|2000, Eleven One Records|
Ascension from Synthuser is a collection of instrumental pieces that feature synthesizers and electronic keyboards. This music presents me with a bit of a problem because it is a significant divergence from the guitar-centric type of music that I typically listen. That being said, I will try to provide my thoughts with that being my frame of reference.
Ascension seemed to me to have several shortcomings that struck me upon first listening to it. Though the music has its moments of satisfaction, the timing seems rigid and the rhythms are stiff in places, probably due to some of the metronome-emulating rhythms that are voiced in a monophonic tones that pulse out a backdrop that sometimes seems trite. What you will have to take into account here, is that these rhythms are in the place of the percussions that are absent from this album in many sections. In some places, there also seems to be a lack of fluidity that gives a direction and takes the listener to its destination without being encumbered by the mechanics. The composition also seems to fall into the pitfall of a repetitive type of pattern of rhythm and timing in places that requires some adjustment of the part of the listener, though there is thankfully a variation in the tonality that is articulated. But, the compositional aspect of the music is probably the strong point of this album and does succeed in some places to overcome the mechanics and sometimes thin instrumentation that seem to trouble me. The musical ideas are exploratory in nature and there is thankfully not too much repetition in the ideas covered, though I would like to see more fluid timing and rhythms applied to the ideas and progressions, as is done with good effect on the track Spartacus. The guitar playing that does appear sporadically on this album is not very impressive in terms of progressive technique, though it is well-polished and well-felt playing that integrates nicely into the compositional context.
I think what most troubled me about this album were two things. The first is the choice of instrumentation that is unconventional and requires that the listener adjust to a different center of sonic texture that is more centric to keyboards and synthesizers than guitar, bass, and percussion, for the most part. The second is the lack of drive, impulsion, speed, and direction in much of the composition. But, I dont see either of these issues as being bad things in themselves, though I think the prospective listeners should be aware of the type of music that is contained on this album. It is not of the speedy, driving type that is usually voiced with the typical progressive instrumentation. If you are partial to music articulated in synthesized voicings that is more laid back than aggressive, then this may be a suitable fit for you. I think that regardless of these things, this album will require some acclimation to get adjusted to its style.
Overall, I am undecided about this album, even after listening to it a lot over the course of a week. It is not progressive relative to the pioneers of the day, though it is instrumentally and compositionally intensive. But despite these things, there were several tracks that I liked where the unique style does seem to work (Restoration, Spartacus), and that is something.
|3) The Great Wall|
|4) Day Three|
|5) Doubting Thomas|
~ Christopher Ruel ~ www.ChrisRuel.com ~ Chris@ChrisRuel.com
Lee DiBane: Falling Upwards Into Sky (CD, 57:46); Eleven One Records, independent label 2001 E-mail: bnsdias[removethisantispamthing]@sonic.net Website: http://www.sonic.net/~bnsdias or www.google.com then search "Eleven One Records" Daniel "SyNtHuSeR" Byerly is a man of many talents, one is creating great music and another is re-creating himself via "aka's" ad infinitum. I have a hunch that Mr. DiBane exists only as ink . . . anyway, back to the review. This latest release is your more sparsely meditative, head-trip using minimalism/ ambient spacescapes/ sequencing to stroll through a wash of synths and warped effects that echo Cluster, Eno-vibed electronix, and that subtle Suzanne Doucet tremolo-warmth. Traces of Robert Scott Thompson's mechanoid- matrix-droids-song shine through in the "alien worlds" moments after possible DiBane's induced psychic levitations begin. For purest relaxation I am not a big fan of rapidly oscillating and hyperphased, echoey flange-warblings, sequential fade ins and outs that make your inner balance feel as if you're a cartoon character that just hit a giant gong with your head. Vibrations of sound at certain frequencies just do my psyche in -- whoa, I am freaking out here. It comes across very trippy, too strongly sonically-psychedelic for this olde reviewer guy's delicate equlibrium and ever-on-the-edge-of-attack vertigo. I thought I was going to have a Monroe- esque O.O.B.E.! (Is that me down there?) On the other hand or head, if you dig a retro-ride into that analog-rich, effects-laden, ambient synths that is more a psychedelic voyage of the good olde days of channel-to-channel headphone blissdom then this is exactly the good stuff! European, German synth heads take note. I am by no means "slighting" DiBane's art, just being fair and clear about one thing -- his is predominately "tripping" music vs. a relaxation/ meditative backdrop. You cannot ignore this stuff, it grabs your brain and warps it. So, good job at creating a definitely weird head-space, Mr. DiBane. ~ John W. Patterson, EER-MUSIC.com Personnel: Lee DiBane - master of all synths and effects Tracks: Alone in a Church, Moving Through My Yesterdays, Everything is Made to be Broken, Self Doubt, Falling Upwards Into Sky, Hope for the Future
SyNtHuSeR: Island of Misfit Noise (56:33) 11/1 Records 1999 E-mail:*email@example.com (good luck you bulk-mailing scumlords) Cyberhome: http://www.sonic.net/~bnsdias Well… OK. That’s it, I’ve now officially heard everything. Just when I thought I had reviewed every possible variation of progressive music out there, along comes a band like SyNtHuSeR (uh-oh, my spell checker just blew up) with a release titled Island of Misfit Noise - an album in need of in-patient treatment if ever I heard one. I knew I was in for a different experience when I opened the CD and a slip of paper with the words “Keep Away From Water” in big red letters fell out. This piece of paper also warned “Do not place or store where CD can fall or be pulled into tub, toilet or sink” and “If CD falls into water unplug immediately, do not reach into water”. The cover art – a trio of strange kiddie toys sitting ‘round a campfire is the stuff that nightmares are made of, and the insert photography is just as eerie and bizarre. As for the music itself? Well… let’s just say that eerie and bizarre are terms that just begin to describe this band. SyNtHuSeR can only be described as… well… indescribable. Their unique (and I mean unique!) blend of speed metal (complete with requisite double bass), keyboard-heavy fusion, rave-style techno, and… get this… sound bites from TV and movies of the 1950’s and 60’s makes Island of Misfit Noise one of the most curious releases I’ve heard in quite some time. The opening title track kicks off with 30 seconds of a 1940’s-style movie musical song about Santa Claus and a place called “The Island of Misfit Toys” that is all of a sudden blown out of the water by a speed metal onslaught that has drummer Alan Reed and keyboardist Lee DiBane frantically bashing away at their instruments with reckless abandon. The onslaught continues throughout the song, often interrupted by more sound bites such as one that asks, “How would you like to be a spotted elephant? Or a choo-choo with square wheels on the caboose?” Very strange, very disturbing… and VERY original! The other tracks on the album follow suit, although the album takes more of a techno turn as it continues – thankfully steering away from speed metal. The song “The Game” simply consists of some nice mellow guitar riffing providing a background for a heated argument between an old-time father and his idealistic son who’s just blown all his college money. Even though it’s obvious that SyNtHuSeR is a band with an incredible sense of humor and a very campy style, it’s hard not to get a little disturbed listening to this strange mixture; in other words, you’re in on the joke but it’s still pretty frightening nonetheless. “First Floor Dungeon” begins with a German-sounding deep voiced elevator attendant singing lyrics such as “First Floor - assorted simple tortures, molten lead, chopping blocks… Second Floor – jewelry, thumb screws and nooses.” This odd minute and a half intro is followed by a frenzied techno tune featuring yet more funny sound bites about a kid who doesn’t want to play his piano. “Sinkhole” is another memorable track featuring some very tasty percussion programming interspersed with ambient sounds and yes… more sound bites. In my humble opinion, SyNtHuSeR is nothing short of brilliant. Island of Misfit Noise is one of the most innovative titles I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in quite some time. In a world rife with predictable music and copycat artists, it’s refreshing to hear a bunch of twisted dudes like SyNtHuSeR come up with something this unusual and adventurous. I don’t care what kind of music you like – pick this puppy up and give it a spin! - Michael Askounes (firstname.lastname@example.org) CREDITS: Andrew Blayer: Guitars Lee DiBane: Keyboards, Samples, Programming Alan Reed: Drums, Electronic Percussion Brad Windel: Bass Guitar, Bass Synth TRACKLIST: 1. Island of Misfit Noise (6:12) 2. The Game (3:57) 3. Sex Addiction (6:27) 4. First Floor Dungeon (9:09) 5. What is the Huron To Do? (7:16) 6. Sinkhole (8:30) 7. Which One is You? (4:32) 8. Scenes from a Piano Lesson (3:05) 9. Vampire from Outerspace (7:25) More information on SyNtHuSeR can be found at http://www.sonic.net/~bnsdias
SyNtHuSeR: October Fool's Day (CD, 62:54); 1998 Buenos Dias Media/ (Eleven One Records) 899 First Street Sonoma, CA 95476 USA E-mail:*email@example.com (good luck you bulk-mailing scumlords) Cyberhome: http://www.sonic.net/~bnsdias Overview: Daniel Edward Byerly is supposedly the phenomenon aka SyNtHuSeR, an entity of many talents. A wealth of music and artistic visions stock his thoughts and best of all he releases them to the world. The quality of his compositions is predictably even and stays inspired. Musicianship is tight yet a comfortable listen with SyNtHuSeR communicating his art with obvious ease of execution. Recordings are clean, high-quality mastering, with an attention to being very professional being evident. To realize that Byerly does 99% by himself, start to finish is something few folks could ever hope to pull off successfully. SyNtHuSeR does it again and again. "Outer Limits" opens things with a monumental 14:43 track. A voice sample of the famous Outer Limits TV show intros with the weird monologue – your brain goes black-n-white with visions of aliens and a foreboding of the unknown. Nice touch. Punchy synths and very tight guitar work kicks in, (guitar triggering synth effects), keyboard jams strong. Think a more in-your-face Fonya or Jeremy. Think Neil Nappe's July release on the now-dead Audion label. Synth drums everywhere, handled well but not my favorite voicing for percussives. T. Dream's Underwater Sunlight is another good reference here. Synths sound very much like T. Dream's Miracle Mile soundtrack work. "Beast" uses femme vox samplings from an olde Outer Limits episode, (starring Martin Landau as brow-beaten scientist using LASER light to accidentally let a peaceful alien sage get a free ride to Earth, the alien glides down the "Bifrost" bridge of coherent light into fate at the hands of man's blind greed and fear. Great episode!) Oh yeah, the review . . . Synth/guitar jams mirror track one but drums sound better. Many more vox samples intersect precise moments along the way. A more jazzy synth-bass is used. "Drowning", being bit more spaced-out again employs vox sampling from same episode discussed above but Martin Landau does the angst rant. Superb guitar/guitar- synth triggered effects solo! Poignant, soul-fired, strong lead work here. "Walking on Your Grave" uses male vox samples from Poltergeist I movie- audio-track. Same guitar/synth interplay but slower tempo. Still tight. "Spirits" uses yet more Poltergeist samples, the femme vox of the old exorcist/paranormal "ghostbuster"/ "demon-dowser" with same guitar/ synth jams as previous track's mode. A somber, pensive, and emotive cut. "Scarecrow" kicks! Think Santana meets Jan Hammer. Think the Jeff Beck There and Back release. Huge presence, monster drums. As good as the forceful opening cut. Sparse vox samplings barely noted. "Technostacy Island" uses more femme vox sampling from same Outer Limits show, powerful synths with big percussives. The Outer Limits alien has a word here too, commenting on human fear as the seed. Synths build an interesting tension. I heard that Eddie Jobson/ U.K. synth-voice with a Patrick O'Hearn bass line. Guitar, of courses adds yet another dimension of "cool" when Byerly decides to jam. Title track outros this CD with generalized children vox samples, Grand piano voice with that Keith Emerson mode to break the predominant synth-only gestalt. Guitar is superb as on previous cuts with Byerly stretching a bit more and showing his chops. That synthvoice-tail added to the riffage is a great effect. Subtle as it is at times it is unique and works well. Weird, distorted trick-or-treater vox samples blip in here and there. As the appropriate outro, the Outer Limits TV "farewell vox" says good bye until next week . . . If there is to be any complaint lodged here, it will have to be synth percussives sound SyNtHeTiC and so be prepared if you're a percussive purist. Otherwise this is a strongly recommended, thematic release that holds together very well – start to finish. ~ John W. Patterson
SyNtHuSeR: Eleven One (CD, 60:54); 1999 Buenos Dias Media/ (Eleven One Records) 899 First Street Sonoma, CA 95476 USA E-mail:*firstname.lastname@example.org (good luck you bulk-mailing scumlords) Cyberhome: http://www.sonic.net/~bnsdias Seven tracks engage your interest, I begin to engage the review . . . "Part one", 9:19, dark ambient drone synth opening. Very eerie, very effective. Over-loud synth-drums kicking in distract/ shock a tad but overall synth use is excellent. Byerly's signature guitar with synthvoicings meshed into riffage spices things up nicely. Think my pal, Neil Nappe and his 80s July release. "Part two", 10:06, a rambling piece full of stretching room for SyNtHuSeR to rock out and jam on his axe. O'Hearn/ Mark Egan - styled bass lines add a solid low end. Axe sounds a bit more synthy in its added-on synth textures – still very cool sound! SyNtHuSeR plays one solid, flash-free axe – nice stuff. Clean sounding axe work reminds me off that Paul Speer attack/ release on the Lanz and Speer releases. I actually prefer SyNtHuSeR's overall effect. Synths goes Oriental in chiming koto-ish sound. Subtly dark synth drones heighten tension between solos. Synth solo is wonderful! Synth- banjo surprised me but thankfully was brief. Great cranked-up to speed finale was a high point. Bravo. Strong cut full of nice mutations and evolutions. "Part three", 7:51, dreamy yet rhythmic cut, sweet piano voicings, Peter Buffet meets Paul Speer here in a tight interplay. Synths assume a choral coloring in spots. Byerly can jam out at break-neck tempos then hit the brakes for a slow-mo drift in a heartbeat. Very, very nice touch! A Spanish-flavored adagio of muted horn arrives. Classy and intelligent break. A big finale like ELP's Brain Salad Surgery or a Vangelis bombastic outro ends things. "Part four", 7:27, Nothing really new here but a bit more of a bluesy, heart-felt rocking guitar riffage over near-jazzy, funked up keys in an Argent mood or some 70s Quicksilver Messenger Service free jam. Lotsa good fretwork to be enjoyed here. But Byerly, please lose that banjo-synth module thingee! "Part five", 6:30, SyNtHuSeR riffs it up BIG time on this track and clearly shows off virtuoso fingers. Synths as usual very strong. Great mellow breaks here, strong bass lines, dreamy guitar soloing. "Part six", 9:07, piano-voiced intro with synth edges, more SyNtHuSeR riffs on axe adds emotive charge and pathos. Keys assume early solo Kit Watkins sound. This track meanders all over the place rhythmically, a myriad of synth voices cascade across the spectrum of Byerly's visions. This is the most Fonya-like cut but with many of Kit Watkins' colorings. SyNtHuSeR's guitar riffs cutting in will make some think of Canada's Nathan Mahl and his The Clever Use of Shadows release. This is one of SyNtHuSeR's most adventurous pieces approaching symphonic prog in its scope. But Byerly, please lose that banjo-synth module thingee! Steps Ahead already burned me out long ago with its over-use on Magnetic -- shiver, shiver, shake. Ah good, it was but a brief flurry of notes. "Part seven", 10:21, had me thinking Vangelis' Antarctica at first then a head- bobbing, lounge-jazzy boogie synth-rock kicks in – STOP -- now we space out with a wide flange synthwash presaging more guitar jams. Synth drums being so unadorned in the "open spots" as fills and in quiet moments sound a bit machine-sounding and grate slightly. SyNtHuSeR handles them well as momentum builds and volume increases and track "thickens" in more sounds. This cut has a Larry Fast meets Kansas feel in places with an almost heroic lilt in its synths but that SyNtHuSeR groove avoids any easy pigeon-holes for reviewers to put him in. His stuff is unique and very listenable. Track ends abruptly. SyNtHuSeR has done it again. Eleven One is yet one more slickly done collection of guitars meet synths. A strong effort screaming for another release just to see where SyNtHuSeR will head in his next creation. Do some more, Daniel. You're good dude. ~ John W. Patterson
EER Editor's note: SyNtHuSeR is an exceptionally gifted, inspired, and near-insane band and friend(s) to EER. SyNtHuSeR has contributed earlier releases to EER CD-give-away contests and his work has been featured on Dirk Evans prog-radio show. New releases due out soon! Yippee! ~ John W. Patterson, Editor of ECLECTIC EARWIG REVIEWS
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