The Maskit Chamber: The 4th Wave (CD, 50:23), TMC #999 The Maskit Chamber POBox 1421 Topanga, CA 90290 CYBERHOME: http://www.djamkaret.com Ambient music. As a rule either you dig it, or you just don't get it. However, I've managed to find myself in the odd position of straddling the fence on this issue - I've heard some very cool ambient CDs such as Fayman/Fripp's Temple in the Clouds, and I've heard some stuff that quite frankly just puts me to sleep. So, with an open and undecided mind I dove headfirst into The Maskit Chamber's The 4th Wave, and I'm afraid that despite some interesting moments - and plenty of birds chirping - this one falls into the "puts me to sleep" column. Not that sleep is always a BAD thing mind you, it just tends to get in the way when you're trying to review an album. The Maskit Chamber is actually a solo effort from Gayle Ellett - member of underground proggers Djam Karet. The 4th Wave consist of exactly ONE song - a 50 minute+ whopper named after the album itself. Unfortunately, 50 minutes was about 40 minutes too long for this reviewer, as the piece never really goes anywhere. I know that ambient music is all about emotion and subtlety with its long drawn out chord progressions and droning meditative keyboards, but I expect at least a decent amount of stimulation out of my music and I just didn't experience anything very interesting on The 4th Wave. The track kicks off with something that sounds like a child's music box, but quickly enters familiar trance territory with a low didgeridoo (did I spell that right?) sounding keyboard note that lasts around a half an hour. On top of this drone, Ellett provides minimal (but at times effective) melodies using various string instruments, a mellotron, and a potpurri of digital samples. Actually, they could ALL be digital samples for all I know, it didn't specify in the liner notes. Anyway, while Ellett does manage to create some interesting ideas within The 4th Wave, the problem is that the ideas are only interesting for a couple of minutes, while in actually they last about 10 minutes apiece. Nice Pink Floyd-esque swirling keys topped off with about three occasional chords from a rhythmic acoustic instrument is cool with me - but not over and over again for 10 minutes with much change. There is some trippy mellotron added into the mix for flavor, but it's not enough to save The 4th Wave from becoming a casualty of the mundane. Things actually get a little interesting at around the 36 minute mark, where the piece takes a Tangerine Dream inspired turn complete with some groovy percussion. But again, things simply descend back into "insert wacky sounds. re-start the low drone" school of ambience. Perhaps connoisseurs of the genre would find some pleasure in the relaxing tones of The Maskit Chamber. I would've myself preferred a CD with perhaps a number of shorter tracks, but I do respect Ellett for accepting the challenge to write a piece almost an hour long. Like I said at the onset, ambient music is definitely an acquired taste; but The Maskit Chamber is definitely a taste that I have not yet acquired. The 4th Wave is not for the uninitiated! More information on The Maskit Chamber can be found at http://www.djamkaret.com - Michael Askounes (email@example.com) CREDITS: All music performed, arranged, and composed by Maskit Chamber TRACKLIST: 1. The 4th Wave (50:25)
The Maskit Chamber: Heaven Machine (CD, 53:07) #666 The Maskit Chamber P.O. Box 1421 Topanga, CA 90290 CYBERHOME: http://www.djamkaret.com Djam Karet member Gayle Ellett's side project - The Maskit Chamber - has managed to release two CDs in 2001, the weak "one-track pony" The 4th Wave, and today's subject for review, Heaven Chamber. Consisting of some decent guitar work totally ruined by uninspired composition, clichéd keyboards, and some very poor drum programming, Heaven Chamber turns out to be more of an exercise in patience than a memorable listening experience. For all its attempts at emotion, Heaven Chamber turns out to be quite mundane. The CD kicks off with the oddly-titled track "Italian Horror Movie Soundtrack #6" - a tune that sounds a lot like what you'd get if you slipped some acid in a hockey arena organist's water. Its plodding bass line and two-chord motif mixed with some very sub par drum samples equals a song that spends 7 minutes going absolutely nowhere. Unfortunately, things don't get much better - the rest of the CD is mostly filled with music-store demo quality keyboard samples, awful drum patches, and boring melodies. Ellett does try to mix things up a bit with tracks such as the ersatz rocker "6% Solution" and oriental-tinged "Free Tibet", but the happy-hour keyboard/drum samples sound totally destroys any hope of these songs getting off the ground. At the bottom of the barrel we have the embarrassing "Bill & Monica Shuffle" - a mixture of bad keyboard samples complete with accompanying sound bites from Clinton and Lewinsky themselves. This is an example of a "gimmick" song where the gimmick just doesn't work. The "whimsical" keyboards come across as juvenile, the drum machine is just as bad as it is on the other tracks, and the sound bites add nothing to the song. And just when you though that you've had enough of political statements, you get thrown into "Kosovo", a track that combines an unnerving and dissonant chord progression with more CNN-style sound bites from the war in Kosovo. One song like this is one too many, to place two tracks featuring Bill Clinton back to back is unexplainable. I just can't imagine that anyone would find listening to such sonic drivel interesting in the least. Despite being for the most part disappointing, there are a few nice moments on Heaven Chamber. On "English Countryside", Ellett manages to evoke memories of "And Then There Were Three"-era Genesis with some lush keyboard sounds and smooth guitar work. On "Floating Arpeggios", there is a very tasteful oboe-sample that pops up in the middle of the song giving it temporary life before the song is dragged back down into mediocrity. Some of Ellett's guitar work is decent throughout the album, but you simply cannot play acceptable rock guitar in front of what basically sounds like demo-songs from a Casio keyboard. In short, I really have to look hard to find anything redeeming about Heaven Chamber, and with so much other good music out there today, why should I - or anyone else - even bother trying? - Michael Askounes (firstname.lastname@example.org) PERSONNEL: All music performed, arranged, and composed by Gayle Ellett TRACKLIST: 1. Italian Horror Movie Soundtrack #6 (7:17) 2. English Countryside (6:35) 3. Mosaic 2000 (4:32) 4. Floating Arpeggios (3:37) 5. Free Tibet (5:21) 6. Transcendental Medication (5:28) 7. Bill & Monica Shuffle (5:27) 8. Kosovo (5:11) 9. 6% Solution (4:17) 10.Indian in the City (4:57)
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