Electroshock Records: Review:  
Victor Cerullo: "Visions"
(Electroshock Records 2003, ELCD 032)

12 tracks. Total time - 60:56.

Andrei Tarkovsky, the Russian film director, is a familiar name these days. Steven Soderbergh has remade his film "Solaris" and science-fiction novelist William Gibson references him in the first chapter of his new book, "Pattern Recognition". Artemiy Artemiev is the son of Edward Artemiev, who scored various Tarkovsky films, including "Solaris". Artemiy runs a record label, "Electroshock Records", from Moscow. In 1999, "Electroshock" reissued cues from various Tarkovsky soundtracks, and it has released four albums by Edward, who also contributed to several of the label's compilation CDs. Last year, "Electroshock" celebrated its 10th anniversary, and now it has released "Visions", an 'homage' - according to its subtitle - by Victor Cerullo to Andrei Tarkovsky. "Visions" takes the form of a dozen tracks, ranging from brief efforts in full-on musique concrete to 10-minute-long swaths of synthesized ambience. Elements of classical music, including samples of work by Modest Moussorgsky ("Boris Godounov") and Luigi Nono, shift in and out of focus amid blankets of long, sinuous sound and bracing real-world elements, like breaking glass and water drops. The effect is at times consternating, and at others thrilling. Overall, however, the record emphasizes expanses of like-toned source material, which reflect Tarkovsky's reputation for painstaking pacing and metaphysical contemplation

Marc Weidenbaum ("Disquet")

Beautiful photography that brings together the hot sand and the cold snow in the same way that Victor Cerullo's "Visions" bring together Italy and Russia along with their long-lasting musical traditions. "Visions" is a homage to film director Andrei Tarkovsky that presents an eclectic artist and his un-tiresome explorations in the hemispheres of field recordings, ambient experimentation and classical interceptions. Nine compositions and three long mostly synth-based "Timelapse" suites of majestic proportions that tie a bundle of sporadic choirs, analog floors, orchestral arrangements, cosmic sonorities with the same rope that pulls back all of the above when it comes down to portraying the perfect balance of nature with fluid samples of water, birds and the like. The coherent recurring synth sound helps you find the way to your own interpretation of Tarkovsky while Cerullo performs his oniric pieces of calm and personal psychedelia.

Marc Ursdelli-Scharer ("Chain DLK")

"Visions" sub-title "A Homage to Andrei Tarkovsky" explains why an Italian composer ends up with an album on a Russian label. After all, "Electroshock Records" is the home of Edward Artemiev, famous for his scores of Tarkovsky's most influential films "Solaris" and "Stalker", in particular). Victor Cerullo captured the essence of the Tarkovsky-Artemiev team: the sense of infinite space, the complementary relationship between naive beauty and existential anguish. The album, 61 minutes in duration, takes the form of an uninterrupted suite. "Last Scene" establishes a link to the world of cinema with the sounds of a camera. Water sounds provide a backdrop for "Crepuscular Rays", a delicate theme. The three "Timelapse" tracks, each ten minutes long, are the more abstract and immaterial (as their title suggest). In them Cerullo searches for the cristalline sound of the ANS synthesizer, a one-of-a-kind instrument used by Artemiev in his scores. He succeeds and the pieces shimmer, ethereal. In between theme we find earthlier pieces, like the "Lullaby for a Distant Son", which starts like a cute newage thing but becomes very disquieting as low growls and subtle shifts in the keyboard background lead us to the dark side. A processed "Boris Godounov" makes an appearance in "Behind the Mirror". Cerullo takes us back to the light for the closing "Revelation" and "Sacrifice". "Visions" fits "Electroshock's" aesthetic to perfection: it hovers on the threshold between ambient electronica (or intelligent newage) and avant-garde/electroacoustic music. Recommended

Francois Couture ("All-Music Guide")

One thing can be said about "Electroshock Records" without any fear of contradiction, and that's they're one hell of an interesting electronic label. I'd be the first to say that not all their releases have hit the mark, that would be, frankly, impossible, but all credit is given to them for not sticking to a winning formulae. It's only recently I finished the mammoth task of reviewing their last batch when bang! another five arrive. Not that I'm moaning, anything from this label is always a welcome addition. ELCD 032 is called "Visions" and it's by Italian composer Victor Cerullo. Twelve decent sized tracks, which is a good thing if you're a little intimidated by "new" music - no really overlong and meandering pieces here. The main thrust of the album is choice soundscapes with sfx (bells, sampled choirs, whirling synths and incredibly atmospheric opera samples). The opening track, "Last Scene" sets the scene (as it where!), and basically, the album is a kind of aural journey around a planet with fogbanks of memories. The album blends and dovetails through each track seamlessly, and with very little deviation, it's a beautifully evocative and highly imaginative ambient travelogue. It's also in homage to Andrei Tarkovsky.

Dave W. Hughes ("Modern Dance")

Subtitled "A Homage to Andrei Tarkovsky", "Visions" is a tribute to the much respected and admired Russian film-maker of "Solaris" fame. Surprisingly, the linked series of tracks are more soundscapes than soundtrack, with each track built up using a series of samples, anything from sound effects, Russian choirs, clips from operas, treated sounds and, of course, overlaid with synthesiser drones, bleeps and yes, even music. It makes for a very eerie listening experience. These twelve tracks certainly are as far removed from "easy listening" as you can get, but if you are willing to explore the glacial spaces this music conjures up then there are rewards to be had. One of these is the gently drifting melody line that permeates track five, "Andrei Tarkovsky" - a hauntingly beautiful and unexpectedly "organic" tune amongst all the electronics. Track seven, "Lullaby for a Distant Son" is another outstanding track full of melody and beauty. Indeed, the overwhelming feeling of this album is of music and sounds flowing together - what seems discordant at first constantly shifts and changes into something very different. Give this album half a chance and it will dazzle you to the possibilities of electronic music to enhance and perhaps even magnify the human spirit. A fitting tribute from one artist to another.

John Peters ("Borderland)

Victor Cerullo is an Italian musician whose influences range from ambient, to progressive rock, to synth-pop. The music on this homage to Andrei Tarkovsky is characterized by gradually evolving floating ambient works with a powerful spacey vibe. Cerullo sets the tone for the set early as we're treated to drifting glassy toned waves of sound and lightly splashing water that are soon joined by spoken word, a choir, and eventually shooting space alien sounds... much welcome freakiness that crops up from time to time throughout the album. Tonal development is key to Cerullo's work, a trademark being a principle sound weaving its way snakelike along an arid aural landscape. The music is both haunting and meditative, minimalist and majestic. Cerullo doesn't glom together multiple layers of sound. Rather, he takes a few choice elements and allows each to evolve in its own individual direction while managing to find themselves intricately intertwined with one another. Cerullo also likes to incorporate chanting and choirs into his work, lending a heavenly spiritual quality to the music. But Cerullo can also create powerfully emotional songs, the best example being "Andrei Tarkovsky", a piece that takes a beautiful melody and embellishes it with light space electronics. And one of my favorite tracks is the strange and hauntingly atmospheric "Lullaby for a Distant Son". And enjoyable set that will please ambient fans.

Jerry Kranitz ("Aural Innovations")

This atmospheric/experimental instrumental homage to the works of the famous and highly respected Russian film director, Andrei Tarkovsky, starts off a real treat. "Crepuscular Rays" is a beautifully constructed track, combining sinister ethereal synths with some fascinating biospheric samples of sound and voice. "Visions" expresses Tarkovsky's work via a 12-track adventure, ranging from short sample-driven, choral snapshots to lengthy 10-minute synth-driven mini melodramas. Cerullo uses his studio machine trickery to the maximum, giving the album a heavily experimental edge. However, for the casual listener, whose knowledge of Tarkovsky's work is not deeply significant, this may appear as mere experimental doodling. However, the solace of the main tribute track, Andrei Tarkovsky, really takes you to another place, where Tarkovsky's often bleak portrayals of life and human emotion are most potently expressed through music. On some occasions beautiful, at others mystic and frighteningly hallucinatory, this homage is as painstaking and contemplative as Tarkovsky's work itself. A challenging release, that will both confound and enlighten in equal measures with its combination of quaint charm and foreboding isolation. For fans of the filmmaker, an essential release, but I would imagine anyone with a liking for soundtrack music would find this a worthwhile purchase.

Danny Tumer ("Barcode")

Subtitled "A Homage to Andrei Tarkovsky", this is definitely something completely different than Cerullo's prior CDs "Ludus" and "Loneflyer". Whereas those were full of melody and a Vangelis sense of grandeur, this is delicate ambient music full of water sounds interspersed with Russian spoken vocals. Though mostly low in the background, occasionally the vocal come forcefully to the forefront, sometimes as opera, sometimes as a choral arrangement. Church bells add to the regal effect is "Flashback", but it remains very quiet. There is ever-present tension from moment to moment. Many of the tracks are quite brief, four of the twelve running in more that one minute and change. However, the disc floes evenly from one bit to the next. This is much darker territory than Cerullo has explored previously. Frankly, it doesn't sound like him at all. It is wonderfully done, but more suited to fans of darker ambient works from Robert Rich, Steve Roach, or perhaps Robert Scott Thompson. The choral and operatic passages are much more reminiscent of Klaus Schulze. In fact, "Andrew Tarkovsky" seems as though it would have fit nicely on Klaus' "X" 2-CD set, as the works there were classically influenced and all named after various individuals. "Artificial Dream" sounds like an outtake from Schulze's "Sebastian im Traum" from "Audentity". Considering the high esteem in which I hold Schulze's 1983 masterpiece, that is high praised indeed.

Phil Derby ("Expose")

Impressive, this album - homage to the departed film maker Andrei Tarkovsky. Victor Cerullo reflects in his music some of the main elements from the best known movies by this genius. Edward Artemiev, who composed sountracks for several of the most remarkable movies by Tarkovsky, has praised this album. "Visions" is electronic music that flies among the darkest side of Ambient, wondrous space symphonism, and a melancholy romanticism of a great strength, which acquires the connotations of a Greek tragedy. "Last Scene" is, most probably. the most impressive theme in the entire album.

Edgar Kogler ("Amazing Sounds")

From Victor Cerullo and "Electroshock Records" comes one of the most ambitious and fascinating albums of 2003, "Visions: A Homage to Andrei Tarkovsky". If you don't already know, the late Tarkovsky is the most well known Russian filmmaker after Sergei Eisenstein. His films include the original version of "Solaris", as well as the movie "Stalker", which served as the inspiration for the Robert Rich/B.Lustmord album of the same name. Cerullo has actually created two albums in one, in my view. There are three tracks, titled "Timelapse 1", "...2" and "...3", that occur throughout the CD (they are time cues 4, 6 and 8) that comprise dark yet beautiful soundscapes, each about ten minutes in length. On all three of these selections, drones, swirling electronics, high-pitched sounds, and noir-ish textures coalesce and break apart, forming unrecognizable patterns in the dark. On headphones, these pieces are positively mesmerizing and, while not purely "musical", they're also not disorienting or too occupied with just being noise. Track 6 ("Timelapse 2") uses stereo panning effects in a positively exhilarating fashion, as whooshing tones and drones fly across the soundfield. Track 8 is more subdued but also more eerie than the other two. The drones and electronics here remind somewhat of what Kubrick did for sound effects during the parts of the ending of "2001" (both the "stargate" sequence and the ending in the "hotel room". The music here has that same "bizarre" yet also surreally beautiful feeling/sound. The other songs on "Visions" vary in mood and structure. Opening the album is a brief ambient cut (barely a minute long), "Last Scene", featuring a Russian voiceover of "Lights, Camera, Action" (but spoken in Russian, naturally), the sound of a motion picture projector, and a forlorn combination of piano and synthesizer. "Crepuscular Rays" blends lapping water and warm spacy electronic effects and drones, along with some spoken word vocals (again in Russian). "Andrei Tarkovsky" is a dramatic sweeping EM/neo-classical piece, with Vangelis-like synth bells and lush strings, yet suffused with a Russian melodic sensibility, obviously. The song is quite sad from an emotional standpoint, especially when a solo male choral effect is used alongside a solo synth viola. "Lullaby for a Distant Son" is one of the more "straight" EM numbers, featuring a sweet romantic melody played out on synth violin and eventually taking on a waltz-like rhythm (featuring delicate bells and layers of synthesizers, some as strings and some as more over electronic effects). There are four short tracks to close out the album, at least one of which is highly experimental ("Artificial Dream" sounds like a computer having a heart attack, which actually comes across pretty darn cool) and the closing song, "Sacrifice", a terribly sad elegy, featuring the sound of falling rain, synth strings, and a series of soft electronic keyboards. This last track is sincerely emotive and I found it very moving, especially given the tragic end to Tarkovsky's life (he died only 20 years or so after his first film was released). I never fail to be impressed with offerings from Artemiy Artemiev's label, "Electroshock Records". I've reviewed three of this label's releases for 2003 (the others being Richard Bone's "Indium" and Siver and Trepakov's "Midway"). You won't find three more different releases, yet the label's commitment to exposing the adventurous listener to brave new worlds of music is unparalleled. Cerullo has recorded a fitting tribute to Tarkovsky, with music as daring and exciting as the work of the filmmaker himself. "Visions" may take some patience (this is not an "easy" album to get into immediately), but it will reward your time immensely. A truly amazing piece of work!

Bill Binkelman ("Wind & Wire")


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