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Cybermonkey (Canada) - 2004 - "Planes, Trance, & Life's Karma Wheels"
(60 min, 'CM')


1.  Gdansk 15:44
2.  Shakyamuni 7:10
3.  Invocation 7:11
4.  Caravan to Dharamsala 13:20
5.  Border Highway 8:07
6.  Into the Ether 7:39

All tracks: by Kempmann & Winklarz.


Tad Winklarz - synthesizers; programming
Marlon Kempmann - guitar; vocals
Lisa Turner - vocals 

Produced & engineered by Cybermonkey.

Prolusion. To all appearances, "Planes, Trance & Life's Karma Wheels" is the debut by the Canadian band CYBERMONKEY although in the CD press kit it is presented as the new album by them. They call their music World Ambient-Groove Prog, which, due to "Ambient-Groove", arouses negative associations, at least prior to listening to the material. However, let's don't believe preliminary expectations, as they may be wrong.

Synopsis. In my view, the title of the output much corresponds to the nature of its contents and the development of the music while the album unfolds as well. On an Earthly plane:-), on Gdansk (1), which is a maritime town in Poland, there is a plane-plain music with slowly moving passages of a string ensemble sounding almost like those of electric violoncello and accompanied by various effects, including 'essential maritime' ones: the noise of the waves, cries of the mews, etc. An electronically symphonic Ambient, going as the album's opener, is nice, but is rather monotonous, though not as much as the stuff of the following two tracks. On a trance plane, on Shakyamuni and Invocation (2 & 3), with sequenced marimba and vibraphone-like solos and those of electric guitar at the helm, respectively, there is transcendence, which is just Trance-and-Dance, naturally. These two contain also some tunes of Oriental music, and nevertheless, both of them are overextended, especially Invocation where the guitar and some other sounds are like the stars flashing in empty space with unconditional regularity. The arrangement is pared-down with the priority of neutral sonorities, the fixed cycle of repeating modes such as an unaltered rhythm, which itself possess the colossal power of influencing upon the innocent listener, the melody revolving on its axis, the excessive use of synthesizer automatic functions, etc. These are distinctive features of the three tracks in the first half of the album. I don't know whether it was done advisedly or not, but such music touches upon only a superficial perception. This way, any kinds of pseudo hypnotism easily secure their objects, though of course, all this does not concern progressive music lovers. When the time of Planes and Trances is up Life's Karma Wheels have put in motion. Quite surprisingly, the other three tracks: Caravan to Dharamsala, Border Highway, and Into the Ether (4, 5, & 6) turned out to be in every respect better than their predecessors. The entities of World Music's probably most progressive manifestation, these have a distinctive Eastern feel throughout and contain the ritual-like refrains of a typically African exclamatory character along with Arabic, muezzin-like etc, vocalizations, all being very colorful and impressive. Everything has revived here - the music in general and the parts of the involved instruments in particular. The Middle Eastern flute: Nai- and marimba-like solos of synthesizer and those, Turkish Saz-like, of guitar interplay with each other intensively, creating a mobile and rather intricate musical picture. Strangely enough, the album's title clearly refers to India, while the music is almost exclusively Arabic in its nature. But well, it doesn't matter.

Conclusion. The compositions on the second half of the CD are very good, while most of the others are mediocrities at best. It's not that easy to properly rate such an inconsistent album as Cybermonkey's "Planes, Trance & Life's Karma Wheels". But since it's the band's debut, I think I can give it four stars, hoping that on their further releases they'll be keeping the direction laid on the last three tracks here.

VM: August 3, 2004

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