Soniq Theater: Unknown Realities
Unknown Realities is the tenth album from keyboard/synth maestro Alfred Mueller under the guise Soniq Theater and for any serious lover of keyboard based progressively themed music, there is much of interest here. Unsurprisingly considering the one man nature of Soniq Theater, reference points for the music range from Vangelis, to Jarre and from Oldfield to Schulze, and also not too surprising is the lack of vocals across the entire disc.
The eleven tracks on the album have a scope that creates many interesting themes and ideas and when, as they do on a few occasions, they really come to fruition, the effect is quite spellbinding. Opening an album with one of the stand out tracks is something every artist should aim for and in the shape of "Longing For Freedom", Unknown Realities does just that. The melody line soars over a busy, yet memorable backdrop, making for an extremely uplifting theme that the song revisits throughout its near six minute length. A more gentle synth passage gives the impression of a pacey Vangelis number being played by Jan Hammer and it is that modern vibe crossed with 80's sounds that crops up throughout the album. In places it is a strong point of the music and in places can make the songs suffer slightly. The momentum of the excellent opener is maintained by the more overtly Vangelis feel of "Revealing A Dream", which could easily have come from the Greek's Albedo 0.39 album with its metallic clanging and atmospheric build.
Unfortunately the issue I have with many purely keyboard oriented albums rears its head on the next two tracks and that is the actual keyboard sound itself. "Revolution Hymn" is clunky and cumbersome in construction with the parping effects feeling more like music that would be used to add "tension" to a kid's TV show instead of the foreboding threat aimed for. The song is well played, however I just can't get away from the feeling that it's the sort of thing that Asia would throw out for being a bit cheesy. The weakly jazzy strains of "Cosmic Angel" fails to raise the standard either, with the gentle stroll through floaty, dreamy sounds trickling by without making any lasting impression whatsoever. The neo-prog fanfares and riffing keyboards improve things greatly on "Black Mustang" before another listless slower effort, "Pavillon", once more removes the momentum that had been introduced.
With that, you really have Unknown Realities summed up, when it is good, it is excellent, however too often the sounds chosen hinder some well written songs that deserve more grace in execution to raise them above "incidental". For example the bass heavy "The Nitty Gritty" really could have segued scenes in Seinfeld. That said the stronger moments do more than make up for the discs shortcomings, with the likes of the pompous bell ringing "Organic Food" or the quirky warble of "Roll the Dice" both being engaging and uplifting.
There is much to enjoy on Soniq Theater's tenth offering and if unlike me you can see past the poor choice of effects and sounds employed at times then you may be really taken by it. For the rest of us the standouts do just that and the others are purely skippable.
1. Longing for Freedom
2. Revealing a Dream
3. Revolution Hymn
4. Cosmic Angel
5. Black Mustang
7. The Nitty Gritty
8. Call of the Unknown
9. Roll the Dice
10. Organic Food
11. Slipping into the Future
Added: May 30th 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Soniq Theater Official Website
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|Soniq Theater: Unknown Realities
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-05-30 23:37:38
German instrumentalist Alfred Mueller is back under the moniker of Soniq Theater with his tenth album entitled Unknown Realities. For those of you unfamiliar with the band, Soniq Theater is actually a one man project as Mueller does everything himself from performing to mixing, recording and mastering. You can well imagine this was not an easy task and Mueller has done an admirable job. With Unknown Realities Mueller proves to be an excellent keyboard player in the vein of Rick Wakeman, Vangelis, Mike Oldfield, Jean Michelle Jarre and Jan Hammer, combined with a large helping of 70s prog like ELP, Tangerine Dream and Genesis. If you enjoy keyboard centered symphonic rock with a little bit of ambient, jazz, world and electronic music served up on the side, Soniq Theater may be the band for you.
Besides being an excellent musician Mueller also knows how to write some catchy songs as they are quite prevalent here which should satisfy those searching for a nice melody. This is mostly an upbeat album with most songs finding a mid to fast tempo groove, although there are some slower sections that provides some contrast. My only complaint is that some of the songs start to sound a little similar to one another after repeated listens and become somewhat bland. This may be due to the fact that keyboards are the main, if not the sole instrument. Regardless, Unknown Realities has enough redeeming qualities to make it quite enjoyable.
Some of my favourites include the light and airy "Pavillion" with its jazzy/folk rock vibe and the heavy bass grooves of "Roll the Dice", an electronic inspired ditty with rollicking piano. The longest song is the majestic "Revealing a Dream", cinematic in scope with grandiose keyboards and a lush arrangement of keyboard flutes and acoustic guitar. The album ends with the jazzy "Slipping into the Future" and its 80s retro sound that took me back to Zoolook era Jean Michelle Jarre.
In light of this disc sounding a little redundant, Unknown Realities should still provide many nice moments for symphonic music fans and those who especially like instrumental keyboard music.
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