Kevin Braheny

Braheny is one of the pioneers of American ambient spacemusic...as the first artist to appear on iconic Californian ambient label Hearts Of Space Records, his cosmic impressionism was a defining influence on what many of the label’s 80's releases would generally sound like.

artist:
Kevin Braheny

country of origin:
USA

style(s):
Ambient spacemusic, ethno-ambient

decades active:
70's - 90's

essential releases:

  • Lullaby (1980, Heartcall/Hearts Of Space)
  • The Way Home (1984, Hearts Of Space)
  • Secret Rooms (1990, Hearts Of Space)

Reviewed by Mike G

Kevin Braheny is one of the pioneers of American ambient spacemusic. As the first artist to appear on iconic Californian ambient label Hearts Of Space Records, his cosmic impressionism was a defining influence on what many of the label’s 80's releases would generally sound like.

In his creative heyday, Braheny was both a musician and a hardware engineer. His custom-built Steiner EWI is a remarkable electronic woodwind instrument which in his gifted hands sounded as expressive and emotionally resonant as anything heard from its acoustic cousins. He also played a major role in the development of the Serge synthesiser. In the 1970's he worked with Moog synthesist Malcolm Cecil and modular synthesizer inventor Serge Tcherepnin. During this time he built new prototypes for the Tcherepnin's advanced analog synths, and in 1978 assembled his own "Mighty Serge" synth which became a key part of both his sound and that of fellow spacemusic composer Michael Stearns.

His debut album is a gorgeous cassette-only release called Lullaby (1980) - now hard to find - which showcases the unique and fascinating sounds of his new Serge, accompanied in places by soprano saxophone. Four years separate this release and his follow-up The Way Home (1984) , the debut release for the Hearts Of Space label and a classic of its kind, containing two side-long meditations for synthesiser, strings, organ and ghost choir. Neoclassical at times, almost oriental at others, it strikes a finely judged balance between cerebral appeal to ambient fans and the heartfelt emotion that appealed to new age audiences of the time. Lullaby and The Way Home remain the pick of Braheny's releases in the pure spacemusic style.

His finest single album, however, is his third release Secret Rooms (1990). It's more diverse and - in a way - more personal, a collection of space hymns, gliding instrumental ballads and percussive pieces inspired by his interest in shamanism. Braheny's sense of space and his ear for harmonies is something very special and this time around guest musicians feature on a number of tracks. There are also some compelling rhythmic explorations, most notably “Shadowcatcher”.

Braheny is also featured on the outstanding Western Spaces (1987) and Desert Solitaire (1989), two classic collaborations in environmental ambience with fellow American synthesists Steve Roach, Michael Stearns and Richard Burmer. Several underwhelming Braheny albums appeared in the 90's with collaborator Tim Clark, after which he left the music business to pursue various new age business interests.

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