Produced, composed, performed and engineered by Ralf Knappe-Heinbockel and Throsten Reinhardt.
- Starlight Casino [9:49]
- Chroma [6:37]
- The Frogs [7:16]
- Shadows in the Basement [8:23]
- Hydra [7:09]
- M 8812 [5:44]
- Energy Brand [13:01]
- Alpha Order [4:49]
- Pallas [6:32]
- Mura [3:24]
The German duo Hemisphere, consisting of Ralf Knappe-Heinbockel (synths) and Thorsten Reinhardt (synths, guitar) produce a style of music that can best be described as "ambient" but actually has a complete sound of its own. Therefore, it doesn’t let itself be compared easily with other artists in that area. So, this makes their music special.
Hemishere music is sometimes dark and sometimes uplifting, sometimes with modern rhythms. But it always sounds as Hemisphere: full, rich, very well played and very well produced.
"Shadows In The Basement" is a quite dark affair. You might ask yourself the question "What lives in Hemisphere’s basement?". The end of the track, with beautiful strings reminding of the great Mellotron, is very moody.
"Hydra", with pounding drums, reminds a bit of the eighties.
"Energy Brand" is a fast piece with some Tangerine Dream-touches. Thorsten plays acoustic guitar in "Pallas", again a rhythmic track.
Ambient "with a twist". That is the music of Hemisphere.
2003. Press information
Spooky or cosmic starts to albums or tracks are really fairly standard Electronic Music practice but the tapestry of dark sounds we have at the beginning of 'Starlight Casino' really are of the very highest order. On one hand there is a warmth to them and on the other an uneasy edginess. A really deep melodic bass line becomes the main feature along with a percussive rhythm. Delicate bright timpani and soft wordless female vocal colouring (a major feature of the track) completes a quite gorgeous picture. Gentle tinkling piano is used sparingly taking us forward, reminding me a little of Code Indigo. This is highly melodic, gently rhythmic but above all beautiful stuff.
There is a sort of dreamy softness to ‘Chroma’. Sighing pads waft across the ether with, again, just the faintest touch of piano. It’s a bit like ‘Planetary Chronicles’ Jonn Serrie I suppose but with also a touch of Michael Neil.
The mood becomes a lot darker for ‘The Frogs’. A squelchy rhythm strikes up. At around the four-minute mark an ethnic flute joins proceedings, giving things a rather mysterious ‘Eastern’ feel. Yet another excellent composition.
You would expect ‘Shadows in the Basement’ to be rather creepy and indeed that is what you get. It would have gone well with a Sci Fi horror film such as ‘Alien’.
‘Hydra’ really picks up the pace again as a blistering rhythm provides quite a heavy frame around which delicate pads swirl like an autumn mist. The main drums subside from time to time so that percussive loops can shine thorough, the change in pace and ‘feel’ maintaining interest.
Solar winds blow as ‘M8812’ takes us to the depths of space. A similar sound palette is used to the earlier 'Shadows…’ so again it’s all rather spooky.
This uneasiness continues through to ‘Energy Brand’ with the addition of all sorts of other effects including crashing metal and various sounds from Hell. A pulse arrives in the second minute and the pads soften a little. A rapid sequence breaks through which completely transforms the track into an ideal piece of music for driving far too fast to.
I felt like I needed a bit of a breather after such a stormer and ‘Alpha Order’ was just perfect. Lie back and relax on the back of some gentle pads, almost like the sea breaking on the shore.
‘Pallas’ is gently rhythmic with a nice bass line and dreamy little melodic touches including some lovely subtle guitar licks.
'Mura' is all rather angelic and soothing.
From the artwork it looked like it was the final track but no, there is an extra piece of music not listed (so I don’t know the title). It does however have a very similar mood and feel to the previous track. This is an album covering quite a few styles, each wonderfully done.
Excellent cd!!!!!!!!! Nice dark ambient passages, few great sequencer pieces.
I can say Hemisphere seems to get better with every piece of work they do.
2004. Mike / US
By combining elements from Ambient, Atmospheric Pop, Synth-Pop, Techno and Trance, Hemisphere create compositions where the melodies of a sensual, romantic hue, not lacking in mystery, have an important role. The emotional air of the music is emphasized by the warm textures of the synthesizers.
The rhythms, of a rather slow nature, yet often powerful, complex and with an important percussive component, complement tbe basic approach of this album.
2004. Edgar Kogler
Beast in the Heat is one of the finest CD’s in the new European e-music tradition. Ralf and Thorsten surround heavy and prolonged sequences with vast atmospheres and deep drones. They surround the atmospheres and drones with sequences. The structure resembles a Max Escher print.
The music flows constantly with no beginning and no end. The most unique feature of this disc is, however, its organic sequences. Very few artists are able to create sci-fi sequences with organic textures. Ralf and Thorsten are two of them.
This disc is one of 2003’s highlights.
2004. Jim Brenholts
Hemisphere is known for their unique brand of Berlin school music, slipping in to their own dark niche of the genre, heavier on the ambient eerie textures than most.
So at the start of "Starlight Casino" it seems to be standard Hemisphere territory, floating in the formless shadows. But an unusual thing happens three minutes in. A lazy bass line and a shuffling beat emerge. A soft female vocal caresses the ear. Look at the title of the song, and listening to it you start thinking, is Hemisphere doing a disc of EM lounge music? Well, even if they were, this is really a cool way to start the CD, but fear not, it isn't all that way.
Next up is "Chroma", all atmosphere, no beats, though not quite as dark as Hemisphere can sometimes be.
"The Frogs" starts to go deeper, but the light shuffling beat and bass return. I liked this cool beat on the first track, and I still like it here. It’s soothing, it’s hip, and it works.
"Shadows in the Basement" is what you might expect from the name, amorphous ambient atmospherics. I'm trying to place the movie the sound clip is from, sounds like Harrison Ford but I'm not certain.
"Hydra" surprises by heading into a full-on dance beat. Petia Huschle’s sexy wordless vocals enhance the mood.
"M8812" is the most ominous track on the disc, haunting and exceptional.
The longest track is "Energy Brand", and once it gets going it does indeed have irresistible energy.
This again threatens to head into dance territory, although the beat isn't nearly as stomping as on "Hydra".
After another floater in the form of "Alpha Order", "Pallas" returns to a steady beat, and of all things acoustic guitar. But this surprising number is among my favorites, with its contagious melody and rhythms.
"Mura" follows, again ambient but this time bright and shimmering. Not content to stay this cheery for long, the title track returns us to the depths for the end.
2003. Phil Derby / Electroambient Space
If one associates with a "school" of music these days, one has to be careful to avoid the path that will lead to a creative straightjacket. Nowhere is this more true than in the field of electronic music where there appear to be as many schools as there schools of fish in the ocean, each with advantages and disadvantages.
The "Berlin School" is one such potential straightjacket, bringing to mind the heyday of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze and the styles associated with their music; the most recognizable of which include minor key melodies, rhythmic, arpeggiated and overlapping sequences, and long, dreamy, held ambient pads with interesting birdcall or bell tone effects used as an overlay.
Hemisphere has been associated with the Berlin School, but , like its best practitioners, has declined to don the accompanying straightjacket. The result in this case is a happy one for the listener who is treated to a creative, modern set that explores musical expression rather than a recording of something resembling a tribute band.
The group, which presently consists of Ralf Knappe-Heinbockel and Thorsten Reinhardt, probably got its Berlin School tag from the atmospheric pads that dominate its arrangements because ,while there is very creative use of rhythm throughout, only one track contains anything similar to a "Berlin " sequence. What makes this set stand out from the pack is the creative arrangements and the expressiveness of the ambient flights. This is an exceptional set that will hold your attention whether you are fond of the Berlin School or like newer downtempo ambient chill.
The first track, "Starlight Casino" begins with ambient whooshes and long sustained synth tones and effects that resemble the opening of a live Tangerine Dream concert from 1976. However the piece soon morphs into a delightful downtempo groove, with a compelling, expressive, mysterious wordless vocal from Petia Huschle. The percussion accompanying this track is excellent, modern-sounding without dominating the track.
"Chroma" begins with a tranquil ambient soundscape that sustains a thoughtful mood throughout. This allows the floating pads and effects that are inserted into the piece to become a focus without detracting from the background soundscape.
"The Frogs" begins with synth effects and whirring and whooshing sounds taking center stage and effectively becoming integrated with a modern sounding "slow groove'. The contrast of old and new sounds sustains interest where it might not otherwise develop.
The track segues seamlessly into "Shadows In The Basement". This expressive piece develops with a sad sounding mellotron theme in the foreground and some effective whispery vocal sounds toward the end.
"Hydra" continues using whispered sounds as a source of electronic transformation but also changes the mood with a slightly menacing sounding uptempo percussion riff, coupled with creative and interesting filter sweeps. Guitar and Brazilian percussion are added and the groove is modulated cleverly throughout. The piece closes with an inventive short theme based n the harmony of the opening riffs.
"MBB12", a short soundscape follows, which serves to introduce the longest piece "Energy Brand'', which contains the long awaited "Berlin" sequence. This sequence, while rhythmically accented, is buttressed by some well-integrated 4 on the floor percussion, and the resonance and brightness of the sequence have the effect of propelling the track forward in a very enjoyable manner. Although it is the longest track, it goes by very quickly.
"Alpha Order" is a pretty soundscape introduction to "Pallas" where a syncopated groove is laid down as a backdrop for tasteful acoustic guitar overlays and creative delayed sequences that sustain interest.
"Mura" the set closer features beautiful shimmering choral pads over a string sound that evokes yearning.
The final bonus track ( track 11 on my player, although only 10 tracks are listed on the cd) is another soundscape, very brief and darker than the ones before. It left me awaiting their further journeys with interest.
I thought this CD was one of the best I heard last year. Hemisphere offer a blueprint for creativity with the use of old and new electronic elements to stimulate emotional response in the listener.
2004. Mark Morton / Wind and Wire