More melodic and dynamic than many ambient projects, Outer Worlds is a collection of live performances by Chicago guitarist Kurt Michaels. With a playing style that doesn't really sound like a guitar at all - more like a synth - Michaels coaxes compelling and surreal soundscapes that maintain the listener's attention.
Recorded between 2004 and 2006, these six pieces provide a 75-minute platform for U-Magazine's 2004 Ambient Artist of the Year to showcase his layered, improvisational approach that recalls both the moody air of Tangerine Dream and the looping techniques of Robert Fripp. The first three tracks – "Señor Wences," "Lamb Chop" and "Chucky" – are culled from his 2006 opening-act performance for The Syn, at the time featuring Yes' Chris Squire and Alan White. (In fact, Outer Worlds – a sequel of sorts to Michaels' 2004 solo debut studio set Inner Worlds – was released on Umbrello Records, The Syn's label.) Keyboardist Jim Gully accompanies Michaels on those pieces. Meanwhile, keyboardist John Melnick joins him on the 44-minute magnum opus "One," which comes alive with piano cascades and flashes of percussion.
This is a worthy introduction to one man's lively take on what can often be a passive genre.
1) Señor Wences
2) Lamb Chop
4) Jade Princess
5) Hitch Hiker on Venus