as an
impressive opening section. We float
into 'Astral Drift' by Astrogator and the mood lightens slightly. It is
like looking out from a cliff top with the
wind blowing in your hair- the aftermath of some storm perhaps.
The looped plucked strings of Nick Robinson are next. 'Fur Herr Forcher'
certainly sounded experimental
and rather intriguing but for me not an easy listen. 'Out There 2' by
Mooch is full of manipulated cosmic
sounds that really get you appropriately 'well out there man'. In the last
few minutes there is even a hint
of subtle melody. It is as if familiar sights are being seen again after a
long time away from home. Very
impressive indeed. Russell Storey gives us 'Xpanded Heartbeat' and as
expected hangs around a pulse.
It seems to be racing though as if after some great exertion. Ramp are
probably the 'biggest' name on
this album and I was expecting (given their current output) something very
dark indeed but instead we
get 'Scissors', quite a syncopated number but tremendously subtle with a
gorgeous little melodic motif
hanging in the middle a mix also containing restrained contemporary
rhythms. It is a superb track that
wouldn't have been out of place on Ian Boddy's DiN label.
Zen Paradox's 'Calvin Analysis' is another track that is far from just
giving us drift. A rapidly changing high
register (but also quite quiet) sequence morphs madly all over the place
and is soon joined by another
pulsating line. They swirl around each other, coming and going, creating
quite a mesmerizing brew. In the
fourth minute a rhythm joins them increasing the complexity of proceedings
still further. Personally this is
not what I think of as 'ambient' music at all but a fascinating track
nevertheless. 'Darkness is Falling' by
4m33s is much more what I would expect. Mournful, windy drones hang in the
air like spectres from the
abyss. Clusters of notes come from time to time hinting that there is also
something else out there.
A slow pulse starts up and the feel is now a little lighter and more
optimistic. It is all change again
a couple of minutes later as the spectres return.
'Passion' by Phrozenlight is one seriously spooky five minutes of vast
echoing and rumbling dark sonic
emissions. We finish with the humorously titled (well I found it funny!)
'Our Eyes Fixed Forwards We
March Towards the Impending Doom' by Chaos Research. Vast metallic /
crystalline tones shimmer
like rays of light refracting through sheets of ice. These mix first with
deeper drones then vast rumbles
as if the very earth itself is convulsing. A curious quirky rhythm strikes
up combining a deep bass drum
and what sounded like vibes so containing elements of both light and
dark-. Strange indeed.
This is an album which contains much more than just 'Deep Ambient Drift'.
Sure it isn't as energetic
as Volume 2 but still had enough going on to hold my attention and those
more abstract moments were
very well done as well. The cross fading between the tracks and running
order were also superbly handled.
David Law / Synth