Silence Speaks in Shadow
by Paul Vnuk, Jr. (“Ma Ja Le”)
Hypnos Recordings, 2001

        Paul Vnuk has done some fine ambient work in collaboration with “Vir Unis”
and Steve Roach in the last decade. Here he is on his own in an extended
ambient atmosphere, a “sound-picture” or as he calls it,
“psycho-environmental music.” The album notes speak truth: “The open windows
and industrial sounds of a rain-drenched city can have a strange calming
effect on the soul.” What you get for your 74 minutes of silence and shadow
is the sound of rain and distant thunder, mixed with real-life city sounds
(including a police siren at one point near the beginning). Accompanying
these sounds is a delicate, mournful texture of long synthesizer notes which
have no melody, just tones drifting here and there. I am willing to suspend
my meteorological disbelief that thundery weather can persist at a low level
for more than an hour (at least in my own Mid-Atlantic area, such conditions
are rare) in order to experience the melancholy quiet mood of this album.
Despite the description, this is not meant to be “music,” in the
conventional sense, but audible virtual reality. Vnuk’s reality, though, is
a bit on the spooky side; you might want to choose carefully when you will
unleash this stormy weather into your parlor.

HMGS rating: 8 out of 10

Hannah M.G. Shapero,

James Johnson & Ma Ja Le: Seed Hypnos Seed is the long awaited and much anticipated studio collaboration between James Johnson and Ma Ja Le (Paul Vnuk, Jr. and Chris Short). The album is a natural follow-up to the y2k live CD, Live Under a Harvest Moon. The disc features a hybrid of two styles, neither of which dominates, both of which compliment. The new style is symphonic tribal minimalism. Ma Ja Le's tribal ambience interacts superbly with James's expansive and meditative minimalism. The artistes' mutual preferences for experiMENTAL sonic possibilities provide the recurring theme that holds the set together. The deep and ethereal ambience is absolute ear candy. There are distinct symphonic synthesizer echoes. Chris's "guitartronics" are subtle and powerful. James's "synthetic architecture" is gentle and dynamic. Paul's "synthscapes" are colorful and gray. At the time of this review, Paul, Chris and James were still looking for a label on which to release this amazing CD. That search should be a short one! (They found a label. It will be a Hypnos release. That is no surprise at all!) reviewed by Jim Brenholts

This review featured in: John Collinge's Progression Magazine

Ma Ja Le/ Vir Unis: Imaginarium (CD, 73:47); Mirage MIR 303 This CD calls itself tribal groove dream scapes -- whatever. I suppose the percussion, voice, and flutes are tribal, the bass work is the groove, and all the electronics, guitartronics, and assorted manipulations create dreamscapes. The important thing beyond tagging a genre is, "Is this any good?" If you dig Steve Roach, Robert Rich, Jon Jenkins, and all their ambient textured, tribal rhythmic excursions into the "anything goes" sound-void -- this ranks right up there with some of the better productions. This is all the amorphous, dripping, droning, throbbing, blank-stare tunes you come to expect from Roach devotees and collaborators. Best cut for me that broke out of the Imaginarium tribal/shamanic feel was the 10:41 "Incomprehensible Love" which echoed a Giles Reaves Sea of Glass/ Steve Roach Dreamtime Return sound. Very nice, very soul traveling work. A close second fav was the major collaboratively written and performed, "Fire Walkers". Ma Ja Le is Paul Vnuk and Chris Short. Vir Unis is, (I think), John Strate-Hootman. Brian Gingrich guested on bass, Roach guested and created his own magic, and Jeff Kuliga guested on congas and cymbal. Cool computer graphics CD art too. ~ John W. Patterson

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