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Following his widely acclaimed 2004 Lotuspike release, The Gate, Jeff Kowal’s (aka Terra Ambient) Wanderlust dove deeply into his most personal space, sculpting a sonic cathartic experience for all to hear.
Kowal viewed Wanderlust as a journal. What started out as an expected sequel to his previous release turned into an emotional sketchbook of some major changes in his life, including a move to the American Southwest.
Previously on The Gate, Kowal used strictly acoustic and live recordings to express himself, but this time he turned to the use of electronics and synthesizers to find a deeper voice. He re-integrated digital and electronic sound sources to capture some of the gritty, subtle and grandiose sounds that he felt the music needed.
Wanderlust does in fact range from the subtle to the grandiose: epic, sweeping and luscious, Wanderlust plays more like a movie soundtrack than an ambient CD. Delicately balanced between tribal, ethno-acoustic earthiness and searing electronic pads and leads, Wanderlust takes the listener on a journey.
Kowal felt the music of this album was at times expansive, and other times it’s quiet and myopic. Once the project started to gel, he said it really became something to dive into and get lost with.
Aside from synthesizers, Kowal brought many other acoustic and electric instruments into the mix, including frame drums and percussion, didgeridoo, electric guitars, bass, bansuri and PVC flutes, and a modular analog system.
Shipped to us by Spotted Peccary, the new album by Terra Ambient has it’s own tone, it’s own vibe, it’s own and true magic. Have to say, took a second listening session before we got into the right stream sort of speak…. That’s what the daily circumstances do to us. Start. First of all, never heard a fade-in like the first track of this album… from zero decibels to a room filled with Terra Ambient in couple of minutes. The mix is golden. The mood is just right for starting your day as well as ending is and go to bed. Jeff has done a fantastic job with this ‘layered’ production: there’s so much to discover each time you’ll hear this album. It seems it never stops to develop, simply fantastic!- TC, Spacemusic.nl
Jeff Kowal creates deep ambient soundscapes under the nom de plume Terra Ambient. Wanderlust is his third release and it finds Jeff exploring new territories and horizons.
In his liner notes, Jeff discusses the evolution of the album as a journal for his transitions over a three-year period, including relocation from Pittsburgh to New Mexico. The music became somewhat of a catharsis. He described as ‘the music that I needed to make.’
Jeff combines drifting passages with overt and subtle rhythms. His atmospheric structures are vast, wide and expansive. They drift around the listening area, transforming it into a meditation chamber.
The disc opens with two pieces that are somewhat more active. They are excellent for hypnotic movement and active meditation. The percussion on the second track approaches and borders on techno but does not cross the line. The rhythms contrast and complement the atmospheres.
Track three presents deeper atmospheric ambience with strong overtones and eclectic timbres. This is where Jeff absolutely excels. He combines organic textures, desert ambience and tribal timbres to deliver a unique sound that is truly his own.
While this is a musical journal of Jeff’s transitions, it is also a vehicle for private journeys. The flexibility and variety allow for many different experiences, each having its own, well, Wanderlust.
In a relatively short time, Jeff has established himself as one of the top electric ambient masters of the new millennium. He is a true artiste.- Jim Brenholts, Awareness Magazine
After a hiatus of five years, Jeff Kowal, aka Terra Ambient, returns with ‘Wanderlust’, described by Jeff as an emotional sketchbook of some major changes in my life.
In more than one way, the music on it has something of a grand design, featuring some sort of soundtrack with both expansive as miniature sound excursions. The music, which has a great entrance with the powerful ‘Myth’, is given all the space to slowly build into subtlety (’Visionquest’) or expansiveness.
It also sees a return to the use of synthesizers and sophisticated electronics, next to a wide range of treated sounds from electric and acoustic guitars, drums and percussion and flutes.
The outcome is a varied tapestry of ethno-tribal, strong organic flavoured music, gritty elements and fluid, transparent, overall textural synth pads next to deep bass grooves.
The use of flutes and, frame drums and ethnic sequencing made me vaguely think of Robert Rich (’Mudfoot’), although Solitaire and Steve Roach also came to mind. Between all this, the airy, dreamy and deep immersive impact of the title track creates a expansive, reflective space of its own.
Especially the subtle, multi-layered sound textures give this music a great sense of density and depth, which must have been quite a job to accomplish.
It all makes ‘Wanderlust’ an absolute joy to listen to.
All in all, well done, Mr Kowal!
Textural electronic composer Jeff Kowal's relative newness to the genre is definitely not reflected in this, his third album as Terra Ambient. ‘Wanderlust’ is Kowal's personal soundtrack to his new home in the American Southwest, and it seems he has captured that vibe marvelously. The mysterious and magical 'Myth', for example, blends tribal drums with darkly cinematic strings and erupts into a dramatic and melodic crescendo, giving off a distinctly dusky, primeval mood. ‘Visionquest’ begins as a darker, solemn synthscape as well, before giving way to a more uplifting and flighty direction. Kowal seems to be gaining some ground melodically on this release, gravitating from the pure texture/mood and into a more structured sense of landscape, and it works quite well. Imagine a new soundtrack to something like ‘Baraka’ or even ‘Planet Earth’ and you will be, perhaps, in the ballpark. Kowal is a master of mood and shadowy texture, and ‘Wanderlust’ is perhaps his finest work yet.- Todd Zachritz, Goatsden
Ambient worldbeat fusion. Wanderlust is a dramatic album of cinematic ambience and globally influenced rhythmic soundscaping. The lush textures on the CD are formed through a combination of dense layers combining synthesisers and treated guitars, yet despite this emphasis on artificial sound sources, the music here is very organic in nature even before the additional international instruments make an appearance. The beats are a somewhat hypnotic blend of programmed sounds and hand percussion - Taos drums, frame drums, congas and other real skin surfaces softening the distantly tribal grooves. Sequencer patterns tinkle, shakers rattle, bansuri and didgeridoo lift or deepen the drones.
The mood of Wanderlust is at times one of dramatic expanse - the thick beds of sound suggestive of immense vistas and open skies. In other places the mood darkens and Terraambient wanders into shadowy freeform zones of mystery. The general pace of the album is ponderous, unhurried - the bulk of the tracks welling up gradually around beatless introductions, the percussion arriving well along into the music. The final two recordings are beatless - the concluding piece featuring some gentle piano and environmental recordings evoking visions of the sun emerging after rainfall - a very attractive piece and the most overtly melodic of the suite.
Wanderlust arrives in a jewelcase with a two panel insert. Front cover imagery appropriately features a sweeping landscape open to the enormity of a cloud thickened sky. A somewhat more intimate scene of similar tone appears on the rear - here smoothed out with motion blur. The track titles and brief credits find a place here as well as website and Myspace details for Terraambient. The Insert holds what appears to be a candid image of the artist in a private home on the remaining outer section. Opening up an effulgent spray of sunbeams descend from dark, dark clouds - a panorama filling both panels. Further information is on the leftmost - a paragraph on the Wanderlust project followed by a gear list, thanks and other explanatory snippets.
Jeff Kowal otherwise known as Terra Ambient returns after a five year gap with his latest album Wanderlust released via Lotuspike Records. The 2004 album The Gate was initially the springboard for the new work with the intention being to build on the strictly live and acoustic approach employed for that album. However, things change and music tends to go where it will - consequently the new material has a heavy synthetic content, a blend of world instruments and programmed sound, rich fusions of percussion sources. Jeff has been making music now for over fifteen years and the seven new compositions here benefit from his formal training, multi-cultural musical interests and forays into television, film and galley installation.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM
Wanderlust might well appeal to fans of Steve Roach, Na-Koja-Abad - less minimal than extreme ambient by a long way. The Lotuspike site includes samples of a number of tracks and the Terraambient site includes a video of the artist discussing the album.
Recording under the name Terra Ambient soundscape artist Jeff Kowal brings together his passion for Ambient and World Music in an impressionistic synthesis of texture, sound and atmosphere. The CD title Wanderlust (51'26’) epitomizes his drift between and across genres and disciplines. Kowal's fascinating musical realm is part digital, part primordial, and lies amidst his native flutes and tribal drums and the samplers and synthesizers he manipulates and programs to produce what seems like a lost continent of sound. The more energetic sections are propelled by percussion riffs that snake through each piece - stiffening like a spine. This area of Kowal's music is more about cycles than bars and measures. There are also many passages of ethereal bliss where reverberant pads move like slow clouds on the horizon and glowing tones flex and fade off into the hum of the universe. Composing music that is informed by molecular whispers in the blood yet still seems searching for a future; the work of Terra Ambient successfully joins technology and spirituality. Wanderlust does more than provide an atmosphere, this music provokes the imagination and gets to places we did not know were there.- Chuck van Zyl, Star's End
Jeff Kowal aka Terra Ambient has released his 3rd album (2nd on Lotuspike) just before the summer of 2009, so quite a long time passed since 2004 when his previous applauded "The Gate" album was released. The album opens very quietly with "Myth", but this piece grows slowly into more dramatic and grandiose parts featuring harsh guitars. Quite a radical change when comparing to more peaceful soundscaping of "The Gate". But don't be scared, this fresh blend of deep atmospherics, tribal beats and expressive guitars is another step in Jeff's highly crafted and refined sound sculpting. His tribal ambience finely infused with right amount of roughness sounds absolutely exciting, a truly extraordinary listening experience from the very beginning of "Wanderlust"!!! "Mudfoot" is another standout piece carefully melting electronics with wide range of acoustics, highly turbulent composition, again enriched by treated guitars. What a beauty! Mysteriously deep atmospherics on "Visionquest" later transform into percussion-driven texture with crispy pulsing electronics, a really ear-catching cut! Organics open title track "Wanderlust", but soon this composition moves into absolutely exciting level where deeper washes and gentle tribal beats are spiced by expressive flutes, didgeridoos, bells and strange otherwordly sounds. Man, this must be one of the most sophisticated and distinct tracks Jeff ever made and also one of my personal faves in the genre!!! "Mammoth" attracts with its more minimal structure with slowly developing and more active rich desert ambience. Deeper drones on "Epilogue" are nicely colored with storm sounds and highly evocative flute work, primordial ambience at its best!!! Album closer, "The Ghost In Me", is another highly nature-influenced track, this time attractively colored with delicate piano tunes, but also by additional guitar ambience magics of Jeff Pearce. A track with truly tranquilizing effect! What to write at the end? "Wanderlust", with outstanding sound quality, is not only the most colorful work of Terra Ambient, but also the most refined and polished one showing skilled artistry of this Lotuspike co-owner. Great job, Jeff!!! You can be sure that "Wanderlust" takes me each time on my own journey.- Richard Guertler, Relaxed Machinery
Jeff Kowal aka Terra Ambient makes ambient new age music with hints of several influences ranging from Robert Rich to Steve Roach, Patrick O’Hearn to Harold Budd, and others.
‘Myth’ starts the album so subtly that the music is nearly inaudible for the first minute, until a slow tribal beat and gently floating washes of sound fade in. The intensity builds nicely after that, leading into powerful soaring guitars that perfectly amplify the mood.
Bright, brisk, tinkling percussion at the start of ‘Mudfoot’ reminds me a lot of ‘Primes’ from Robert Rich’s Geometry CD. It also throws in some deep bass reminiscent and tribal touches reminiscent of the Ma Ja Le and Vir Unis collaboration Imaginarium. Guitars feature prominently here with another strong solo.
Things cool down for the next three tracks with mellow earthy ambience. ‘Visionquest,’ in particular, develops very nicely. Although it evolves quite slowly, by the end it is a totally different, much more active piece. For the title track, chimes and a haunting wind are joined by slow tribal beats and warm flowing synth sounds.
‘Mammoth’ has an appropriately primeval quality about it, contrasted nicely with modern electronic sounds percolating up once in a while. ‘Epilogue’ is the most subdued track so far and possibly my favorite. Rain and thunder herald the closing track, ‘The Ghost in Me,’ with sparse piano giving it a new age feel, a nice relaxed way to finish.- Phil Derby, Electroambient Space