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Binkelman's Corner by Bill Binkelman
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The Gates of Reality
By Australis
Label: Essential Noises
The Gates of Reality tracks
1. The Gates of Reality
2. Return to Tarshish
3. Ephemerage
4. Promises of Light
5. Paqta Kutemunqa
6. Purple Dreams
7. Little Clockmaker
8. Treasure the Moment
9. Illusion of Company
10. The Hoodoo's Whisper
11. Thresholds of Devotion
12. Momentary Truths
13. Essentia
14. Adventus Sortis
The Gates of Reality
Seldom have I heard such a dramatic leap in quality from a debut to a sophomore effort as I have on Australis' second CD, The Gates of Reality. Australis' debut, Lifegiving, was an extremely promising first CD, garnering much praise (and deservedly so). However, this second recording doesn't just leapfrog his earlier release—it eclipses it. In just two albums, Australis joins the ranks of the best artists in the chill-out subgenre which centers on echoed piano, Enigma-esque rhythms, and lush layers of keyboards. Ryan Farish now has serious competition for the lead in this subgenre and, as far as I'm concerned, The Gates of Reality leaves the recent releases of Amethystium in the dust.. and forget Enigma entirely in this race. It's unbelievable, after listening to just the first (and title) track that this is an independent release. Are you kidding me? Production values, mix, instrumentation, in fact the whole kit and caboodle, sound like this is a major label release. Folks, this is textbook stuff. Yeah, it's that good.

That opening title track is so perfect.. a dash of sound effects, sparse spoken word dialogue, lush synth textures, that superb echoed piano, a flurry of assorted electronica effects, and a chilled beat that grabs you and won’t let go. THIS is chill-out music, people! Return to Tarnish, the next cut, clearly displays Australis' is no mere one trick pony, as this variation of sultry sensuous continental European chill-out (as opposed to either British or American) pulses with a midtempo beat and panned synth tones. The mix on this song should be savored slowly…the female operatic wordless vocals are perfectly integrated (many artists boost this element too loud in the mix).

It's difficult for me to articulate just why The Gates of Reality is so great. Paqta Kutemunga distills everything that made Cusco so great (beats, panpipes and Peruvian influences) but strips away the annoying artifice that the group often allowed to intrude. Purple Dreams interjects just the right amount of electronica elements balanced by sampled hand percussion to yield a mellow yet exotic track, and Clockmaker mines a slyly macabre carnival-esque vein similar to Danny Elfman's soundtrack work for films like Beetlejuice.

But, in the end, it's the infectious beats and siren-like allure of sensuous and catchy melodies on tracks such as Illusion of Company and Treasure the Moment that suck the listener into the pleasurable whirlpool which is The Gates of Reality. Yeah, there's other good stuff here as well, such as the plaintive Essentia or the new age leanings with traces of world fusion on Promises of Light, but when the chill-out beats, echoed piano, and expertly layered keyboards and synth textures come into play, face it—you're hooked. Ear candy—sweet delicious and 100 percent addictive ear candy—doesn’t get any better than this CD. If I was the PR folks at Neurodisc, I'd start to either draw up a contract for this artist or get used to looking in the rear view mirror, because he is coming up behind you fast. This album gets my unqualified highest recommendation. Buy the damn thing already, willya?

Rating: Excellent   Excellent
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 11/13/2009
 
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