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(Direction Music DMC 05) 59 minutes
Aaah! The academic avant-garde! Renowned for producing very little that is at all listenable, the academic composers of the world spend their days worrying about the minutiae of serialism, producing so-called music that appeals only to their colleagues in academia. Those involved specifically in the "computer music" area are amongst the worst, producing arhythmic, atonal sound sketches of distinctly dubious value. I don't know much about Barry Christian, but both the form and content of Biosonic Domains is deeply influenced by the above. There are whistles, bleeps, bell-tones, twangs, clicks and whirs, arranged sometimes rhythmically, sometimes not, sometimes contrapuntally, sometimes seemingly at random. It's not easy to get into, but once you do it's well worth the effort: this is more accessible than it might sound, and contains a fascinating array of tones and timbres, arranged into occasional stretches of complex splendour.
(Direction Music DMC 20)
"This tape is dedicated to the senses!" Well, maybe it is, but not surprisingly it's only the aural one that's it's going to build up much of a relationship with. Sensuum Mendacia is quiet, synthetic, atmospheric music. I wouldn't really call it 'ambient', as the drones, rumbles and washes of sound are a bit too varied for that. A lot of it is quite soundtrack-like, with ominous or intense passages of dense sound texture, and some of it, like the densely layered Choir of Transcendence is simply awesome.
(Direction Music DMC 12) 83 minutes
This is a "best of" release, putting together twelve tracks (one previously unreleased and four remixed) from his earlier albums. Basically, if you're at all a fan of expressive, cosmic electronic music as produced by the likes of Klaus Schulze, T.D. and hordes of others, then you ought to adore this. It avoids several of the genre's more cliched ideas, although it's certainly firmly planted in that chosen style. All the tracks have plenty of development, lots of groovy spacey sounds, and a very professional mix. Of course, if you've already decided that the genre is not for you ("bloody old hippies" etc) then avoid this too. Fans: very highly recommended.
Below Zero / The Black Zone
(Direction Music DMC 15/16) 41 minutes + 29 minutes
Electronic music with a dramatic, impressionistic slant. At least, that's what Direction Music says and I'm not about to disagree. Both tapes follow in a tradition stretching back through well-known artists like Tangerine Dream or Vangelis, with similar electronic sounds being employed, but for the most part Below Zero dispenses with the former's sequencing and the latter's pompousness to produce something more abstract, more atmospheric. Even more than for some other Direction Music releases this would make perfect soundtrack music: it's evocative enough even without being tied to any specific imagery. The only real fault is a slight commercial slickness to a lot of it which can get a bit irritating at times. This blossoms into full view on The Black Zone, which is perhaps just a little too safe and predictable in comparison.
(Direction Music DMC 04) 41 minutes
This cassette consists of two side-long "Meditations on Metastasis". They employ a variety of shrieking, piercing, wailing electronic sounds, radio static, ripplings and buzzes etc. At points it sound something like an alien didgeridoo, at others like a banshee in a particularly unhappy mood. As well as being very unusual, it's also very enjoyable.
Refined on Gentle Clouds
(Direction Music DMC 18) 39 minutes
Vidna Obmana's music bears a clear and unavoidable resemblance to the ambient music of Brian Eno, circa Apollo. It has the same languorous succession of drifting tones, sliding across each other slowly and lazily. A similar mixture of high and low pitches is employed to ensure that it doesn't all become too comfortable. The interest in using minimal means to explore a variety of emotive timbres is shared by both artists as well. Vidna Obmana's music however occasionally slips towards hints of atonality, reinforcing the feeling that all is more ambiguous than it seems, and occasionally contains enough musical development to lift itself from ambient music towards the realms of atmospheric soundtrack material. Eminently listenable.
All reviews by and © Brian Duguid.