Jeff Kowal - acoustic and electric instruments, drums, percussion, didgeridoo, electric guitars, bass, bansuri and PVC flutes, and a modular analog system
- The Ghost In Me
Following his widely acclaimed 2004 release, The Gate, Jeff Kowal (aka Terra Ambient) now delves deeply into his most personal space, sculpting a sonic cathartic experience for all to hear.
"Itís a journal," says Kowal. "What started out as an expected sequel to my previous release, turned into an emotional sketchbook of some major changes in my life, including a move to the American Southwest."
Previously on "The Gate", Kowal used strictly acoustic and live recordings to express himself, but this time he turns to the use of electronics and synthesizers to find a deeper voice in Wanderlust. Kowal explains, "Re-integrating digital and electronic sound sources helped me to capture some of the gritty, subtle and grandiose sounds that this music needed."
Wanderlust does in fact range from the subtle to the grandiose: epic, sweeping and luscious, Wanderlust plays more like a movie soundtrack than an ambient CD. Delicately balanced between tribal, ethno-acoustic earthiness and searing electronic pads and leads, Wanderlust takes the listener on a journey.
"Sometimes the music is expansive, sometimes itís quiet and myopic," says Kowal. "Once the project started to gel, it really became something to dive into and get lost with."
Aside from synthesizers, Kowal brings many other acoustic and electric instruments into the mix, including frame drums and percussion, didgeridoo, electric guitars, bass, bansuri and PVC flutes, and a modular analog system.
2009. Press Information
Jeff Kowal aka Terra Ambient has released his 3rd album (2nd on Lotuspike) just before the summer of 2009, so quite a long time passed since 2004 when his previous applauded "The Gate" album was released. The album opens very quietly with "Myth", but this piece grows slowly into more dramatic and grandiose parts featuring harsh guitars. Quite a radical change when comparing to more peaceful soundscaping of "The Gate". But don't be scared, this fresh blend of deep atmospherics, tribal beats and expressive guitars is another step in Jeff's highly crafted and refined sound sculpting. His tribal ambience finely infused with right amount of roughness sounds absolutely exciting, a truly extraordinary listening experience from the very beginning of "Wanderlust"!!! "Mudfoot" is another standout piece carefully melting electronics with wide range of acoustics, highly turbulent composition, again enriched by treated guitars. What a beauty! Mysteriousl y deep atmospherics on "Visionquest" later transform into percussion-driven texture with crispy pulsing electronics, a really ear-catching cut! Organics open title track "Wanderlust", but soon this composition moves into absolutely exciting level where deeper washes and gentle tribal beats are spiced by expressive flutes, didgeridoos, bells and strange otherwordly sounds. Man, this must be one of the most sophisticated and distinct tracks Jeff ever made and also one of my personal faves in the genre!!! "Mammoth" attracts with its more minimal structure with slowly developing and more active rich desert ambience. Deeper drones on "Epilogue" are nicely colored with storm sounds and highly evocative flute work, primordial ambience at its best!!! Album closer, "The Ghost In Me", is another highly nature-influenced track, this time attractively colored with delicate piano tunes, but also by additional guitar ambience magics of Jeff Pearce. A track with truly tranquilizing effect!
What to write at the end? "Wanderlust", with outstanding sound quality, is not only the most colorful work of Terra Ambient, but also the most refined and polished one showing skilled artistry of this Lotuspike co-owner. Great job, Jeff!!! You can be sure that "Wanderlust" takes me each time on my own journey.
2011. Richard GŁrtler / Bratislava, Slovakia
After a hiatus of five years, Jeff Kowal, aka Terra Ambient, returns with "Wanderlust", described by Jeff as an emotional sketchbook of some major changes in my life.
In more than one way, the music on it has something of a grand design, featuring some sort of soundtrack with both expansive as miniature sound excursions. The music, which has a great entrance with the powerful "Myth", is given all the space to slowly build into subtlety ("Visionquest") or expansiveness.
It also sees a return to the use of synthesizers and sophisticated electronics, next to a wide range of treated sounds from electric and acoustic guitars, drums and percussion and flutes.
The outcome is a varied tapestry of ethno-tribal, strong organic flavoured music, gritty elements and fluid, transparent, overall textural synth pads next to deep bass grooves.
The use of flutes and, frame drums and ethnic sequencing made me vaguely think of Robert Rich ("Mudfoot"), although Solitaire and Steve Roach also came to mind. Between all this, the airy, dreamy and deep immersive impact of the title track creates a expansive, reflective space of its own.
Especially the subtle, multi-layered sound textures give this music a great sense of density and depth, which must have been quite a job to accomplish.
It all makes "Wanderlust" an absolute joy to listen to.
All in all, well done, Mr Kowal!
Bert Strolenberg / Sonic Immersion
In 2004 we discovered a project by the name of "Terra Ambient" where his music had a reference to his name and "Ambient" was inspired by our planet. Our old acquaintance, Jeff Kowal, was behind that project. Five years later, "Terra Ambient" returns with "Wanderlust".
"Wanderlust" is a grandiose and epic work where the composerís mastery is shown and where he utilizes electronic instruments mixed to perfection with percussions, didgeridoos, electric guitars, flutes and analogical modules.
This is a record (CD) that you enjoy right from the start, with an spectacular "Myth" which starts us in this musical journey, traversing thru "Wanderlust" which gives the record its title, and ending with "The Ghost In Me", a perfect way of closing this master work. The style fits within the "Ambient" but it is not limited to it. Instead, it is also found in elements of tribal music, of ethno acoustic music, which makes the ensemble spectacular.
"Wanderlust" is the return of "Terra Ambient" and a project that is authoritative in its contents and form. It needs to be listened slowly to appreciate its colorful tones and hues as well as exploring the most profound places of our planet, transported by those wonderful sounds.
2009. Roberto Vales / A Ultima Fronteria
The new album by Terra Ambient has itís own tone, itís own vibe, itís own and true magic. Have to say, took a second listening session before we got into the right stream sort of speak. Thatís what the daily circumstances do to us. Start.
First of all, never heard a fade-in like the first track of this album; from zero decibels to a room filled with Terra Ambient in couple of minutes. The mix is golden. The mood is just right for starting your day as well as ending is and go to bed. Jeff has done a fantastic job with this Ďlayeredí production: thereís so much to discover each time youíll hear this album. It seems it never stops to develop, simply fantastic!.
Terra Ambient is Jeff Kowal. Jeff has been an active musician for over 15 years. Both formally trained and self-taught, Jeffís musical interests and influences span a wide spectrum of cultures. This crossover of electronic, ethnic, acoustic and experimental sounds has become the foundation of his work. Terra Ambientís award-winning work can be heard in solo projects, as well as in collaborations with other artists, commercial and independent movie score, and gallery installations.
Wanderlust is a dramatic album of cinematic ambience and globally influenced rhythmic soundscaping. The lush textures on the CD are formed through a combination of dense layers combining synthesisers and treated guitars, yet despite this emphasis on artificial sound sources, the music here is very organic in nature even before the additional international instruments make an appearance. The beats are a somewhat hypnotic blend of programmed sounds and hand percussion - Taos drums, frame drums, congas and other real skin surfaces softening the distantly tribal grooves. Sequencer patterns tinkle, shakers rattle, bansuri and didgeridoo lift or deepen the drones.
The mood of Wanderlust is at times one of dramatic expanse - the thick beds of sound suggestive of immense vistas and open skies. In other places the mood darkens and Terra ambient wanders into shadowy freeform zones of mystery. The general pace of the album is ponderous, unhurried - the bulk of the tracks welling up gradually around beatless introductions, the percussion arriving well along into the music. The final two recordings are beatless - the concluding piece featuring some gentle piano and environmental recordings evoking visions of the sun emerging after rainfall - a very attractive piece and the most overtly melodic of the suite.
Wanderlust arrives in a jewel case with a two panel insert. Front cover imagery appropriately features a sweeping landscape open to the enormity of a cloud thickened sky. A somewhat more intimate scene of similar tone appears on the rear - here smoothed out with motion blur. The track titles and brief credits find a place here as well as website and Myspace details for Terraambient. The Insert holds what appears to be a candid image of the artist in a private home on the remaining outer section. Opening up an effulgent spray of sunbeams descend from dark, dark clouds - a panorama filling both panels. Further information is on the leftmost - a paragraph on the Wanderlust project followed by a gear list, thanks and other explanatory snippets.
Jeff Kowal otherwise known as Terra Ambient returns after a five year gap with his latest album Wanderlust.
The 2004 album The Gate was initially the springboard for the new work with the intention being to build on the strictly live and acoustic approach employed for that album. However, things change and music tends to go where it will - consequently the new material has a heavy synthetic content, a blend of world instruments and programmed sound, rich fusions of percussion sources. Jeff has been making music now for over fifteen years and the seven new compositions here benefit from his formal training, multi-cultural musical interests and forays into television, film and galley installation.
Wanderlust might well appeal to fans of Steve Roach, Na-Koja-Abad - less minimal than extreme ambient by a long way.
Jeff Kowal aka Terra Ambient makes ambient new age music with hints of several influences ranging from Robert Rich to Steve Roach, Patrick OíHearn to Harold Budd, and others.
"Myth" starts the album so subtly that the music is nearly inaudible for the first minute, until a slow tribal beat and gently floating washes of sound fade in. The intensity builds nicely after that, leading into powerful soaring guitars that perfectly amplify the mood.
Bright, brisk, tinkling percussion at the start of "Mudfoot" reminds me a lot of "Primes" from Robert Richís Geometry CD. It also throws in some deep bass reminiscent and tribal touches reminiscent of the Ma Ja Le and Vir Unis collaboration Imaginarium. Guitars feature prominently here with another strong solo.
Things cool down for the next three tracks with mellow earthy ambience. "Visionquest," in particular, develops very nicely. Although it evolves quite slowly, by the end it is a totally different, much more active piece. For the title track, chimes and a haunting wind are joined by slow tribal beats and warm flowing synth sounds.
"Mammoth" has an appropriately primeval quality about it, contrasted nicely with modern electronic sounds percolating up once in a while. "Epilogue" is the most subdued track so far and possibly my favorite. Rain and thunder herald the closing track, "The Ghost in Me," with sparse piano giving it a new age feel, a nice relaxed way to finish.
2009. Phil Derby / Electroambient Space
Recording under the name Terra Ambient soundscape artist Jeff Kowal brings together his passion for Ambient and World Music in an impressionistic synthesis of texture, sound and atmosphere. The CD title Wanderlust (51'26") epitomizes his drift between and across genres and disciplines.
Kowal's fascinating musical realm is part digital, part primordial, and lies amidst his native flutes and tribal drums and the samplers and synthesizers he manipulates and programs to produce what seems like a lost continent of sound. The more energetic sections are propelled by percussion riffs that snake through each piece - stiffening like a spine.
This area of Kowal's music is more about cycles than bars and measures. There are also many passages of ethereal bliss where reverberant pads move like slow clouds on the horizon and glowing tones flex and fade off into the hum of the universe. Composing music that is informed by molecular whispers in the blood yet still seems searching for a future; the work of Terra Ambient successfully joins technology and spirituality.
Wanderlust does more than provide an atmosphere, this music provokes the imagination and gets to places we did not know were there.
2009. Chuck van Zyl / STAR'S END
Terra Ambient create a vibrant collection of themes, setting from approaches near to Ambient Tribal, and exploring various melodic and symphonic in a very imaginative manner.
Some of the melodies present in the album have a suggestive epic air typical of a swords and sorcery story. To this magic, mysterious touch specially contributes the very successful combination among unearthly atmospheres generated by the synthesizers and the acoustic textures with an archaic taste such as those present in the percussion. In fact, for some of the sampled sounds the artist has counted on the help of Michael Stearns.
Another additional collaboration is the one by Jeff Pearce, who has participated with additional guitars in the theme "The ghost in me".