Music Reviews M - Z

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Vasco Martins - Sublime Delight

Some day I'd like to visit the Cape Verde Islands, which is an island chain off the west coast of Africa. The reason? If the locale can inspire the music the likes of which is created by Vasco Martins, then it must be quite a place, indeed. Sublime Delight is the aptly named title of Martins' CD. And each cut on the CD is a "Delight" of its own -- in name as well in quality!

The CD begins with the muted, but uptempo piece "Delight is in the (Rhythm)." Then, waves wash in as we are swept asea in "Delight is in the (Ocean)," a wonderfully soft, drifting paeon to that greatest of all Earth's resources. "Delight is in the (Soul)" is a 'symphony in low-key,' that begins with the sound of children playing and transforms into a soothing, tranquil piece of healing energy. "Delight is in the (Joy)," despite its somewhat insistent backbeat, is another ambient tour. "Delight is in the (Stars)" blends the sounds of modern sythesizers with more traditional orchestral renderings. "Delight is in the (Life)" is another study in low-key excellence!

As mentioned before, the CD is aptly named. Sublime Delights abound! "Delight is in the (Night)" offers yet another taste of the sea washing ashore -- picture an evening swim in the tropics -- to the sound of stringed instruments and an orchestral accompaniment. "Delight is on the (Mountains & Valleys)" leads us from the gentle chirping of birds and other natural sounds to the reverberation of bells and percussion instruments to the final glory of a sparkling, almost whistle-like, collaboration of these dissimilar elements. This, to me, is the standout piece of an already terrific album! "Delight is in the (Melancholy)" shows us that even in times of uncertainty and disquiet, that silver linings may be found. "Delight is in the (Delight) Itself" recapitulates the experience of listening to the album in what is almost certainly a play on words. I do not understand the words expressed (by Martins?) at the outset of this piece, but there's no mistaking its celebratory nature. Martins reprises the theme of the album's opening piece, but reweaves it completely, toning it down, as if waving farewell.

The final minute is the 'departure,' as we hear somebody (Martins?), clearing away the aural bandstand. We are left in the midst of a tropical paradise, hoping for more.

Visit Vasco Martin's web site at

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Dino Pacifici

In an unusual move, I'm writing a sequel to a review I wrote just a couple of months ago (below). In the intervening months, Dino Pacifici has been hard at work on a new release, and has granted me the privilege to be one of the first to listen to a pre-release (reference) copy of "Hallowed Ground." Pacifici was careful to tell me that the finished product may be somewhat different than what I'm writing about here, but I hope not too different, because this is some

electro-ambient-trance music!

Fans of long, drifting, ethereal sonic works will feel right at home within the first 40 seconds of "Solace", a twenty-three minute foray into otherworldly exploration. I made the mistake (?) of turning this on while driving and listening to the Denver-Miami NFL playoff game. Twenty-three minutes later I remembered that I was only switching over during a "lull" in the game -- some lull! On the heels of this trance-inducing sojourn comes "Timeshift," a seventeen minute dive into hidden territory between the ears! Fans of Steve Roach rejoice! Pacifici has created works that are on a par with the Great One's.

I feel that I owe a debt of obligation to Dino Pacifici. At his own expense he shipped three of his CDs to me, not once but twice -- due to their being lost somewhere in transit. And oh, are they worth it!

"Random Factors" and "Urban Oasis" might best be described as falling into the "smooth jazz" category. Upbeat tempos, tightly entwined groove rhythms, slick guitar playing and professional production values make for some very listenable tunes. I first sampled these CDs while on a business trip, and was fortunate enough to have a rental car with a CD player in it. What perfect music to navigate a cross-town drive in a city away from home! The last of the three, "The Journey" is, in Dino's own words, "the one I've been itching to put out." His other works were enjoyable, but the Journey is "a very personal introspective yet, open work of self-expression."

"File Under Ambience" are the instructions on the jewel box's reverse side, and how appropriate these instructions are. While retaining the same high qualities of his other works, "The Journey" enters new territory while keeping the Pacifici signature. This is not ambient music a la Brian Eno or A Produce, rather this is smoothly flowing melodic, yet at the same time, drifting, music that one can easily "fall into" without quite being aware that this has occured. I'd be hard-pressed to choose one album over the other, however, since I'm fond of "smooth jazz" as well. Thanks to Dino, I don't have to make this choice, and neither do you. Highly recommended.

Visit Dino Pacifici's web site at

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Jim Pietkivitch - Spiral Journey

Spiral Journey is an impressive album from electronic keyboardist Jim Pietkivitch. Unlike many musicians, Pietkivitch suffers not from "sophomore slump" as this is his second album. While I hate to draw comparisons, I feel compelled to state at the outset that I hear significant Tangerine Dream influences on this CD; there are familiar synth loops, samples, swells, washes and and effects to suit the most ardent fans of electronic music.

The album dives in from the start. "Blue Planet" is an electronic salute to the mothership, planet Earth, with a spritely back beat keeping up the tempo while grand chording is combined with electronic "footsteps," up and down the keyboard. "Wings" mellows out the mood with floating, sweeping elegance. A calming, peaceful piece. "Windflowers" builds layer upon layer, starting with a catchy, playful musical loop that continues to grow and evolve as new layers are added, and the piece develops an intricacy and depth that echo the song's simple beginnings but emanate its maturity. This is probably my favorite piece on the album.

"Night Skies" evokes the image of peering into vast nebulae, as cosmic flares and atmospheric affects play kaleidoscopic games across one's vision. This piece would be at home with Mychael Danna's "Skys" series. "Hale-Bopp," so named after the comet, is both muted and majestic at the same time. I never realized crescendos could be so underplayed! Once into the heart of the piece, Pietkivitch graces each note with languid care and loving attention; it is apparent that there are no "throw-away" notes used as filler. The comet's path is traced, both approaching and departing, as notes drift almost unnoticed, into the ether. At nearly eight minutes, it's quite a ride. Maybe this is what is meant by "hitching oneself to a star." "Spiral Journey," the title piece, continues the outer space theme, with electronic rhythm tracks providing an insistent, driving, yet undemanding beat as background to the synths. This track, above all, has the earmarks of the best of Tangerine Dream: recognizable patterns, but with an improvisational complexity to spice things up. If you can listen to this piece without tapping your feet, you're halfway into your grave already!

"Early Summer" returns the listener to a sense of calm and "everything is all right with the world." The calm is soon transmogrified into a high-energy, life-restoring whirl, ablaze with rhythm, which then again switches gears into a pool of beguiling serenity. One can sense the turmoil which exists just below the surface. The fitting sound of a summer shower ends this song. "The Path" begins with solemn drumming and the thrum of low-key bass, gradually building into blend of instru- mental effects: strummed, blown, beaten, plucked and bowed -- all per- formed electronically, of course.

Every time I hear the intro lines to "Crossing The Line," I picture in my mind the image of Edgar and Jerome Froese; that this is Pietkivitch's way of paying homage to the influence of Tangerine Dream leaves me no doubt. Again, the energy level in this piece is high, but not so much as to elevate one's blood pressure. Soaring guitar-style riffs make their presence felt with abundance. The album concludes with "New Millennia," a piece full of promise and certainty. One can hear waves washing ashore as the anthem-like piece seems to ask, "Y2K Problem? What problem?" As the music fades, one emerges as if cleansed by it, ready to face the new dawn, the new millenium.

Not only does the album contain a number of standout pieces, it works in its totality as well. It's hard to say that this is a "theme" album, but even the cover artwork, with its star-studded sky image and the "swash-like" lettering work to convey to the listener that this is a complete work. Yes, each tune stands on its own, but to me, one real joy with albums such as this, is that they are a pleasure to listen to from start to finish. Jim Pietkivitch has accomplished quite a feat in "Spiral Journey." I look forward to hearing more.

I just saw this album on the racks in Tower Records. Congratulations Jim, you've hit the big time! And this is well-deserved, as Spiral Journey is as good an album as any I've heard recently.

Visit Jim Pietkivitch's web site at

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Mister Potts - Dreaming For Real

How often does the word "elegant" come into play when describing music? Well, this is one of those times. Mister Potts has been composing and performing for quite some time it would seem. And yet "Dreaming For Real" is his debut album. Legend has it that Mister Potts has been honing his skills composing music for film, radio, television -- even ballet! And it shows. This is an album full of genuine complexity, maturity, polish, and yes, elegance.

The title "Dreaming For Real" refers to the fact that Potts claims to dream the music, and then upon waking, remembers it and puts it to paper. The song titles too, refer to elements of sleep and dreaming: Dancing With A Dream, Cosmic Night, Nocturnal Tapestry, Insomnia, Sleepwalking, and so on.

Each cut on the album has its own flavor; its own timbre, so to speak. Yet the album works as a single entity as well, so tightly woven are the spells, or dare I say it, the dreams, that bind it together.

Potts uses keyboards (synths and piano) primarily. A nod of appreciation must be given to Larry Mah, who recorded and mixed the album, and whose touch lends a masterful professionalism to the quality of the recording. A most impressive debut, indeed. I've listened to this CD at home, in hotel rooms, on board airplanes, and in my car. Despite the sometimes cacophonous surroundings, "Dreaming For Real" has never failed to put my mind and soul at ease, granting me extended periods of luxurious calm.

I never used to wonder what it would be like to experience someone else's dreams. Thanks to Mister Potts, however, I now have a glimpse. And it's certainly "For Real." Thanks, Mister Potts.

Visit Mister Potts' website at

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Quantic Music - Healing Energy

I believe that music has healing qualities. I don't mean healing as in mending cuts and broken bones, but healing in a spiritual sense; music can affect one's mood and sense of well-being (it's a known fact that the 160 beats-per-minute rhythms of rock-and-roll are an "industry standard" for this very reason). Apparently, Micheline Allaire and Alain Lemay feel the same way, for their 1990 album (re-released in 1998 if I interpret the liner notes correctly) "Healing Energy" is a blend of electro-ambient works designed to provide those same healing energies to specific regions of one's physical as well as spiritual being. An included chart describes how the colors of each work (every cut is given a color as its title, and the 12 cuts are based on the 12 "cosmic energy currents") are geared toward exercises to sooth and relax. I may be mis-stating the case somewhat, but it doesn't really matter, since the music itself is a flowing, soothing, 72 minutes of calm and serenity. This one works well on the bedside CD player, as it would serve well to induce a restful sleep.

Visit Quantic Music's web site at

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Santé - Into Light

Listening to this album is for me like listening to an old friend. And why not? I first became aware of Stephanie Santé's work via the Internet (who says you can't either find or promote quality music on the web?) when I downloaded a few of her pieces from By the time I had the CD in my possession, I was already on familiar terms with her music.

And the pieces? While I dislike drawing comparisons, the name Giles Reaves springs to mind. "Airstream" and "The Awakening," the two opening pieces, are rhythmic, pulsing tours reminiscent of Reaves' "Sea of Glass." "Cetacea" evokes images of that prehistoric period with its electronic rendering of thunder and atmospherics. Cetacea smoothly segues into "Waterdown," a tranquil, flowing piece that sparkles with feelings of "after the storm," with its electronic crickets and bird calls. "Aton" launches one from the primeval past to the distant future, probing the depths of space as the music fades into eternity. "Terra's Lullaby" brings us back to earth, with its eerily oriental flavor and synthetic vocals. "Anasazi" switches hemispheres, and invokes the spirits of the ancients, with the clicking of bones and other rhythms one might hear about a late-night campfire. In "Emergence" Santé once again graces us with her sparklingly clear synthesizer work, combined with ethereal atmospherics and affects. Moving right into "3D World" the downloaded samples were nothing like this! "Archangel" is another shift, gravitating from a seemingly ominous start to a lyrical, peaceful conclusion. "Orion's Gift" ends the album, with what may be the most "traditional" sounding piece of all. Replete with soft choral accompaniment and natural tones, Santé bids us adieu, leaving us waiting for her next release.

My only complaint is that under 50 minutes, the CD "Into Light" is too short!

Visit Santé's web site at

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