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Alpha Wave Movement
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artist:
Alpha Wave Movement
country of origin:
USA

style(s):
Spacemusic, ambient trance, Berlin-school

essential releases:
Edge Of Infinity (1997, Groove Unlimited)
Drifted Into Deeper Lands (2000, Groove Unlimited)
Bislama [with J. Cole] (2001, Harmonic Resonance) 
A Distant Signal (2002, Harmonic Resonance)
Cosmology (2003, Groove Unlimited)
The Regions Between (2007, Harmonic Resonance)
Myriad Stars (2011, Harmonic Resonance)

 

Reviewed by Mike G

 

It is not hard to tell that American composer Gregory Kyryluk absorbed a lot of old-school German spacemusic in his formative years. We can be thankful he did because, along with fellow Americans like Jonn Serrie and the group Spacecraft, he's grown into one of the world's most sensitive practitioners of ambient spacemusic, whether new-school or old. His one-man project Alpha Wave Movement has taken the classic Berlin sound across the Atlantic and into the 21st century without succumbing to either brazen recycling or moving it too far from its sonic roots.

Many of Alpha Wave Movement's albums are must-haves for fans of spacemusic and its various substyles; seven of those releases are recommended here.

Kyryluk hit his creative stride with his second and still greatest album Edge Of Infinity, a work so exquisitely spaced out it could have been piped in from the other side of the Milky Way. The fundamentals of the European old-school are all there - deep melodies and chords, a lightness of touch, and rhythms and pads that gently throb and pulse and skim across your consciousness rather than kick straight out of the mix. To these basics Kyryluk applies his own considerable imagination, not to mention some better music technology than possessed by his forebears. The short but epic title track builds beautifully until two layered melodies cry and sigh across the heavens in perfect symmetry. "Travel Into The Nexus" pulls you into a mystical ceremony of eerie vocal swells and hypnotic tones, with the slow motion pulse of tom-toms providing a brilliantly simple backdrop.

Drifted Into Deeper Lands is, as the title suggests, more landscaped and less concerned with cosmic themes. The tracks are longer, their structure a little less defined, with chords extending over longer arcs and sometimes under laid by raw, drifting percussive loops in the environmental style of Steve Roach. This is territory trodden many times by American electronic composers yet Kyryluk avoids the cliches by using a sonic palette that is largely his own.

Another successful variation on Alpha's earlier sound is the superb collaboration Bislama. Asian percussion sounds and the alien buzz of Jim Cole's harmonic throat singing all blend beautifully with layers of drifting, morphing synth chords. Both albums intrigue with their departures from the pure spacemusic template, while still retaining that sense of awe and reverence that marks Alpha Wave Movement's best work.

A Distant Signal returns to the extra-planetary themes and spaces of Edge Of Infinity. Gone is some of Infinity's prettiness and in its place is a certain melancholy loneliness, like the floating strings and dislocated bleeps of "Liquid Cosmos". There is a complexity to the drum patterns on "Outward Bound" that most spacemusic composers rarely bother with, but Kyryluk can be bothered and emerges with one of his most distinctive tracks. For sheer enveloping warmth "A Place Of Peace" and "No Mans Land" are the album's highlights. A kind of sister album to both of the above is the more recent Myriad Stars. It segues effortlessly between busy sequencer patterns and beatless widescreen drones, its moods ranging from dark, ominous abstraction to warm celestial melodies and choral voicings.

Alpha's seventh album Cosmology is distinguished by its generous melodies, developed rhythms and polished production. These qualities make it the most accessible album for newcomers from a dance or rock background even if it's not AWM's greatest release. The fifteen-minute "Teutonic Voyage" is driven by an urgent sequencer pulse that recalls Tangerine Dream's most exciting moments, and both this and "Celestial Mechanics" play with an updated sound that echoes the patterns and sonic language of modern club trance. For pure ambient spacemusic "Distant Edens" stands out with its waves of blissful keyboard washes that unfold with all the delicacy of a beautiful flower.

And finally, the surprisingly good Regions Between. It wouldn't be accurate to call this an album of out-takes. Its more a case of some genuinely good unreleased tracks that didn't quite fit the albums Kyryluk was recording at the time. As an collection it’s not entirely cohesive and I’m guessing it's not supposed to be. What it does show is the composer’s deft hand at different styles of spacey electronic ambience: the melodic celestial throb of the Berlin-school, the romanticism of Vangelis, drifting environmental soundscapes with a cosmic air. Even when the music steps beyond expected rhythm patterns on the deeply gorgeous "Solar Dub" the gliding synth below and sparkling arpeggio above make the track unmistakably his own.

Aside from the seven albums listed above, also recommended for Alpha fans is Kyryluk's excellent throwbacks to old-school Berlin ambient sounds, recorded as one half of the duo Thought Guild.

 

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