Posts Tagged ‘Digitonal’

Enter The Ambient Zone – Echoes January CD of the Month

January 2, 2013

The Ambient Zone – Just Music Café Volume 4 starts 2013 on a  serene note

Ambient ZoneWithin the electronic folds and acoustic shifts of The Ambient Zone – Just Music Café Volume 4, is a sound world that’s both exploratory and serene. Just Music is the UK label whose impeccable roster ranges from deep ambient artists like Marconi Union, Jon Hopkins and Digitonal to singer songwriters such as  Loner and Dan Arborise.  They all appear on this CD with new music, compiled and sequenced by DJ Ben Mynott.

Marconi Union’s “Weightless” is your gateway into the zone.  It’s been dubbed “the most relaxing song ever” by British Academy for Sound Therapy and certified by Time Magazine.  There’s no mistaking the deep sonic massage of this work which lolls about like a ship crossing an endless placid ocean.  This work  hangs like an umbrella over The Ambient Zone, embracing a world of classical elegance, electronic atmospheres and even Spanish guitar orchestrations from Andrea Terrano.
Digitonal’s “Sense”

Digitonal, whose album, Save Your Light for Darker Days  (an Echoes CD of the Month in 2008), was a definitive work of ambient chamber music, bring us a tantalizing taste of their long-awaited follow-up with “Sense,” a seductive, loungy walk with Andy Dobson’s clarinets, not your usual ambient axe, blowing Satie-like breezes through a dark and smoky atmosphere.
Echaskech’s “Little Rays”

Echaskech is a multi-media duo that has been bubbling under the ambient surface for a while.  Their “Little Rays” is a tense, slowly building work that’s part Philip Glass and part Arvo Pärt with an ostinato sequencer pattern and slowly building chords that sweep out like a stingray’s wings in slow motion.  It’s startling how deep and emotionally resonant a few simple chords can be. And then the rhythm track clicks in, moving you through a cinematic landscape.
Honeyroot “Radiant”

Likewise Honeyroot, a slightly more dance oriented outfit with origins in the 1980s new wave bands ABC and Heaven 17, trades in pop facades for deeper ambient textures.  Their album and song, “Sound Echo Location” signaled their new downtempo electronic direction in 2003. “Radiant” is just that: a mid-tempo song of dappled acoustic guitars, breathy female voices and lysergic-laced melodies.

The shadow of Brian Eno hangs over The Ambient Zone.  His penchant for poignant melancholy and atmosphere informs every track here, none more so than those of of two Eno associates who appear on The Ambient Zone.  Jon Hopkins remixes his own song, “A Drifting Up” as “A Drifting Down.”  He strips out the trance rhythm track of the former in favor of a suspended free fall of shimmering electronic strings.  Leo Abraham’s pensive “Seeing Stars,” one of the few previously released tracks here, is no less breathtaking than it was seven years ago on his debut album, Honeytrap.
Leo Abrahams “Under the Glow”

While I would’ve liked to have heard vocal tracks from singer-songwriters Dan Arborise and Loner, instead of the pleasant but relatively inconsequential instrumental tracks they contribute, The Ambient Zone works as both an artist showcase and an immersive excursion into ambient sound.  The Ambient Zone is an album that feels like the world is peeling away, layer by layer, into multi-colored panoramas, just for you.

~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Further Reading:
Marconi Union “Distance” Echoes July CD of the Month
Marconi Union Channels Ambient Miles
Digitonal “Save Your Light for Darker Days Echoes September 2008 CD of the Month
Leo Abrahams “The Grape & The Grain” Echoes May 2009 CD of the Month
Loner Echoes Interview Podcast

Echoes On LineAmbient ZoneSign up for Echoes CD of the Month Club.  With the Echoes CD of the Month Club, you get great CDs like The Ambient Zone – Just Music Café Volume 4 coming to you each month.  Follow the link to the Echoes CD of the Month Club  and see what you’ve been missing.

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25 Essential Echoes CDs for 2008

December 11, 2008

Digitonal Tops the 25 Essential Echoes CDs of 2008

Save Your Light for Darker Days The Echoes Listeners Poll is still open for less than a day, but here are the CDs we thought were essential for the year as judged by me (John Diliberto) and the Echoes staff. It’s not based on the most played CD, CDs of the month or any other “objective” criteria. These are the CDs, out of the 2000+ we received, that consistently inspired us over the year. Some years, it’s difficult to find 25 CDs that warrant being on the list, but this year, even more than a great year like 2007, the dividing line between the first and 25th choice has never been thinner. 2008 was just a great year for music.

I write more extensively about the 25 Essential Echoes CDs in an article on the Echoes website. It’ll have lots of links to soundfiles, pics and features on these artists.

Sumner McKane's What A Great Place To Be

Sumner McKane's What A Great Place To Be

For now, let me say that Digitonal’s Save Your Light for Darker Days floored me from the start and became deeper with each listening. It was the most sophisticated, intoxicating, inventive and emotive album of the year and defined that meeting of classical chamber and ambient music. It was nearly a toss-up between that and Sumner McKane‘s What a Great Place to Be. Like Digitonal, it was a CD of the Month and an album of deeply moving, but strangely nostalgic psychedelic Americana.

This was the soundscape of Echoes, 2008. The full list is below.
You can read my personal Top Ten Albums and Top Ten Songs in the Echoes Blog.

Be sure to make you own list and vote in the Echoes 2008 Listener Poll. There’s only a day left. You’ll be entered into a drawing to win all 25 of the top listener selections. Without giving anything away, I can assure you that many of the Essential titles will be in the listener poll.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))


1. Digitonal Save Your Light for Darker Days Just Music

2 Sumner McKane What A Great Place to Be Don’t Hit Your Sister Records


Balmorhea Rivers Arms Western Vinyl

4 Fernwood Almeria Self Released

5 Saul Stokes Villa Galaxia Binary/Stokesmusic

6 Jamshied Sharifi One Ceres Records

7 Ahn Trio Lullaby for My Favorite Insominac Sony BMG

8 Lights Out Asia Eyes Like Brontide N5md

9 Jami Sieber Unspoken Out Front Music
10 Bombay Dub Orchestra 3 Cities Six Degrees Records

11 Nik Bartsch’s Ronin Holon ECM Records

12 General Fuzz Soulful Filling Self Released
13 Qntal Qntal VI: Translucida Noir (Big Daddy)
14 Marconi Union A Lost Connection MU Transmissions

15 Hammock Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow Darla Records

16 John Gregorius Heaven and Earth Spotted Peccary

17 Gerry O’Beirne The Bog Bodies and Other Stories Self Released

18 Johann Johannsson Fordlandia 4AD/Touch

19 Ronn McFarlane Indigo Road Dorian Recordings

20 Biomusique The 10,000 Steps Kosmic Music

21 Anja Lechner and Vasillis Tsabropoulos Melos ECM Records

22 California Guitar Trio Echoes Inner Knot

23 Darshan Ambient From Pale Hands to Weary Eyes Lotuspike

24 Kevin Bartlett Glow in the Dark Aural Gratification

25 Alu Lobotomy Sessions Alu Music

John Diliberto’s Top Ten Songs for 2008: Alu to Gnarls Barkley

December 4, 2008

When WXPN, our Philadelphia Echoes affiliate, asked me to submit my Top Ten Albums and songs list, Program Director Bruce Warren said “send us your top ten albums and songs (if you have songs).” I knew what he meant by that parenthetical on a couple of levels.

On Echoes, we usually don’t play songs, right? Instrumental pieces are usually called compositions. Songs are something you hear on pop radio and have singers. And even if they were songs, we don’t think of the music here in a “song” sort of way. They’re more like parts of albums, atmospheres, moods and sonic architecture.

But we do actually play songs on Echoes. In the last year, you’ve heard tunes by Goldfrapp, Alu, M83, All India Radio and many more. So I approached this list like my Top Ten CDs for 2008. I didn’t limit it to Echoes materiel only, but they’ve all been in heavy rotation on my iPod.

Topping my list is Alu, someone not well known outside the Echoesphere, but she should be. Her album, Lobotomy Sessions is the Never Forever (Kate Bush) of the 21st Century, and this song in particular, “Circus Cosmos,” haunted me for months with its refrain:

You are the photograph that I’ve never seen
You are my phantom, the fountain of dreams.
I’ve been living in a mortuary, my whole life long.

There’s more imagery in that one chorus than most musicians conjure for an entire CD and it’s delivered by Alu’s keening soprano with such aching and despair that I know there’s more behind this tune than Alu let on.

Digitonal’s “93 Years On” is equally haunting. A masterpiece of ambient chamber music, Andy Dobson’s tortured clarinet solo, reputedly performed in a drunken haze over a lost girlfriend, is a blistering, pained cry of luxurious anguish set in an electronic cocoon.

Beck has one of the non-Echoes pieces here. But “Chemtrails” has one of those Pachelbel-style hooks that could go on forever. He did a great version of it with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra at the Bowl in September that stayed in my head thereafter.

“The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers A.K.A. the Ballad Of Sheriff Shorty” by The Dandy Warhols is worthy of its over-long title. It’s a hyped-up mix of Country-Jitterbug-New Orleans Voodoo psychedelia. Courtney Taylor-Taylor rips it up in this hipster-talking ode to speed and trucking. I can’t get it out of my head. Check out this great video and it will be embedded in your head as well.

The electronica band Goldfrapp took a pastoral, nearly acoustic turn on their Seventh Tree album. I loved “Little Bird” for its wistful tone that ends in a psychedelic crescendo that reminded me of Magical Mystery era Beatles. Alison Goldfrapp’s voice is the kind you want to sleep with.

My youngest teenaged daughter, Grace hipped me to MGMT and  “Time to Pretend.”  It’s a tongue in cheek parody of the rock lifestyle with a surprisingly poignant undertone, delivered with driving synthesizers.

Lights Out Asia‘s “Radars Over the Ghosts of Chernobyl” is about as epic as they get, starting with Gothic chords and Latin voices that sound like an oblivion mass before slowly emerging into surging guitars, hell bound rhythms and Chris Schafer’s anguished vocal.

Mariee Sioux is a partly Native American singer who uses Native themes and imagery in her music. Her song “Buried in Teeth” is part children’s song and part lament with a fragile voice that breaks over her finger-style guitar playing with some nice Native flute by Gentle Thunder.

Another catch from my daughter is Gnarls Barkley.  Every time she’d throw a mix CD in the car and I asked her what that track was, it would be something by this electro-soul duo.  Their album, The Odd Couple is brilliant and “Surprise,” with its mix of chorus harmonies redolent of The Association coupled with surf grooves doesn’t stop.

Finally Sumner McKane’s “After the Fireworks we walked to the Rope Swing,” is the least song-like of anything here, but the epic, almost operatic electric orchestration always sends a buzz up my spine and the guitar solo is sublime.

You can see the list along with other host and staff picks at WXPN
or just go right here:

John Diliberto’s Top 10 SONGS




  Alu Circus Cosmos/Lobotomy Sessions


  Digitonal 93 Years On/Save Your Light for Darker Days
  Beck Chemtrails/Modern Guilt
  Dandy Warhols The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers/Earth to Dandy Warhols

  Goldfrapp Little Bird/Seventh Tree
  MGMT Time To Pretend/Oracular Spectacular
  Lights Out Asia Radars Over the Ghosts of Chernobyl/Eyes Like Brontide
  Gnarls Barkeley Surprise/The Odd Couple
  Mariee Sioux Buried In Teeth/Faces in the Rocks

  Sumner McKane After the Fireworks We Walked to the Ropeswing/What A Great Place to Be

Copyright 2008 Pennsylvania Public Radio Associates,
































John Diliberto’s Top 10 CDs for 2008

November 28, 2008

From Digitonal to the Dandy Warhols, John Diliberto’s Top Ten CDs for 2008.

While you’re pondering the Echoes 2008 Listener Poll, I’ve already been solicited for a few year-end lists. I usually give a different list to different outlets. My (uncredited) list is pretty strictly New Age and limited to  titles that are actually on, although as you’ll see, I stretch the definition of New Age quite a bit. The 25 Essential Echoes CDs for 2008 is limited to what I play on Echoes (Look for that in a week or so). But when WXPN solicited lists for my 10 Top CDs and songs for 2008, there were no limitations. So there are a couple of things here that I wouldn’t be playing on Echoes. This is my personal Top Ten.  

A lot of my top ten albums will be appearing right on top of the 25 Essential Echoes CDs for 2008. I’ve written about many of them already. Digitonal’s Save Your Light For Darker Days remains my favorite disc of the year and I say why in my  September CD of the Month review. Sumner McKane’s right up there and my paean to his psychamericana on What A Great Place to Be is in my October CD of the Month review. Saul Stokes’ entrancing electronic cycles on Villa Galaxia probably should have been a CD of the Month. I wrote about that in an Echo Location. The Persian fusion group, Niyaz  topped their debut with the double CD, Nine Heavens.  It could’ve been a CD of the month as well, but it came out in the midst of CDs we’d already selected by Jamshied Sharifi and Biomusique with similar exotic female singers.   We try and spread a little variety among CD of the Month Selections.  But I am intoxicated by Azam Ali’s  voice which taps into something beyond this world, while still living sensually in this world. Alu is a relatively new singer who made me think of early Kate Bush with her electronica cabaret on Lobotomy Sessions. I wrote about her in an Echo Location. Nik Bärtch’s Ronin has been making a cerebral brand of minimalist jazz for years and Holon spins like a melodic meeting of Dave Brubeck and Steve Reich. Lights Out Asia orchestrated a perfect mix of shoegazer rock and ambient electronics but on an epic scale on their enigmatically titled CD, Eyes Like Brontide.   You can also read about them and hear their music in an Echo Location.  Now we get to the two non-Echoes titles here. Beck‘s Modern Guilt, is another great album of insightfully poetic and ironic lyrics set in new variations of organic quirk, much of it provided by Danger Mouse from Gnarls Barkley who made my Top Ten Songs.    Earth to the Dandy Warhols is a brilliant pastiche of styles from jive-talking  jump-blues to Can, all distilled through their psychedelic sensibilities.   The German group, Qntal rounds out the list with Lucidia, a definitive example of their Medieval Electronica fronted by the haunting, imperious voice of Sigrid Hausen. The Top Ten list is below. I’ll have My Top Ten songs later, or you can just go to WXPN and see it there, sans sage commentary. While you’re in the neighborhood , vote in their year end poll, but while you’re here, vote in ours, The Echoes 2008 Listener Poll.  You might even win the Top 25 Echoes CDs for 2008.
John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

John Diliberto’s Top 10

1 Digitonal Save Your Light for Darker Days
2 Sumner McKane What A Great Place to Be
3 Saul Stokes Villa Galaxia
4 Niyaz Nine Heavens
5 Alu Lobotomy Sessions
6 Nik Bartsch’s Ronin Holon
7 Lights Out Asia Eyes Like Brontide

8 Beck Modern Guilt
9 Dandy Warhols Earth to Dandy Warhols

10 Qntal Qntal VI: Translucida

The Real Story behind Vangelis

October 15, 2008

From the Vangelis list, I came across an alternative history of the Greek composer who scored Chariots of Fire and Bladerunner.  It’s in the Uncyclopedia.   Chariots Of Fire I’m probably the last person on the planet to discover this take-off site on Wikipedia.  The Vangelis entry scores a direct hit on the enigmatic composer who is praised as a modern day Mozart by supporters and a modern day Mantovani by detractors.   I think the critical concensus on Vangelis has shifted over the years.  Parodies making him out to be practitioner of shlock and pomposity have been the norm, but I’m hearing more and more younger musicians name-checking Vangelis as an influence.    He’s been cited in recent years by artists like BT and Digitonal, the latter who said that their song, “93 Years On” from Save Your Light For Darker Days, was directly inspired by Vangelis’ Bladerunner score. 25th Anniversary [3 CD] While Vangelis can lapse into sappy melodies and bombastic arrangements, he’s also made some of the most propulsive, driving electronic music of the modern age with Albedo 0.39 and Spiral as well as some music that seems to reach out and grab you by the heart on albums like Opera Sauvage and his score to 1492: Conquest of Paradise.  The composer, who turned 65 last March, has slowed down in recent years, but his influence continues.     But enough of praise, go have a laugh at Vangelis’s Uncyclopedia entry.

John Diliberto ((( Echoes )))

Echoes Top 25 for September-Ambient Leads the Way

October 6, 2008

Digitonal tops the Echoes Top 25 for September, and will no doubt be near the top for the next several months. But right behind is Marconi Union, topping their own record as the highest placing digital download recording on Echoes. October’s CD of the Month, Sumner McKane’s nostalgia-tinged ambient americana masterpiece, What A Great Place to be, is already near the top in September at #4. New Entries include Darshan Ambient, Jeff Pearce, General Fuzz, Anja Lechner & Vasillis Tsabropoulos , Peter Kater, and Wolfert Brederode.  Over-all, another month of chilled moods and exotic grooves from across the Echoes spectrum. It’s been a good year, and it’s not over yet.  You can read print reviews and hear audio reviews with music from several of them,  including Sumner McKane, Digitonal, Marconi Union, Ron McFarlane, Michael Brook & Djivan GasparyanOttmar Liebert, Solas, and General Fuzz.

John Diliberto

SEPTEMBER 2008    

1. Digitonal Save Your Light for Darker Days Just Music
Read the Review!
2. Marconi Union A Lost Connection MU Transmissions
3. Ronn McFarlane Indigo Road Dorian
4. Sumner McKane What A Great Place to Be Don’t Hit Your Sister Records
5. Darshan Ambient From Pale Hands to Weary Eyes Lotuspike

6. Michael Brook/Djivan Gasparyan Penumbra Canadian Rational
7. Ottmar Liebert The Scent of Light Spiral Subwave Records Int’l
8. Solas For Love and Laughter Compass Records
9. William Ackerman Meditations Compass Productions
10. Fernwood Almeria Self Released
11. Hans-Joachim Roedelius & Tim Story Inlandish High Wire Records

12. Niyaz Nine Heavens Six Degrees
13. Jeff Pearce Rainshadow Sky Jeff Pearce Music
14. Jesse Cook Frontiers Koch Records
15. David Cullen Guitar Travels Solid Air
16. General Fuzz Soulful Filling Self Released
17. California Guitar Trio Echoes Inner Knot
18. Peter Kater Cloud Hands Point of Light Records
19. David Arkenstone Echoes of Light and Shadow Gemini Sun Records
20. Joan Jeanrenaud Strange Toys Talking House Records
21. Anja Lechner and Vasillis Tsabropoulos Melos ECM Records

22. Michel Banabila Traces Tapu Records
23. Forastiere Why Not? Candyrat Records
24. V/A Harp Guitar Dreams Harp Guitar Music
25. Wolfert Brederode Quartet Currents ECM Records
Digitonal’sSave Your Light for Darker Days

was the Echoes CD of the Month
for September 2008


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