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ANCIENT MYSTERIES

ANCIENT MYSTERIES

Review by NAPRA Trade Journal - Experience the atmospheres of mystery, nobility, and even savagery of the ancient civilizations of the Celts, Mayans, Tiahuanaco, Sri Lanka, and the lost continents of Lemuria and Atlantis. Through Bacchus' music (a skillful combination of digital technology with live vocals and instruments), I could feel the textures of stone, the intensity of the sun's piercing rays, the heavy and humid air, the imposing monuments, the rituals, and the cruel game of Mayan basketball where the losing captain is decapitated. Above all, I feel a raw and awesome sense of sacredness that is very much of the flesh. Perhaps the sunlight I bear will turn to gold in my hand? A stunningly designed CD booklet explains about the various cultures.


The Forest Marsh CD Cover

Point Petre CD Cover

THE FOREST MARSH & POINT PETRE

Review by Music Design In-Review Magazine — Songbirds pleasantly chirping in the cold of winter. Wildlife from the Canadian wilderness in the heart of Los Angeles. Only through the magic of natural ambience recordings can these instances be possible. Grant Mackay has an ear for the sounds of nature. For over a decade he spent considerable time trekking through the wild regions of Canada to locate pristine environments for his "Earthaven" series of nature recordings. "It is not only a question of finding the right spot but making sure you are there at the right time of year and the right time of day," he explains. "Weather and annual seasonal patterns are a big factor. If it is a particularly wet spring then the opportunities to record become limited both in terms of access to wilderness and because you need perfectly still, calm, sunny days to get the best recordings."

Mackay got the bug to start recording nature sounds in 1998, after a trip into the James Bay wilderness in northern Quebec. The plan was to move deeper into the wild with each recording -- partially for thematic reasons and partially due to the difficulty of finding undisturbed land away from civilization. "Although provincial and national parks offer vast areas of solitude, they can sometimes be well-trodden in the summer months.

The Earthaven label has made it part of its mission to venture into completely unexplored wilderness areas. Canada is known by hunters and fisherman both in Canada and in the U.S. to have some of the largest tracts of "crown" land. Some of these wilderness areas stretch for hundreds of miles at a time. Earthaven has made use of these crown lands as well as special protected wilderness zones that have been designated as scientifically or environmentally significant. We tread very lightly by canoe or foot (only) into these areas, avoiding the use of motorized land or water transportation.

Mackay hasn't always had to travel far to find natural beauty. His recording, THE FOREST MARSH came about when he accidentally came upon an oasis of secluded marshland while exploring near his rural home. The artist explains that he was following some of the rough roads used by local farmers for transporting crops. A detour found him in a deep, hidden valley with a serene marsh that he later recorded. His new album, POINT PETRE: A BIRDER'S PARADISE highlights the symphony of song provided by the area's avian population.


Etherium Cover

ETHERIUM

Stephen Bacchus, Review by Budge Wilson, listener and fan — I have a Walkman-type CD player with earphones, so that when I played your music, it was right in my head. Deep in my head. It was an astonishing experience. I shut my eyes and let it happen, and it was though I could see the sound. Truly. In fact, when I remember "Mystic Sojourn", I both see and hear it. I think your kind of music/sound is the best thing I've yet hit for encouraging meditation. My brain is always too busy, busy, busy, to make emptying it easy. Easy! It's next to impossible. But plug myself into your music and the sound sort of occupies my mind. Or fills it. There's no space left for the trivial or troubling thoughts that are usually lurching around in my head. Thank you for that. Congratulations on your achievement!



Frog Power Cover

FROG POWER

Grant Mackay Review by Terry Sprague, www.naturestuff.net "...What makes this CD so appealing to frog fanciers and naturalists in general, are the calls that are not mentioned on the CD jacket, which only trained ears can pick up. It seems that every time I play this CD, I hear something additional that has emerged vocally to add atmosphere to the CD. So, it isn’t just the stars on stage that give this CD its appeal, but rather, the subtle sounds of the other background actors and extras that mold a complete framework....An amazing accomplishment, to capture all these background sounds of nature while not losing focus on the stars of the show. Producer Grant Mackay has outdone himself admirably with this recording.

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Hinterland

'Stephen Bacchus' “Hinterland” CD reviews

Review at the ZoneMusicReporter website by reviewer Bill Binkleman (01/04/2017)

"...Hinterland marks a triumphant return.."

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Reviewer, Richard Gürtler (Nov 06, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)

"...If you are searching for relaxing, new age-driven soundsculptings, don’t hesitate to explore Stephen Bacchus wanderings though picturesque untamed Canadian wilderness...“Hinterland” is probably the most mature and sophisticated recording of Stephen Bacchus..."

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Listener Reviews

"I received your beautiful HINTERLAND CD a little while back. I love what you're doing. Brings me back to some of the classic analog electronic works from the 70's, but with a modern twist. Tomita comes to mind, and Vangelis. Nice arrangements/orchestration. Uplifting indeed. "
— Tim Clement of Danna & Clement

"I listened to Stephen Bacchus’s remarkable new album, HINTERLAND; MUSICAL SOJOURNS INTO THE WILDERNESS, with a great deal of pleasure and interest. These meditative and poignant compositions are truly reflective of nature, creating gentle moods, even as Bacchus’s unique musical voice continues to surprise and delight at every cadence. In these finely-wrought works, we find the logical 21st-century extension of the nature-evoking Symphonic Poems of Sibelius and Smetana. Bacchus, with each of these gems, paints a picture that sonically welcomes us to the hinterland’s doorstep. He then takes us on a mesmerizing journey into its heart."
— Scott M.

"...Among my favourite discs of this or any other year...This Hinterland may very well be your masterwork."
— Beck H.

“...great CD - really enjoyed. Actually it gets inside of you - like you are not hearing it but it casts a spell on you - holds onto you but doesn’t over power...always moving into the next level. Well done!!!”
— Rob S.

“Listening to Hinterland, I felt a joyful sense of renewal and hope. Stephen Bacchus has been inspired by timeless time, spent in the wild, and the pristine purity and clarity of the north woods emerges in the melodies and ambience of Hinterland.”
— Peter R.




Pangaea

Review by Lloyd Barde, Heartbeats Catalog 

Very simply, this is one of the finest debuts that has come our way in years. With a thoroughly understated eloquence, Stephen Bacchus has seamlessly merged the current trends and expressions in the fields of world and space music, and in ever so ambitious ways as to achieve his stated goals of making music of the Earth’s prehistoric origins. Pangaea recreates ancient settings of beauty,. mystery and enchantment recapturing the lost innocence of a pristine Earth of eons gone by. 250 million years ago, all of the world’s continents were joined together into one supercontinent, Pangaea. The music of Bacchus and his musical friends draws on influences from all around the world including Japanese, Javanese, Middle Eastern, and East Indian traditions and is masterfully blended with relaxing and highly melodic New Age music. Lush synthesizers, environmental and wildlife sounds, and Western acoustic instruments are interwoven with an array of world instruments that include koto, shakuhachi gamelan, santur and scrod.

Review by Waynne Stephenson, Dimensions Magazine

When you look at the cover of Pangaea, you see an image that resembles planet Earth floating in space that in some uncanny way is different from the globe we are familiar with. The computer-generated graphics of Ian Mackay have given us an impression of Mother Earth as she was before the rebirth pains of volcanic eruptions and cataclysmic earthquakes that tore her old form asunder, and the long period of gestation characterized by continental drift that gave us the geography by which we have known her for as long as we can remember.

Indeed, the opening title track calls us to recognize once again the true nature of our home planet, as the mighty chords of celestial harp strings find voice in a stiring high soprano that sounds like the cry of an awakened Goddess. Xena Zwicker has studied long and hard to become a vocalist capable of delivering strong solos in classical works performed by Toronto's Tafelmusik Orchestra and Chamber Choir, among others. And here her voice serves almost like a summation of the Western system of musical thought, for "Pangaea", together with the album's final track, " The New Earth", serves as an introduction to, and reprise of, a core suite of tracks which are in a predominantly different musical scale. Western music has simpler rhythms and melodies and more complex harmonies that move from one tonal center to another through structures of tension and release.

But Eastern modal scales have less notes and are more complex rhythmically and melodically in a way that stays in one tonal centre and is more reflective and meditative in effect. The Western musical phrasing of "Pangaea" and "The New Earth" could almost be called "dramatic" or "romantic" in terms of its effect on us, but "Muslc For The Morning Of The World", the album's second track, speaks to us in an entirely new language that is somehow not overly foreign to our ears. How can this be? The domestic chattering of water birds gives rise to the tentative ringing of Javanese gamelon degung-saron peking and jenglong. Then a bamboo flute conveys our imagination to the threshold of cosmic remembrance as the gamelan sounds build to a polyrhythmic symphony punctuated by Tibetan dingshas.

Pangaea is a term used to describe the vast supercontinent that existed on Earth over 225 million years ago, before breaking up into the continents of the present day. Made up of Gondwanaland in the Southern Hemisphere and Laurasia in the Northern Hemisphere, Pangaea was surrounded by a vast superocean called Panthalassa. "On The Shores Of Panthalassa" describes this great unifying force with the lyric tones of koto and shakuhachi that emerge, then subside into the sound of ocean waves. "Laurasia" is then portrayed in a call and response of melodic lines through which loons, wolves, flutes, oboes, and pianos converse with one another. Shifting scenes of "Gondwanaland" are depicted from a broad chromatic palette highlighted by didgeridoo, shakuhachi, santoor, sarod and tabla, until a low rumbling in the bowels of the soundscape signifies the end of the suite.

"The New Earth" brings us back to a place where we have a chance to see our home planet in a new perspective, as many of the themes developed in the previous suite are reprised to coalesce into lush harmonies, that leave us with an afterglow like the remembrance of some profound, deeply cherished truth.

In many ways, Pangaea is like an invocation to meditation in the form of music. And, certainly, it is music which is a suitable background for the practice of yoga exercises preparatory to meditation. At the same time that it is relaxing, there is a wealth of subtle detail that rewards sensitive listening. Stephen Bacchus, the composer and producer graduated from York University in Toronto with a bachelor's degree in composition. He studied with master Indian drummer Trichy Sankaran and with composer James Tanny (a student of John Cage and Edgard Varese).

Using a variety of state-of-the-art synthesizers, he has written and produced two previous albums of ambient music as a result of his particular interest in Eastern modal scales and their inspirational relationship to his regular practice of yoga and meditation.

For "Pangaea", synthesizers were often used only to compose parts for exotic instruments, which were then played live by various virtuoso performers commissioned especially for the album. If music can serve as a non-verbal means to realize and communicate profound truths in these times of cataclysmic changes, "Pangaea" is indeed a timely masterwork of global harmonics. From the depths of silent meditation, through the slow motion discipline of yoga and Tai Chi exercises inspired by music such as this, comes the fortitude to withstand great shocks of change and the force to rebuild new worlds of hopeful endeavor that ultimately may withstand the final tests of time.

Heartsong Review

An image of a lush earth globe entices the eye, and inside the cover, the ear is treated to an orchestral musical re-creation of the vibrantly living earth of aeons gone by. Richly enhanced synth melodies wander among waterfalls. In endless green woods and jungles, meeting creatures, birds, howling wolf, frogs and mystery movements in the dense growth. Pure shakuhachi breathes its siren song through the landscape. The organic natural sounds of gamelan, santur and sarod blend with nature sounds in a sense of whole well-being. Even the exotic koto is at home in this abundant world.

In Music for the Morning of the World, a thunderstorm comes and goes with a sense of rebirth to follow. Flute tones sing hope across a vibrant, sun painted landscape, and exotic oriental chimes dance in joy.

On the Shores of Panthalassa an immense oceanic pounding of the sea dominates, but merges with the pandemonium of surrounding life.

Gondwanaland seems like some green and earthy “otherworld” slowed to serenity, a chorus of strings sweetly singing with birds, a piano delicately walking through joined by horn, wordless chorus, and oriental silvery chimes.

A cover with vivid descriptions of life hundreds of millions of years ago transports one, along with the music, to an expansive feeling of awe about our origins, our incredible planet and our future possibilities. Altogether, Pangaea is truly a breath-taking experience of great beauty, soothing and inspirational.


Review By All Music

Like a memorable vacation in the tropics, Pangaea leaves the listener relaxed, refreshed & inspired by its vision of shimmering beauty.

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Reviews On Amazon

This was a great experience for me. I enjoyed the music and by closing my eyes I really felt that I could catch glimpses of the Permian and Triassic periods with some earlier ones as well.

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Listener Reviews

"I have been listening to your album Pangaea for the last 20 years, and in my opinion it is some of the finest music ever produced by man.
I am an emergency medicine doctor, and life can become particularly chaotic at times....on those days... I will listen to Pangaea and drift away.
Your work is very much appreciated; it is in fact some of the most beautiful music ever created." —Adam F.



Bardo

Review By Syd Baumel, The Aquarian

Forget those scary monster images of the afterlife, Tibetan style. Stephen Bacchus’ musical take on the forbidding realms of the Bardo Thodol (The Tibetan Book of the Dead) is mostly lush, tender, and postcard pretty. Many of these eleven tracks would be sweet enough for the ears of a newreborn baby.

There is much of East meets West here, starting with Bacehus’s impressive world orchestra, wherein English horns blow side by side with shakuhachi flutes, kotos,and sonorous synthesizers. The Canadian composer’s sentimental melodies often seem Oriental one moment, Western the next. It’s a tantalizing multicultural morph.

Bacchus ranks among the best of New Age composers because he is a composer, not a musically undistinguished soundscape artist. Nowhere is this more evident than in “Impermanence/Bardo II: The Wind of Karma.” The main musical stream of this seven-minute composition is a light, even joyous koto-driven march. But tugging alongside it is a more Western, sadness-tinged countertheme, movingly played by a swelling, vibrato string ensemble. Emphasizing the tension, a hollow bass and a boxy synthesizer mark the implacable march of time with cold, staccato jabs. Perhaps it’s this “wind of karma” and the laws of impermanence which dictate that good and bad, happy and sad, should forever dog each other’s steps. Bacchus has captured this bittersweet reality in this exquisite piece of new music.

Review By Geoff Chapman, The Toronto Star

Inspired by the Tibetan Book Of The Dead and other writings on past lives, this disc offers 11 Bacchus-written tracks on which the leader conducts a six~strong wind section and nine strings while also handling keyboards,percussion and electronics.

The European and Asian instruments generate mystical serenity and passages of great beauty.

Review By Serge Kozlovsky

... This music, beautiful as a magical dream, peaceful as a surface of a calm sea, taking us far away, to the other worlds, and at the same time carrying to us voices of distant ancestors...

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Ambient Origins Cover

Review By Digital Artifact Magazine

When one speaks of sound foraging and pioneerism, the name Stephen Bacchus may come to mind, along with that other guy, you know the one who coined the term ambient, Brian Eno. Ambient Origins is a beautifully orchestrated sound arrangement that is a free-flowing as the quietest river or as gentle as a warm summer breeze. Collected from many early workings, Bacchus takes the listener on an intersteller trek through nebula's, black holes and distant galaxies. Tracks like 'Winter's Way', 'A Separate Moment' and 'The Form of the World' reveal the inner workings of a mind not confined to the physical limits of the cranium.
Without a doubt, this album is an amazing tribute to the direction and framework of the ambient genre. Whether trying to ease the body or the mind, Ambient Origins Collected Works is the remedy one needs to achieve relaxed enlightenment.

Review By Senna Redmond

Future Music Magazine

Canada's Stephen Bacchus began making ambient music when he was 14, Dubbing found sounds between two reel~to-reel tape machines. In the late 70s, he began composing with a VCS3 and has continued to explore the outer reaches of the genre ever since. "Ambient Origins" is a collection of his early works, between 1983 to 1987, focusing on gently drifting atmospherics and the kind of elegantly chilled tracks which reject beats in favor of evolving textures. Tracks like "Winter's Way" or "A Separate Moment" quietly crafted affairs which are seductive and soothing. Overall, it's an album that isn't about to change the face of music as we know it but, as a chill-out soundtrack, it works in all the right places.

Review By EER-Music

Bacchus' sonorities are consistently austere and restrained.
This is somber, serious music; if it is used for the mood-setting
purpose that ambient is supposed to fulfill, you will find yourself
wondering why your room is so cold and dark.

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Review by Artemi Pugachov

Review by Artemi Pugachov

Canadian ambient composer Stephen Bacchus is one of the leading figures of the genre. With a career spanning 4 decades, dozens of releases, both solo and in collaboration, he has gained a faithful following among lovers of ambient music.

The Keep is a retrospective of Stephen's work from 1979 to 2009, featuring unreleased tracks from various epochs. The collection opens with "Arrival", a three-minute piece recorded in 1997. The track is surprisingly rhythmic and melodic, has a relaxed, sunny mood and is imbued in the spirit of discovery and adventure.

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REVIEW:  Piero Scaruffi