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(48:03; Soniq Theater)
Track list: 1. The Time Machine 5:23 2. 500 Light Years from Home 4:55 3. Time Traveller 6:34 4. Space Time Continuum 5:26 5. The 5th Dimension 5:54 6. Jazz from Outer Space 4:27 7. The Cosmic Jungle 4:26 8. Spaceflight 6:03 9. Eternity's Breath 4:55 LINEUP: Alfred Mueller - all instruments
Prolusion. German project SONIQ THEATER is the long ongoing creative vehicle of composer and musician Alfred Mueller, and since 2000 he has released one album per year at a fairly steady pace with a new album usually appearing in January or February of a new year. "Time and Space" is the most recent album, and was self released in January 2021.
Analysis. Soniq Theater has, to my knowledge, never been a commercial venture in any traditional manner. For many years the albums were available as free downloads on the Soniq Theater website, and for the last few years all of them are available as a name your own price download on Bandcamp. My impression is that for Mueller this is about the creation of art first and foremost. These albums are all created in a fairly cost effective manner too of course, so those looking for material made with the same finishing touches as artists that audiophiles have in high regard can safely look elsewhere. This kettle of fish is one made in quite a different place altogether. The music here is made by Mueller and his keyboards. A guest musician or two have made occasional appearances over the years, but not this album. Just what keyboards Mueller use to create his music I do not know, but as many of the sounds used on this album are strikingly familiar sounding and with something of a vintage, 80's and 90's feel to them I would guess there haven't been too many changes there in the 20 or so years that Soniq Theater have existed. For the last decade or so Mueller seems to have settled in a sound and a mood that is strikingly distinct to him, a blend of progressive electronic music and ambient music with a liberal amount of flavoring pulled in from classic era progressive rock. Careful atmospheric laden landscapes with electronic effects, synthesizers and various kinds of keyboard solo runs is the name of the game here, with a range of material ranging from the soft, dreamlike and tranquil to the dramatic and expressive. With the greater majority of the compositions residing somewhere in between these two extremes. Mueller's strength as a composer and a musician is to create compelling and inviting melodies, moods and landscapes, and over the years he has developed a fine ear for the use of gentler details and textured layers of a more careful nature to further enhance his soundscapes. He is in fine form in 2021 too, as this latest album is among the most interesting he has made so far as far as I'm concerned. Not because the core material is substantially better than earlier, even with a piece such as 'The Cosmic Jungle' that will enter my list of favorite Soniq Theater songs, but because the weaknesses of Mueller's approach to making music strikes me as being less dominant this time around. That past weakness have been poorly emulated instruments that sound off at best and plain wrong at worst, as well as some keyboard sounds that probably should have been buried for good a couple of decades ago. While these aspects are still present to some extent, they are less prominent and less numerous this time around. More important is that such features rarely if ever are given dominant functions, and the end result is all the better for it. Some exceptions are still present however, and for my sake I'd say that 'Jazz From Outer Space' is the piece here where such features are most prominent.
Conclusion. Soniq Theater is a project that I guess will always be an acquired taste. Instrumental one man band music made by way of keyboards and synthesizers, recorded and produced in a manner that probably makes it sound more vintage than it actually is. Those fascinated by music on the border between progressive electronic music and ambient music, with some progressive rock flavoring, might want to investigate this album though. Especially those who focus more on the moods, atmospheres and melodies of a composition and rather less on audiophile instrument, mix and production qualities.
Progmessor: March 2021
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