From the highly adventurous "Electroshock Records" label in Russia comes a recording featuring the combined efforts of electroacoustic ambient artist Artemiy Artemiev and synthesist/guitarist Peter Frohmader. "Space Icon" covers all kinds of superb musical ground. Featuring high octane guitar and guitar loops over a bed of synths and percussion effects, spacy synth washes, serene soundscapes, and dark moody atmospheric trips into the shadows. This is heady stuff, but it's also a most rewarding listening experience. The nineteen-minute title cut features electric guitar, heavily reverbed, looping and jumping and circling around a variety of rhythmic and arrhythmic percussion effects. Underneath is a current of synthesizers that flows like a river of dark night. However, the piece itself is more musical than you might imagine. The two or three guitar parts color the song with flashes of iridescent light as the notes and chords flash and streak across the inky sky. As the song winds along, spacy synth notes zap with laser-like immediacy. Can you tell I like this song? "Mir" is a deep ambient drifting piece fueled by high-end (almost church organ-sounding) keyboards and a mysterious wind effect. A beautiful but sad melody line plays on a solitary keyboard as midtempo percussive effects enter the song. The drifting elements of the song are counterpointed by these percussion textures and the underlying washes lend the piece an overall disturbing air. This is an imaginative deep space cut with combinations of textures I have never heard brought together before. Heralded by what sounds like a distorted bell-like tone, "Channeling" features dark ambient synthesizers and assorted odd instrumentation (bent bass notes, metal scraping noises, percolating synths) while in the deep background of the song is what can only be described as the footsteps of someone walking down a dark hallway. These bizarre synth effects are juxtaposed with, of all things, harp-like notes. The result is some wild hybrid of the ethereal with the almost surreally organic. Liquid notes seem to hang in the air as the synths feel like they're oozing electro-organic energy. "Zen Garden" is simply gorgeous. Gongs (per the liner notes) and lush synth strings are matched with subtle but vaguely disquieting percussive effects that come and go. There is a deep feeling of contemplation with this cut, as befits the title, but the song is less serene than you might expect. Compared to the rest of this CD, the song comes across as peaceful, but it sure isn't new age music. It's music borne of a fading day's light. The album closes with the twenty-three minute "Cosmic Jungle" which is a dark ambient excursion into, well, a cosmic jungle. Keyboards hum and buzz, peculiar sounds seem to erupt out of nowhere. Was that a strange bird I just heard? What kind of insects are making those noises? Are those drums in the distance? Highly visualistic, this is a song to play in the dark and wait for the walls to come alive. Atmospheric as all get out, the song snakes along with subtly ever-changing rhythms and shadowy melody lines. Rivaling the more imaginative music from the "tribal" period of artists like Roach, Rich and O Yuki Conjugate, "Cosmic Jungle" is a trip up a rarely traveled river. Just as a river's banks slowly change in appearance as you head upstream, so too does the song inexorably shift and shimmer, from inviting one minute to harrowing the next. If dark ambient is your favorite genre, consider buying this CD for this cut alone. At about the halfway point of the song, the synth effects get more electronic and spacier and the organic feel to the song is replaced by a more "cosmic" vibe. You'll know it when you get there - trust me. "Space Icon" is as creative and interesting an ambient release as I expect I will hear this year. That it is also quite accessible is a testament to the artistic talents of Artemiy and Peter. This is an ambient recording to really sink your teeth into.
Bill Binkelman ("Wind & Wire")
"Dreams in Moving Space" and "Space Icon" extend the seemingly limitless boundaries that such electronic kosmische sound explorers as "Cluster" and early "Tangerine Dream" mapped out during the early 70s: music that has been vacuum packed and initially sounds devoid of human involvement, until the slow motion groove suddenly takes hold. We've been here before many times, but one can only admire the precision-jewelled artistry and technological skill that Artemiev, Klinger and Frohmader have employed to create these dark, shifting rumbles from deep space that sound starkly modern, but also unfathomably ancient.
Edwin Pouncey ("The Wire")
This is the second Frohmader collaboration in less than a year, teaming up this time with Russian composer Artemiy Artemiev, a musician who has created some interesting space music in his own right. While Richard Pinhas and Frohmader's "Fossil Culture" did indeed sound like a merger of the two musicians's styles, "Space Icon" is more than just the sum of its parts, creating music rather unlike each musician's personal styles. In fact, the long opening cut is sort of all over the map, beginning with electronics and guitar, similar in approach to some "Ashra", and developing nicely until a cliche drum beat kicks in, disturbing what was a pretty interesting piece fusing various heterogeneous themes. The album's 'subtitle,' "Electroacoustic", doesn't actually come much into play until after the 19 minute title track, and once it does, you become bathed in exotic worlds of sound, including what sounds like microtonals, effected environmental recordings or samplings, and lots of sure-handed synthesis. It's truly inventive music, the final 23-minute "Cosmic Jungle" ending the whole in a completely alien environment. A really nice piece indeed.
Mike Mclatchey ("Expose")
I have always taken caution to follow Frohmader's career from a distance, aware that up against his bottomless well of releases, the listener would seem to be in it for life or else highly frustrated; while Artemiev was heretofore only known to me as the son of Edward Artemiev - a well known Russian composer from the Soviet era. This CD was quite removed from my expectations however, and that is always a treat. On it, two side-long works (by IP standards) bookend a troika of shorter atmospheric movements. What struck me right away as individual was in how they do a lot more experimenting with sound colors and digitized textures than other music of this ilk, layering motives and sound effects up thickly to create a rich tapestry of non-cliched compositions; not what you might expect from this genre. One of the keys to the success of "Space Icon" is Frohmader's contribution of guitar and fretless bass, which allows them to sidestep the all too common dilemma faced by low-talent studio knob twiddlers. Not here! Frohmader can play convincingly and this provides an extra dimension that is almost always lacking in synthesizer-based music. For me the only negative side of this music is that it often lacks direction or some kind of motivating force towards a goal or climax of any sort. (Admittedly not considered a virtue with electronic music). Other than that I am impressed.
Mike Ezzo ("Expose")
Bassist/multi-instrumentalist Frohmader has been around for many years, having fifteen or more releases under his own name or with his band/project "Nekropolis", but he has recently turned up in a number of collaborative projects, last year with Richard Pinhas, and now with Russian synthesist Artemiy Artemiev. The result herein is more or less a fusing of the styles of the respective players' previous work, sometime balancing closer to one or the other, track depending. The twenty minute opening title track with it's thunderous bass groove is definitely reminiscent of Frohmader's early work with "Nekropolis", while the similar length closer "Cosmic Jungle" bears the trademark of much of Artemiev's recent work - based in drifty and experimental ambient electronic/electroacoustic 'film' music. Yet on both pieces both are strong contributors; Frohmader never tends to get this spacy on his own, and likewise Artemiev never gets this 'grooving'. It's the three shorter pieces in between where some real sonic exploration takes place, where both seem to take an equal part in the concept and execution. "Mir" and "Zen Garden" find both musicians on more common ground, mixing eerie melodies, effects, rhythm, and atmospheres. Fans of either, or cosmic music in general, will find plenty here to get excited about.
Peter Thelen ("Expose")
Now here's a gem for "Aural Innovations" readers. The title track is like old "Ash Ra Tempel" with a groove! Steady repeating bass and percussion rhythms, including lots of background synth textures and Frohmader jamming along on his guitar... trippy, slightly jazzy in parts, jam rockin' in others. It has a great cosmiche jam feel but is more linear and controlled than the music of the heady pioneering 70's. The music becomes more standard electronica from track two on and I wish they would have kept the momentum of the first track going. "Cosmic Jungle" is the other track that caught my attention, being a floating trippy cosmiche journey. The percussion rhythms are present, though not continuous, and play a less prominent role than on the magnificent title track. But this 23-minute piece moves through a number of themes. There are electronic drones and hip-hoppy beats bopping along with freaky playful space synths. This track has some great moments but not consistently throughout. Still, the title track alone is worth the price of admission.
Jerry Kranitz ("Aural Innovations")
Another collaboration album, this time with German guitarist and keyboard player Peter Frohmader. And this time the collaboration is much more discernable from the very first second of track one, "Space Icon" - huge washes of synth ambience are layered by some almost funky percussion and wah-wah guitar licks that gradually evolve into a nineteen minute prog-rock thrash out. Track two, "Mir", calms things down with a very lovely music portrait of the Mir space station. Very "Tangerine Dream-ish". The next track, "Channeling", features weird fretless bass lines and acoustic guitar over a typical Artemiev ambient soundscape - for some reason I kept thinking of "Weather Report" while listening to this. "Zen Garden" eases the pressure off for a short and peaceful oriental sounding piece of electronica. "Cosmic Jungle" closes the album, a twenty-three minute epic of gentle ambience spoilt somewhat by an intrusive 'buz-saw'-pitched drone that is very irritating and spoils the track immensely. Overall, "Space Icon" is a very good album, full of variety with both collaborators working well together.
John Peters ("The Borderland")
Starting totally unlike any previous Artemiy Artemiev, this is an odd one. The closest Peter Frohmader got to it in the past was "The Ritual". Really, the opening 19 minute number "Space Icon" sounds more like (try to imagine it) a trio of: Richard Pinhas (lead guitar), Lutz Ulbrich (rhythm echo guitar) and Harald Grosskopf (drums). This is, in effect, what I hoped the Frohmader & Pinhas album would have been like, but that wasn't too inspiring. Did they get the tapes mixed up? Ahem, but seriously... A great opening track that. But, then we have all-change with "Mir" and what sounds like one of Artemiy's Dad's less-inspired recent soundtracks. Fans of recent Tangerine Dream will probably love it, but it's too twee/sweet for my palette. In "Channeling" the Frohmader angle is more dominant, yet still not obvious. More soundtracky stuff (with an Oriental flair) follows as "Zen Garden", before the album's grand 23 minute opus "Cosmic Jungle" in which distinct Frohmader characteristics eventually reveal themselves, but again it's back to "The Ritual" vein.
Alan Freeman ("Audion")
"Space Icon" (ELCD 015) is an album that Artemiy has shared credits! Co-written with Peter Frohmader, "Space Icon" is perhaps a little more structured in places than I've so far got used to. The opening track, and title track, is just under 20 minutes. In my humble opinion it's the weakest track, it's a little too long and the guitar work is too loose for my tastes. The background ambience and soundscapes are truly magic, but are spilt on the few occasions by the guitar. "Mir", "Channeling" and "Zen Garden" are a little better as they're fairly short pieces and get on with what they're doing without padding. Saying that, though, the mammoth last track. "Cosmic Jungle" (at just under 24 minutes) is better. Whilst it does still have many an aimless passage, it manage to save itself with plenty of action and there's that much going on it's like being involved in an audio version of a chain reaction! You might have gathered that this one, out of all I've had from "Electroshock", is the weakest, and you'd be right. Still, I've heard a lot worse, and more major labels! It's still not a bad album, but it wouldn't be my first choice.
Dave W. Hughes ("Modern Dance")
In this album we can enjoy the brilliant result of the collaboration between two magnificent synthesists. Born avant-garde synthesists, both have always ignored commercial fads to create their albums. With a dominance of the traits usually found in Space Music, this work also gathers elements typical of the most abstract side of Ambient. "Space Icon" is an impressive theme, of a clear Space nature and a powerful rhythm, where the electric guitar has a strong presence, both with regard to melody and rhythmic structure. "Mir" is a suggestive piece of a likewise Space tendency, yet it is more relaxed, with melancholy touches. "Channeling" and "Zen Garden" are very original themes, with melodies and rhythms that evoke imaginary folklores. "Cosmic Jungle" approaches Space Ambient with certain ethnic touches in the percussion.
Jorge Munnshe ("Amazing Sounds")
The mood of "Space Icon" is brighter (then Artemiev's collaboration work with Phillip B. Klingler), although the music is as demanding and inventive - the title track has Frohmader strap on his guitar and place quasi-Karolian figures over the Schmidt-like burbles, tweets and washes of Artemiev's arsenal of electronic instruments. Can are not an exact parallel, but this is the point about comparisons - they are a well-known point of reference, and the 'feel' is not entirely dissimilar. However, the standout track is the final one, "Cosmic Jungle", in which a synthetic world-music of sampled marimbas and howler monkeys gives way to a feeling of increasing awe, as delicate filigrees of keyboard levitate against a muted, intermittent rhythmic backdrop. The title goes perfectly with the music, to the point where another one can hardly be imagined - and the conception, and execution, of this piece seems highly original. The space it opens up, indeed, is both "cosmic" (Rarified, remote) and "jungular" (intensely-populated, fervid) - as if a myriad stars had clustered together in a canopy of fronds.
Norman Jope ("Stride")
Electroacoustic indeed, this CD even has a brilliant cover that echo's these simple words that they placed innocently on the bottom of the front cover. Completed in February of 2000, so a year old now, this is timeless music, that moves in many directions. Although being of the ambient/electronica movement, this may be pleasing to space rock fans of the likes as Spacemen 3 and Stereolab. I find it very intriguing that these space explorers are wanting to reach a Gothic/Industrial audience as well, yet I do not find it a very far stretch to see how it could fill some space for Ethereal Gothic fans too. This music works well in the headphones yet it does not need to be so forefront to bring you the idea of what is being communicated. Ideal for study, or long drives as well, this release has some very good composition work. Standout moments, Track one, in its entirety, the fret-less bass on "Channeling", the beauty of "Zen Garden", and the complexity of "Cosmic Jungle". Worth a play if you think you know all that ambient has to offer. This is more like the Edward Artemiev piece than the DVAR piece (nothing is quite like it actually). So they may work well in unison. As it turns out they are actually related. The links to the Electroshock label provide a lot of info about these artist. I really did enjoy these pieces, but would not recommend them to all of our listeners. Mostly to the ambient/ethereal fans. You could find many moments of meditation, and inspiration on this CD, or the one by Edward Artemiev. I might suggest this one, if you only need to hear one Russian/ambient/classical cross-over CD. Yet "Book of Impressions" was made over a longer period of time, and therefore is more divers in feel. I feel very lucky to have had all three of these to listen and write about, and even meditate on my leanings towards Gothic/Industrial. I hope another genre of music will come around and present itself to us soon. It is good to step out, and look back in ever now and then! With all this Russian music being discovered now, maybe I should flag down the next international flight and go see what else we are waiting to hear. The Russian Gothic main page indicated that many acts are not even recording yet, and so there is probably much much more to find.
Rev. Alexavier S. Strangerz ("Satrvox")
A collaboration between a German (Peter Frohmader) and a Russian (Artemiy Artemiev) artist. Five songs are on this album. We opens things up with "Space Icon": a long (almost 20 mins!!!) spacy, trance-like, smooth, and highly hypnotic track with psychedelic undertones. A brilliant mixture of synth, samples, electric guitar and percussions. Then "Mir" is an ambient, cosmic piece (I think it's a tribute to the Russian space station of the same name). It is made with light percussions and synth. Beautiful! "Channeling" uses samples, processed sounds, synth and guitar. A near-ambient song with a good dose of mystery thrown in. Definitely spooky material. "Zen Garden" conjures feelings of joy and fulfillment. An atmospheric track of zen-like qualities. Then we finish with "Cosmic Jungle", an ambient-like electroacoustic piece, with a dark, cosmic side. I love this CD! Every song is great! Challenging music for open minded people. Mighty impressive indeed.
Francois Marceau ("Mastock")
After experiencing the cosmic mindfuck of "Dreams In Moving Space", Artemiev's collaboration with sound mutilator Philip B. Klinger, the Muscovite's joint effort with German guitarist Peter Frohmader at first sounded pedestrian. Merging space rock with cop-funk, the 19-minute opening track, "Space Icon", could have been subtitled "Kojak Goes To The Moon". But before long the serene beauty of this record began to have its way with me and I surrendered to its hypnotic charms. Soothed and seduced by "Mir", "Channeling" and "Zen Garden", I was well softened by the time "Cosmic Jungle" arrived to spirit me away on a pulsing tribal space breeze. Artemiev never ceases to amaze me.
Jim Santo ("Demo Universe")