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Brain Ballet
Aquarium of the Deep Sea
mag008
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1Aquarium of the Deep Sea  Preview $0.99 [Buy MP3]
2Ambient Ring  Preview $0.99 [Buy MP3]
3Universe  Preview $0.99 [Buy MP3]
4Gravity  Preview $0.99 [Buy MP3]
5I.S.S.  Preview $0.99 [Buy MP3]
6Ancient Sea  Preview $0.99 [Buy MP3]
7Brain Ring  Preview $0.99 [Buy MP3]
8Another Life  Preview $0.99 [Buy MP3]

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Selected by Wind and Wire as one of the best ambient albums of 2004.

Music from Aquarium of the Deep Sea is featured at the Tokyo Space Museum.

Also heard on the Dirt Road Radio, Star's End, and Wind & Wire radio programs.

"...must be the aural equivalent of walking on the ocean floor or gliding through the sea-green gardens of some primeval sunken city. Its a thoroughly enchanting voyage...evoking a sense of haunting serenity and quiet wonder. - Charles Van de Kree, Aural Innovations

Reviews:

Over the past few decades, aquatic themes have been popular among artists of pure electronic music. One need only point out such classics of the genre as Tangerine Dream’s Underwater Sunlight, Edgar Froese’s Aqua, Richard Vimal’s Aquarhythmies, Kitaro’s Oasis and, more recently, Future Sound of London’s Life Forms to attest to the fact. Because of the synthesizer’s almost infinite capacity to artificially generate such sounds as waves, bubbles, whale song and a plethora of other liquid-based natural phenomena, it’s perhaps surprising that only a handful of albums have been solely devoted to mapping the sonic landscape of Earth’s terrestrial seas and oceans. Brain Ballet’s Aquarium of the Deep Sea is perhaps the most recent attempt to explore the vast, murky terrain that still resonantly echoes somewhere deep within the hindbrain of every living mammal on the surface of the earth. Listening to the hushed ambience of such songs as “Ancient Sea,” “Universe” and “Aquarium of the Deep Sea” must be the aural equivalent of walking on the ocean floor or gliding through the sea green gardens of some primeval sunken city. It’s a thoroughly enchanting voyage, as if Brain Ballet deliberately choreographed music for a kind of electronic oceanographic survey. Many of the textures and sequences are appropriately muted, often evoking a sense of haunting serenity and quiet wonder. Almost child-like (though neither childish nor brazenly simplistic) in design and execution, pieces like “Brain Ring” and “Another Life” effortlessly drift along on floating waves of synthesizer, chiming bell tones, sound samples of organic life, and repetitive piano arpeggios. There are no jagged edges of sound or dissonant squeals of white noise that ever intrude upon this pleasant descent into one of the few remaining terrestrial habitats still untouched by the heavy hand of humankind. Aquarium of the Deep Sea is a deceptively clever amalgamation of tonal simplicity and psychoacoustic ingenuity.

-Charles Van de Kree


If in the techno age you think "minimal" and "melody" are not natural musical allies here's proof to the contrary. From Brain Ballet (obscure Japanese composer Hidemasa Kondo) comes this beautifully understated album of environmental ambience in the tradition of Eno's more tonal works. Aquarium Of The Deep Sea is Kondo's impressionistic tone poem of spaces both beneath the ocean and high above it. The title track incorporates submarine pings into its carefully measured phrases. "Universe" and "Gravity" are deep space hymns in the vein of Michael Stearns most cosmic music, if somewhat more minimal. "I.S.S." evokes an alien underwater world beautifully, its sense of awe created by synthesized chorales that echo Alan Silvestri's soundtrack to the underwater thriller The Abyss. Kondo's music rarely belies his Japanese origins and it doesn't need to. That said, the plucked stings of the kantong are used to good effect on "Ambient Ring" and overall the album does have that Japanese sense of poise, calm and respect for silence. -Ambient Music Guide


Magnanimous Records is a fledgling ambient label but is already displaying an uncommon knack for releasing excellent albums. While it's too early to anoint them "the next big thing," I'm confident that they are heading in the right direction. This faith in their eventual success was cemented when I heard the recording Aquarium of the Deep Sea from artist Hidemasa Kondo (recording as Brain Ballet).

Aquarium…is an excellent excursion into ambient minimalism that is warmer and more accessible than the usual soundscape inhabited by minimalists. That doesn't mean this is new agey or too "pretty" but it is a caveat for those who favor dark cold drones or music that is edgy or dramatic. Using an assortment of synthesizers and keyboards, Kondo fashions a series of short (only one track is over six minutes long) minimal sketches that are united by a sense of floating liquidity, yet all songs differ in ways that stand out under examination. Opening with the title track, Kondo brings together undulating washes, sonar-like reverberations, and twinkling/shimmering bell tones. "ambient ring" blends plucked-strings (koto-like in sound) with endlessly repeating/echoing synthetic tones, both on top of a gentle wash, and later joined by sparkling piano. "universe" feature just the blissful sound of synth chorales, soft as gently lapping waves, and varying from warm and inviting to slightly sad in tone.

Some of the other songs on the CD are "gravity" (shimmery high-pitched synth flutes and strings and some quirky and playful squiggling noises that carry a fluid squishiness to them), "i.s.s" (one of my favorites here, combining light bells, soprano and alto chorales, clanging reverberations resembling metal being struck by a hammer, and a neat dialogue sample announcing a flight departure and other related minutiae), "ancient sea" (whistling synth undercurrents, a repeating note refrain, assorted whooshing effects, and those clanging metal-on-metal sounds again), and "brain ring" which twinkles with all manner of SF-oriented synth notes and tones, counterpointed by rainstick and beautiful synth chorales.

Aquarium of the Deep Sea is a delightful recording, one that can be savored and explored or enjoyed casually on the first playing, suited for direct listening or as Eno-like sonic wallpaper. Kondo's assorted synthesizers are always high quality (his bell tones and chorale work, in particular, are without fault). The minimalism of the compositions serves to reinforce the "feel" of water throughout the recording, although I can't articulate why I make that statement, but I believe it to be true. While I hesitate to use the term "pretty" or "sweet" when describing an ambient album, Aquarium…is so much more "positive" in feel than so many ambient recordings that it's one you will reach for when you want to be cheered up, but not to the point of resorting to sugar and spice and everything nice. I guess in that way it's like taking a walk on an empty beach on a warm day; it's refreshing yet not overwhelming to your senses, instead gently drawing you in, and putting you under its spell of calm and respite from worry and care.

Highly recommended.

-Bill Binkleman Wind and Wire

This ambient sculpture begins with a nifty bleep-fest and soothing synths that cleanse the pallet. The soundscapes produced are that of mysterious adventures deep into the heart of hearts and present emotive ways to stimulate your body—but in a subtle almost subversive way that never intrudes too deep instead opting for relaxation and moody atmospheric massage. Sure it’s brainy but it’s not exclusive whatsoever; indeed “Aquarium of the Deep Sea” is an ocean of musical and ambient delight that jollies about with the best of the best.
- J-Sin Smother.net