Electronica Triple Treat (7/03/98)

Vast, Visual Audio Sensory Theater (Elektra 1998) - Straight from the trailer parks of Sonoma County, California, comes 21-year-old Jon Crosby, who has created the distinctive soundscape known as Vast. With its multiple influences, including goth, metal, classical, tribal, and electronic, Visual Audio Sensory Theater finds beauty in the darkness.

Having worked on his music for years, Crosby delivers a deep mix with elements of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails, as well as an 18-piece orchestra and vocal samples from the Bulgarian Female Choir and the Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of Saint-Mauer, Cleraux.

Crosby grew up in Humboldt County, California, which he describes as "about as isolated as you can get. It's a town of 7,000 people, but there were literally no clubs or places you could see music."

With an eye toward early MTV, Crosby learned to play guitar and sent a demo tape to the president of Shrapnel Records. That hard rock demo earned him mention by "Guitar Player" magazine as an up-and-coming young guitarist.

Yet Crosby still felt alienated. "I was only 13 at the time. It really blew my mind. But I was never that popular in school because I had long hair and stuff, so the kids gave me a hard time about being in the magazine."

Visual Audio Sensor Theater features production work from Fred Maher (who has worked with Lou Reed and Luna), and mixing by Andy Wallace (who has worked with Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins).

Both luminous and barren, the new album is a challenging blend with an unsettling background. From tracks like the "Three Doors," which mixes Middle Eastern tempos against a hard rock background, through "Pretty When You Cry," a distressing song about modern relationships, Crosby has a touched outlook. For the underside of electronica, try Visual Audio Sensory Theater.

Delerium, Karma (Nettwerk 1997) - Delerium is the electronic collaboration of Rhys Fulber and Bill Leeb, a Vancouver-based pair who have recorded for ten years under the Delerium moniker (with eight albums to their credit).

Fulber and Leeb also record industrial-style material under the name Front Line Assembly. Karma is more ambient and relaxing, with a variety of vocalists. The new album is the follow-up to Semantic Spaces, and continues in a dance-oriented electronica format that taps into the ethereal rhythms of Deep Forest.

Thus, Kristy Thirsk (of the Rose Chronicles) provides vocals for three songs ("Enchanted," "Wisdom," and "Till the End of Time"), Jacqui Hunt (of Single Gun Theory) sings on "Euphoria," and Camille Henderson contributes to "Duende."

And there I was, floating along, thinking, "This sounds kinda familiar." Then I checked the liner notes and saw that Sarah McLachlan handles the vocals on track 4, "Silence." And I understood why the album sounds both familiar and foreign.

In addition, the album includes samples by Dead Can Dance (with vocalist Lisa Gerrard) and the Baka Forest Pygmies.

With its swirling mix of instruments, voices, and arrangements, Karma qualifies as a world dance beat experience in the best tradition of Enigma. Put on your electronic dancing shoes and try Karma.

Mox, Mox (RGB Records 1998) - Continuing with the world beat rhythms is Mox, a trio hailing from the cultural crossroads of San Francisco. With their sensuous rhythms and stylish arrangements, Mox is a richly-textured pop instrumental.

The threesome consists of Michael Boyd on guitars and machines, Charlie Judgeon keyboards and machines, and Hector Perez on percussion and machines. The trio began recording in 1985 as "Flying Colors," and changed their name to Mox in 1992. Since then, they released three independent projects on their own Tilt Records.

One of the strongest tracks is "Fin," which features a hallucinogenic Middle Eastern background. At times, the album resembles a soundtrack to a movie.

If you're looking for a stylish mix of instrumental pop and dance beats, try Mox.

- Randy Krbechek © 1998

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