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By Blue Stone
Label: Neurodisc Records
Released 2/2/2006
Breathe tracks
1. Confession  
2. Breathe  
3. Break of Dawn   
4. Falling  
5. The River   
6. I Am   
7. Forgiven  
8. Only One   
9. Holy Ground   
10. Searching  
11. Contact  
12. Dusk   
13. Traveler   
14. Lost  
15. New Beginning   
From those über-wizards at Neurodisc (who have a knack for releasing outstanding music) comes their latest discovery, the duo Blue Stone (Robert Smith and Bill Walters). As with recent releases from label-mates Amethystium and Ryan Farish, Breathe features lots of cool electronica infused with oodles of sexy beats, lush synths, accessible and infectious melodies galore on a variety of sampled keyboards, and all of it wrapped in state-of the-art chromium sheen production and engineering. Where Amethystium (Oystein Ramfjord) infuses his music with elements of mysticism and ancient myth and Ryan Farish is more of a hook-meister who keeps things friendlier and cheery, Blue Stone hews closer to the Enigma/Delerium formula, featuring more vocals than the other two artists named above do and dialing up more sex appeal at times. Still, it would be quite unfair (and entirely untrue) to consider them mere Delerium wannabes. Granted, there are similarities on some tracks, but other songs carve out a whole new niche altogether, and, truthfully, even when they operate in a similar vein, the music is so damn good that I’m sure as hell not complaining.

The title track (Breathe) actually sounds like an amalgam of all the influences mentioned above with the addition of original elements as well. You’ve got the sexy sensuous rhythms and beats of Enigma, the reverbed piano of Farish, and the haunting qualities of Amethystium’s music. The female vocals are one the new wrinkles and what a wrinkle they are – sexy and alluring yet never in a smarmy way at all. With fifteen tracks on the CD, ranging from three to six minutes in length, giving details on even half of them would take way too long in this review. My personal favorites, though, include the aforementioned title song, Break of Dawn (featuring delicate piano and subdued trippy beats with well-applied synth touches here and there), Forgiven (a wonderful melding of piano, electronica beats, and plucked/bowed strings which reminds me of recent rhythmic efforts from Darshan Ambient – and that is a HUGE compliment), Searching (an unexpected foray into ethno-tribal beats which morphs into some of the catchiest beats and most futuristic application of synths on the CD), and the serene album closer, New Beginning which ends the CD on a tranquil rhythm-less note, featuring piano and synths in a quasi-ambient/new age composition.

There is only one misstep on the CD and that is on Traveler which brings in stinging feedback-laden electric guitar and Deep Forest/Native American-like tribal chanting to less-than-desirable effect (to say the least). However, the rest of the CD more than excuses this lapse in judgment. Nobody’s perfect, right?

For those who abhor vocals (and as a result will eliminate this CD from consideration because of their presence) all I can say is you’re missing out on a winner. The women singers are in lovely voice and add greatly to the music’s appeal, sometimes sounding like a cross between Sarah MacLachlan and new age vocalist Juliana. Discrete use of vocoder, reverb, multi-tracking and other manipulations do not detract from their talents, but instead assist in helping the vocals "fit right in" beside all the other electronics on the CD.

Troy at Neurodisc raved about this CD in an email to me before it arrived and I took particular notice of that fact. While it’s true he works for the label and could be forgiven his hyperbole, the label he works for is, after all, also home to Ryan Farish and Amethystium, both of whose albums have been among my personal favorites over the last several years. While I don’t know that I’d put Blue Stone’s Breathe in the same class as, for example, Farish’s From the Sky or Amethystium’s Evermind, it’s up near 'em. For a first effort, this is a damn tasty assemblage of electronica. If Smith and Walters get much better at the game, his label-mates may wish Neurodisc hadn’t discovered them!
Rating: Very Good   Very Good
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 2/13/2006
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