Category Archives: Reviews – S

Essential albums: Jordan De La Sierra

Gymnosphere is a lost gem from the earliest days of American new age music. Sierra’s blurry, cyclic, melodic creations on his ‘prepared piano’ are partly improvised and take some ideas from classical minimalism, yet the album has not a trace of academic coldness. The music positively glows; you can almost feel the love coming out […]

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Essential albums: Sinepearl

Sinepearl dwells in the new age zone of ambient dance music – that is, ambience that has some roots in techno, trance, breaks and/or dub but is focused on meditative calm and spiritual reflection, far removed from the dance floor. Themes of nature worship and Eastern mysticism run deep in his music and – like […]

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Essential albums: David Sylvian

Sylvian’s Plight And Premonition (1988), recorded with Holger Czukay of Krautrock legends Can, consists of two extended, droning compositions that are a highly sensitive and subtle marriage of electronics with ethnic flavours. Mesmerising and meticulously detailed, they’re all atmospheric keyboards and eerie chimes, embellished with seductive Eastern and Mid-eastern textures.” artist: David Sylvian country of […]

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Essential albums: Morton Subotnick

Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples Of The Moon, written in 1967, was the first piece of fully electronic music ever written specifically for commercial record release. Today it sounds quaint and a little dated, understandable when you realise it was performed on the primitive Bulcha which, along with the Moog, was one of the earliest synthesisers. […]

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Essential albums: Stars Of The Lid

Stars Of The Lid makes mood music that sighs and surges with tidal-like speed and power. Beatless and never hurried, it differs from much other electronic-based drone music in its delicate pauses and near-silences. These musical breaths, these spaces in between, draw your focus into spaces where not much actually happens. But in the best […]

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Essential albums: Spacecraft

Spacecraft is an actual group, an exception in the sub-genre of spacemusic which is usually the preserve of solo composers. What Klaus Schulze, Ashra, Tangerine Dream and other Berlin-school pioneers started in the late 1960’s, Spacecraft continued magnificently through the 90’s and beyond. The band’s love of improvisation produces music that doesn’t simply recycle the […]

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Essential albums: Solar Fields

While the often superb Fahrenheit Project compilations best define France’s Ultimae Records overall, Magnus Birgersson aka Solar Fields is one of the individual artists who stands out …his specialty is the panoramic ambient trance and new-school spacemusic the label is famous for, and there’s a picturesque quality to his music that is distinctively his own. […]

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Essential albums: Sola Rosa

Some of the best sample-laden electronic downtempo is in fact made by musicians with backgrounds in live performance playing instruments like the guitar, piano and drums. They supplement their sampled sources with live playing and a natural musician’s instinct for how things fit together. The first two albums from gifted New Zealander Andrew Spraggon aka […]

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Essential albums: Slow Mo (series)

Sitting on the downtempo end of the Stereo Deluxe label’s nu lounge spectrum are the three stellar albums of the Slow Mo series (1998-2002). These various-artists collections set an exceptional standard in the realm of jazz, dub and hip hop-influenced instrumentals, on par with Crammed Discs’ classic Freezone compilations. series: Slow Mo country of origin: […]

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Essential albums: Slow Dancing Society

Drew Sullivan’s hybrids of electronica and ambient rock are among the best examples of what you might call post-rock. Not content to just create a chilled-out mood – which he does very well – his reveries also tug on an emotional level with remarkable depth. artist: Slow Dancing Society country of origin: USA style(s): Ambient […]

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Essential albums: Don Slepian

Don Slepian is another of the genuine talents whose music rose above the haze of early American new age music to enjoy widespread acclaim and airplay on pioneering American radio shows such as Music From The Hearts Of Space…he’s a musician, synthesiser programmer and performer of quietly dazzling skill and versatility. artist: Don Slepian country […]

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Essential albums: Silent Records (label)

There is no denying that the first wave of experimental chillout music to emerge from the afterglow of early rave, techno and acid house in the early to mid 90’s did have that special warmth and sense of wide-eyed wonder. San Francisco-based Silent Records was there and captured this spirit beautifully. label: Silent Records country […]

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Essential albums: Shulman

Initially rather too derivative of psychedelic chillout icons Shpongle to stand out, Israeli duo Shulman soon escaped their influences to become a downtempo act with their own special combination of quirks, musicality and brave experimentation. Their third and fourth albums stand among the greatest electronica releases of the 2000’s. artist: Shulman country of origin: Israel […]

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Essential albums: Shpongle

In forming the psychedelic duo Shpongle, UK musician Simon Posford was one of the first psychedelic trance artists to go beyond the occasional downtempo or chillout track among an otherwise uptempo repertoire of dance music. Away from the demands of the dancefloor, he and bandmate Raja Ram are free to draw on whatever inspires them […]

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Essential albums: Sigur Ros

A four-piece rock band centering around guitarist and vocalist Jon Thor Birgisson, Sigur Ros’ epic sound is progressive rock of the spacey variety. At their most atmospheric they’re one of the most distinctive ambient rock acts since the early Pink Floyd and the original cosmic German bands of the 1970’s. artist: Sigur Rós country of […]

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Essential albums: Rhian Sheehan

New Zealander composer Rhian Sheehan crafts instrumentals of great cinematic beauty and strong emotional undertows. He effortlessly straddles dual worlds – acoustic and electronic sounds, rock rhythms and loopy ambient dance patterns – and his background in film and TV soundtracks lends his music a very personal and story-like flow. artist: Rhian Sheehan country of […]

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Essential albums: Jonn Serrie

Jonn Serrie is both an aircraft pilot and a long-established composer of music for planetariums, which is a perfect resume for making spacemusic. Of course most of us will never know what the experience of space travel is really like…Serrie’s instrumentals are more about possibilities, a kind of aural science fiction. It’s left to your […]

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Essential albums: Ulrich Schnauss

Think of these albums as two sides of the same coin. Far Away Trains Passing By is the happier and more dreamy of the two, while A Strangely Isolated Place suggests a darker side with its distorted electric guitar textures, more obvious indie rock flavours and even wordless female vocals on occasion. Both are wonderful […]

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Essential albums: Robert Schroder

Robert Schroder is one of Krautrock’s forgotten heroes, perhaps because he started releasing music towards the end of German electronica’s first wave (the late 70’s) rather than near its beginning (the late 60’s). Schroder deserves better…his classic albums from the late 70’s and early 80’s compare more than favourably to the music of his better-known […]

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Essential albums: Johannes Schmoelling

Audio technician, composer and keyboard player Johannes Schmoelling was a key member of pioneering German electronic band Tangerine Dream from 1980-85. Upon joining, he immediately brought a slicker production sheen to their 70’s sound, working with some of the earliest digital synthesisers to expanded the range of tonal colours in Tangerine Dream’s music. artist: Johannes […]

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Essential albums: Sasha

As one of the leading lights in progressive dance music since the early 1990’s, Alex Coe aka Sasha’s role as a DJ, remixer and producer has been significant and influential. I would be the first to suggest that discussion of his music is best left to writings on club music and dance culture…except, that is, […]

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Essential albums: Tim Story

Of all contemporary ambient musicians combining piano with synthesisers, American composer Tim Story is one of the most distinctive and fascinating. On first hearing it’s easy to make comparisons with Californian ambient pianist and chamber musician Harold Budd, not surprising given that both composers have been influenced by late-19th Century French composer Erik Satie (1866-1925). […]

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Essential albums: Bruno Sanfilippo

Bruno Sanfilippo’s delicate touch has produced some of the most poetic, sophisticated old-school ambient of the 2000’s and beyond. He shows an exceptional talent with reverb effects; it would be easy to place his delicate pieces against a large reverberant backdrop and lose all definition. Yet Sanfilippo does the opposite, preserving the exquisite detail of […]

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Essential albums: Klaus Schulze

E-music pioneer and multi-instrumentalist Klaus Schulze was part of the Krautrock phenomenon of the late 60’s and 70’s, and alongside a handful of other German acts from that era he is a pivotal figure in the development of modern electronica and ambient. artist: Klaus Schulze country of origin: Germany style(s): Spacemusic, ambient trance, Krautrock, prog […]

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Essential albums: Michael Stearns

Cosmic is a word that’s inescapable – in the most profound sense – when you listen to the peak 80’s and 90’s recordings of American musician Michael Stearns. Another word that comes to mind is humanity. If humanity is the ingredient that was sometimes lacking in the work of the 70’s electronic pioneers, Stearns’ recorded […]

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