CATALOG > Lost Caverns of Thera
Lost Caverns of Thera is, easily, keyboardist Brannan Lane¹s most ambitious work. It¹s his first crack at ambient music (aside from one or two cuts on Caribbean Dream) and it is a winner, plain and simple. The music on the CD is, by and large, extremely minimal and has a strong organic feel to it owing to the presence of nature sounds (most notably the sound of water dripping in underwater caverns) as well as an undercurrent that is downright creepy at times. Yet I don¹t know as I would say this is dark ambient music either. It¹s more drenched (pun semi-intended) in an explorative mystery vibe than anything else. The preceding statement is not indicative of me being a genius, either. There are extensive liner notes about the whys and wherefores of this album, which I refuse to divulge here since it¹s too cool to read the notes as one hears the music for the first time.
Using an assortment of keyboards and exotic (and mostly tribal, if not downright primal) percussion, Brannan has delivered an album that does what few recordings can do as well as Lost Caverns of Thera does, i.e. take the listener on an almost palpable voyage. It¹s easy to close my eyes (or turn the lights out) and visualize myself in these caves. YIKES! Well, forget what I said about the music not being scary. It's actually more than a little unnerving to hear all the maxi-echoed clickings, clackings, drippings and ploppings, all with an undercurrent of what sound like the sighing of Mother Earth herself at times! The synths sometimes have a deeply resonating bell-like quality to them, but done in a minor key so that all trace of light is absent from the tone. All in all, the result is both beautiful and menacing at the same time.
I'd say that this music bears some resemblance to the more ³subterranean² work from artists like Robert Rich, Steve Roach, and Lightwave. It¹s not as dissonant as the Germans, not as organic as Robert and not as tribal as Steve. Instead, it¹s a hybrid that won me over on first listen. That¹s a real testament for such a minimal and ambient album (sometimes, all you hear are the water droplets echoing into the distance...until an ominous wail or ³thud² comes out of nowhere, that is!). With many ambient recordings, it can five or six listens before I "get it." Not with this one, though. In fact, I can¹t imagine for the life of me that fans of Soma, Caverns of Sirens, Well of Souls, A Troubled Resting Place, or Tycho Brahe would not enjoy this album (although, Lightwave's sound is not as sparse as this recording is at times).
While there are actual "cuts" on Lost Caverns of Thera, and the music does indeed evolve over the course of its sixty-plus minutes, the album is more like Rich's and Lustmord's Stalker. The "songs" are more or less just "cues" for CD players. To not play this album in its entirety significantly lessens the impact. (Boy, the song "Death from Above" sure gets creepy at the end...I forgot just how much so until I revisited it just now).
"Into the Light" (clocking in at eleven-plus minutes) closes the album and if you were expecting some kind of triumphant fanfare-like song, forget it. You do finally hear something cheery in the way of birds, and the flowing of water seems to indicate that you are coming near the surface, perhaps into a grotto or cave opening into the sea, but the musical mood is still one of reverence and subtle awe. Eventually, the music disappears, replaced by more water and bird noises, until later in the cut when a shimmering series of synths emerge (the sun?).
I¹m not sure how I feel about this as a climax to the album. Thematically, it fits perfectly. But I¹m left a little bit unfulfilled. Not enough to change my mind about the CD, though. I¹d rank this as one of the better ambient releases of 2000. Brannan Lane has revealed his talent in three distinct genres of music now. Troposphere, his fourth release, is coming out soon, and if I understand the liner notes correctly, it¹ll be his first foray into spacemusic. After absorbing Lost Caverns of Thera more than a few times, and feeling its ability to transport me into the depths of the earth so vividly, I have no doubt that whatever genre Brannan tackles next will have met its match. Apparently, the guy can do no wrong.
~ Bill Binkelman
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