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(50:15, 'Soniq Theater')
TRACK LIST: 1. Vision Quest 6:24 2. Mourning Soul 4:55 3. Ninive 5:41 4. The Hobbit 3:51 5. Looking for the Gates 7:13 6. The Ancient Philosophers 5:23 7. Jonathan Seagull 5:54 8. Half Moon 5:14 9. Heavensent 5:57 SOLO PILIOT: Alfred Mueller – all instruments
Prolusion. SONIQ THEATER is the moniker used by German keyboardist Alfred Mueller when releasing his solo material, which he has done since 2000. "Vision Quest" was issued in January 2009 and is the ninth album in ten years made by Mueller - and as has been the case for most of these productions it's self released, sold exclusively from his own website.
Analysis. Those familiar with this artist from before should know pretty much what to expect I guess, as the general style explored is pretty similar to the past ventures by this artist. The foundation for his ventures is a keyboard and synth dominated form of art rock of the symphonic variety - indeed, unless my ears deceive me synths and keyboards are the only instruments actually used, other instruments emulated when needed. The general sound and overall atmosphere is influenced by artists who had their heyday back in the ‘70s, and although not as dominant as on previous ventures by Mueller those familiar with the works of a band like Emerson, Lake & Palmer shouldn't have a hard time spotting passages and sounds reminding of them this once highly popular act. Ambient passages, soundscapes and cinematic explorations are mixed into this musical foundation, resulting in compositions calm and dreamy on one end of the scale to dramatic and bombastic on the other end, with most ventures containing one or more passages of both extremes. In most cases the individual composition consists of two or more themes at the central core, repeated with or without minor alterations. Breaks and stand-alone passages are utilized to varying degrees to create further variations, often to highlight a distinct mood or atmosphere, while synth soloing provides for much of the variation in the set themes. Acoustic guitars and guitar riffs (in emulated versions) add textures and depth to the explorations, while drums and bass account for most of the drive and energy, as well as providing a steady platform for the other instruments to play upon. Mueller is a skilled performer and at his best a pretty good composer too. The main limitations in his productions are how well the emulated instruments come across and although better sounding now than ten years ago there's no denying that some listeners will be somewhat alienated by those; as good as some of them are there is still a discernable difference compared to real instruments. Personally I found this latest creation to be a mixed bag; some tunes just didn't manage to engage me at all, with the emulated instruments as the main reason for this. On the other hand, Jonathan Seagull is among the best creations I've heard by this artist, and the Asian-tinged elements added to tracks like Morning Soul and the somewhat ambient-dominated Ninive are also ventures well worth checking out.
Conclusion. For better or worse, Soniq Theater's "Vision Quest" is an album that delivers music pretty much to be expected from this artist. Those who like his previous releases will be served more music they like on this album, and those who don't probably won't be convinced by this production either. For those unfamiliar with this artist this creation is a nice enough introduction to Alfed Mueller's creative output, arguably not his best overall, but containing enough strong material to be a good starting point. And those who think that blending soundscapes, ambient passages and art rock of the symphonic variety using keyboards and synths exclusively sounds like a good idea should be first in line to check out this album and its creator. There's a liberal amount of full samples at the artist's website, so potential buyers should be able to easily find out whether or not they like the music prior to purchasing the CD.
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