KAREN BENTLEY - TESSERACT - VIOLIN MUSIC - PROG ROCK - CHAMBER MUSIC - "You just found another killer EER review!"    

Multiple Reviews Follow . . .



Stuart Diamond/Karen Bentley: Konzerto/Succubus (CD, 52:50) EA102A Electronic Artists Records CYBERHOME: http://www.electricdiamond.com Part ambient, part classical, part opera - and ALL breathtaking: that's the only way to describe Stuart Diamond's latest release Konzerto/Succubus. Consisting of two multi-movement pieces - the first called "Konzerto", and the second "Succubus" - this release grabs hold of your soul from the first ominous sounds of electronic percussion to the final fadeout. Stuart Diamond, composer and programmer, has managed to create with his electronic symphony two pieces of music that evoke the same sort of emotions as do acoustically played classical arrangements. Even without the wonderful violin talents of Karen Bentley and the soprano of Kerry Walsh, Diamond would have a fantastic ambient/classical release. But being the good composer that he is, Diamond realized that those touches would elevate his music to a higher lever, and that is exactly what Bentley and Walsh do. The first composition on the CD, the 4 movement "Konzerto," is a lush arrangement of otherworldly sounding electronica with a nice range of sounds and very moving chord progressions topped off by the absolutely stunning violin playing of Karen Bentley. Bentley's traditional violin sounds very much at home with Diamond's electronic symphony, the voice of her strings interplaying expertly with the "wired" foundation that she is given. "Konzerto" does hit a bit of a bump in the last movement when Diamond's attempts at powerful electronic percussion come up a little short, but I feel this is a limitation of the technology rather than the technologist as all the programming in the world will not manage to convey the force that a true percussion section would carry. Other than that small nitpick however, "Konzerto" is a fine composition and a joy to the ears. "Succubus," the 6-movement composition that follows "Konzerto," takes a more mellow and ethereal approach by introducing the stunning vocals of soprano Kerry Walsh. The first thing that came to mind when Ms. Walsh sings her first note is that I had somehow been transported to a place the Sirens called home; her voice is downright inspiring. The echo effects that Diamond uses to augment Walsh's voice add a certain weight to the vocals that results in singing that is both frail and powerful at the same time. Karen Bentley's violin continues to be a major force throughout the composition, and the piece comes to a somber end with a long electronic fade-out that gives the listener ample time to digest what he or she has just experienced. I can't say enough good things about Konzerto/Succubus - Ms. Bentley's violin and the vocals of Ms. Walsh leave nothing to want for - they are both expertly executed. All of their efforts would have gone for naught if the songwriting of Diamond was less than top-notch, and Diamond delivers in spades providing an emotional and moving soundtrack for Bentley and Walsh's incredible talents. Konzerto/Succubus is a must-have for fans of electronic symphony, and a release that ALL music fans should at least consider giving a try. More information on Stuart Diamond can be found at http://www.electricdiamond.com - Michael Askounes (michael@gscyclone.com) PERSONNEL: Stuart Diamond: Programming Karen Bentley: Violin Kerry Walsh: Soprano TRACKLIST: 1. Konzerto - I. Allegro 2. Konzerto - II. Moderato 3. Konzerto - III. Largo 4. Konzerto - IV. Vivace 5. Succubus - I. The Cave 6. Succubus - II. Night Wings 7. Succubus - III. The Kiss 8. Succubus - IV. The Phantom Sea 9. Succubus - V. Dream Lines 10. Succubus - VI. The Rising of a Lonely Sun

Bruce Hanifan/ Karen Bentley: Ariel View (CD, 53:50); Bruce Hanifan Productions 6 4181-91111-2 1, 1998 P.O. Box 341292 Los Angeles, CA 90034, USA Phone: (310)559-4522 E-mail: ArielView@compuserve.com Cyberhome: http://home.earthlink.net/~hanihouse/ Oh spirit of mirth, Ariel, look not herein for drum nor guitar. Ye shall find neither thunderous bass nor wail of synth. Ariel View is crystal clear relaxation, pure, elegant, airy, dreamy, warm, and gentle vignettes of the Muse. Tone poems for piano and violin wax full of grace and subdued passion. Come hither, Ariel, and listen to the big skies dappled with cloud and sun-pillar. Watch great tree boughs moving in silence -- ah, hear yon waterfall cascading notes into a swirling pool of sustained brilliance. Hanifan weaves a rich tapestry of piano while Bentley dances wondrously on violin from string to string adding color to clarity. Each accentuates the other perfectly, complementing, and lifting each musical moment in a swoon and heady flight. This is a comfortable step away from the classical mien towards a New-Aged introspection but avoiding the bland wasteland of most New Agey offerings. No boredom here -- but deeply moving and inspiring precision and poise. Bentley offers a perfect ocean of strings in which to immerse yourself as Hanifan brings the gentle tides and waves of each new song. Ariel View is healing for the heart. Bentley is measured and restrained on this release but you catch hints of a resident power echoing the strings of Kindler, Ponty, Briggs, or Goodman. Recommended. ~ John W. Patterson

Tesseract: self-titled (CD, 39:30); independent release TCD-001, 1997 P.O. Box 61 Palo Alto, CA 94302, USA Phone: 415 327-6234 E-mail: tesseract@till.com Cyberhome: http://www.till.com/tesseract First impressions are early Kansas but that Livgren fiery blues-rock guitar work is not evident. So you settle in for the strong violin work by Karen Bentley and solid keys by Don Tillman and Julius Smith. Vocals by Tillman are tolerable but seem "small" or "lost", being a tad weak in the mix -- leaning more towards narrative talk-sing rather than full-voiced crooning. Thankfully the vocals are used on very few tracks. Instrumental sections are an enjoyable listen coming across very '70s and analogish. What guitar that is used, seems more as embellishment and an added touch rather than upfront prog rockin'. Bentley's violin is the lead voice predominantly and she does a great job. I kept hearing that Flying Island, Hands, or Curved Air in places. Some may hear PFM or even Italy's Arts and Crafts as well. This should give you a good idea where Tesseract is coming from. The Kansas meets Flying Island aura glows brightest overall. A proggy version of a Bach's Violin Concerto in A minor makes a delightful 3:45 splash after the 11:10 "Cast of Thousands" track. Best track was Smith's 4:10 "Rice" which was ELP meets Kansas meets Sugarloaf and finally I hear some guitar that has the soul of prog! Bentley as usual does a great job. Tesseract needs about 45-60 minutes of this kinda stuff on their future releases and they'll turn some ears quickly. The 8:55 "Vantage Point Instrumental" was the next best cut again offering more guitar-edge and lots of twist and turns to keep things interesting. The song's ending was awkwardly abrupt, (for my tastes). All in all, a decent independently produced and engineered, debut prog offering. ~ John W. Patterson

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