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(52:30, 'Soniq Theater')
TRACK LIST: 1. Longing for Freedom 5:56 2. Revealing a Dream 8:06 3. Revolution Hymn 3:22 4. Cosmic Angel 4:18 5. Black Mustang 4:07 6. Pavillon 3:35 7. The Nitty Gritty 4:33 8. Call of the Unknown 5:12 9. Roll the Dice 4:29 10. Organic Food 5:43 11. Slipping into the Future 3:09 SOLO PILOT: Alfred Mueller – all instruments
Prolusion. German keyboardist and composer Alfred Mueller is a steady creator of progressive music, and ever since his band Rachel's Birthday drifted apart, he has been writing and releasing his works using the moniker SONIQ THEATER. "Unknown Realities" is his tenth effort in eleven years and, as usual, it is a self-released CD-R, where Mueller caters for all aspects of the writing, performance and production of the material.
Analysis. For those unfamiliar with the past efforts of this German artist, this album is just about as good a point as any to get an impression for the strengths and weaknesses that are a invariable feature of his output. Mueller's main strength is as a composer, and he possesses an expertise quite a few might envy in the art of crafting efforts where themes are effortlessly explored, songs evolve and progress in logical yet unexpected manners, and he's generally good at keeping his songs both interesting and intriguing from a compositional point of view. Over time his focus seems to have shifted a bit, and while his earlier works had much more of a symphonic progressive rock tinge to them, his later efforts have blended in elements of a more cinematic dimension as well, often exploring the contrast between dramatic symphonic and mellow ambient stylistic expressions. This time around a few jazz-rock tinges have been added to the blend as well, which suits his mellower efforts rather well. In fact, the highlights of this album all reside within the less sophisticated parts of his writing. Call of the Unknown, with the emulated trumpet solo at the start and towards the end, encapsulates a very pleasant but also intriguing atmospheric venture. Cosmic Angel, which takes on more of a new age-inspired coating in a manner similar to late ‘80s and early ‘90s Vangelis, is another strong effort worth mentioning, despite the similarities with the Greek composer mentioned. The main weakness of this production is the same one that applies to Mueller's previous efforts, however. He is a more-than-capable tangents man, but synths and keyboards just don't manage to emulate other instruments perfectly. Whether bass, guitar, drums and other instruments are sampled or plainly emulated, they just don't sound like the real thing, and especially in the more sophisticated ventures this has a mainly negative impact, at least for me, where I can hear what Mueller is trying to accomplish well enough but where the possibilities are outweighed by the lack of finer detail and sound that could be provided by a decent additional instrumentalist. While most of these efforts are still fairly nice, a few of those fall flat due to the great span between the potential of the composition and the performance given. When that is said, this is a fairly good album overall. And those who enjoy good compositions to a greater extent than a perfect(ed) performance should get a lot of pleasure out of this album, and from the previous efforts of this fine German artist as well, I might add.
Conclusion. If you generally like instrumental progressive music blending touches of symphonic progressive rock with mellower ambient sequences, Soniq Theater is an artist you should check out. And while the limitations of a keyboard-based DIY production do show, the strength of his compositions makes it an experience worth having, in particular if you have a more than average interest in compositional structures.
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