Berkley, Michael Thomas - Arctic

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Numinous-Records
Catalog Number: NR90
Format: CD
Total Time: 54:38:00

Arctic is an all-instrumental concept album, as each track is "inspired by the arctic deserts of Canada's Ellesmere Island," which is located at the country's northern most point.

The album opens with the atmospheric "Ellesmere Island Part I" which has more an incidental music flavor whereas the next track "Ice Break" is more in a Tangerine Dream mode.

This album sounds crisp and cold, a good thing, as it means the production is quite clear, but also that the frigid Arctic is vividly evoked. Listening to this on the head phones on a warm California night, I was quite comfortable - I could almost feel the chill.

Michael Thomas Berkley is joined by Wayne Bennett on clarinet, Ari Langer on electric violin, Mike Frietas on various types of percussion, while Berkley himself handles keyboards of all types as well as synth instruments. The overall sound is a mix between, say Steve Roach, and the above mentioned Tangerine Dream, more emphasis on the latter. The Roach element comes from Frietas' percussion - clay drums, congas, shakers, etc. (though it's Berkley on percussion for "Ice Break" and "Moonlit Warmth"). In "Ellesmere Island Part II" Berkley effectively uses the "suspended moment effect" that Roach does so well - like that all too ubiquitous now photographic effect. You know the one; the action freezes yet the camera is still moving. Here, as in "Part I," Bennett's clarinet is warm and sweet, yet sad and lonely when contrasted against the atmospheric bed that Berkley lays down. As the cover image of the island suggests, this part of Canada is not populated, or at least not very.

"Moonlit Warmth" juxtaposes undulating synth washes and almost shrill keyboard notes against a robust and percolating percussion - an east African slotted drum. Not an instrument you'd associate with the arctic, but it creates a nice tension between itself, an active heartbeat, and the calm of the keys. In "Fire In The Mind" that tension has heated up - no pun intended. This track contains the most unique instrument - plastic utensils. "Dark Arctic" is where you most hear Langer's violin - and a sweet sounding violin it is... the tone color I think of is rosewood (or maybe I'm just thinking of the movie The Red Violin). Berkley's piano on "Frozen Reflection" is as delicate as the image of thin ice it evokes - gentle and sparse, it brings to mind a reflection of a different sort, as well. "Deconstructing Time" is fractured and is the most effects laden of the tracks. Very dark, somewhat mysterious, with wildly undulating atmospherics (I'm going to guess this is the listed reverse audiosuite plug-in, as the sensation is of being pulled back through time).

I'd say the only thing missing from this release is the visuals, but if you stare at the cover a few moments then close your eyes, you'll have even that, too. Beautiful.

By the way, this is an HDCD so I can imagine the sound would be even crisper on an HDCD player.

Ellesmere Island Part I (4:45) / Ice Break (5:05) / Hallucinogenic Aviation (5:23) / Ellesmere Island Part II (7:13) / Moonlit Warmth (5:07) / Fire in the Mind (2:30) / Dark Arctic (4:18) / Frozen Reflection (4:11) / Deconstructing Time (_:__) / Ellesmere Island Part II (6:28) / Ellesmere Island Part IV (5:32)

Michael Thomas Berkley - keyboards, synth bass, piano, synths, filters, east African slotted drum, assorted percussion, electronics, atmospherics, shakers, drum programming, ngoma, sticks, reverse audiosuite plugin
Wayne Bennett - clarinet
Mike Freitas - shakers, clay drums, conga, shakers, water bottle, plastic utensils
Ari Langer - electric violin
MCCS Wind Ensemble

Images From Earth
Arctic (2000)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: May 29th 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1220
Language: english


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