Electric Diamond (Stuart Diamond who plays the Lyricon wind synthesizer) combines live performance with the many possibilities of computer and MIDI sequencing. Other members of the group include violinist Karen Bentley and Don Slepian, a pioneer composer of new age electronic music. (His The Sea of Bliss is a classic.) All performances were recorded live, with no overdubbing. Slepian extended his possibilities by using foot pedals. The album opens with a suite of five "Dances from the Middle Ages." These short tunes take advantage of Diamond's Lyricon, an instrument that electronically transforms the player's breath into medieval shawms, long trumpets, and other ancient horns. The melodies are played straight -- well, slightly twisted -- but the spacy electronic wizardry of Don Slepian makes them snappy and resplendent with the pageantry and frolic of courtyards past. Karen Bentley plays a passionate violin for the second suite, "Arcadia." Two are modern chamber music duets with "piano" (Ravel's music a close comparison) that conjure tree groves and midwinter frosts, while "The Furnace" blasts with electric horns and whirlpools of sparks. The third suite, "The Shades of Light," progresses from crystalline calm (Bentley's violin flutters on warm currents of vibraphone and string bass) to a piece that races at greyhound speed. The "Sirens" suite and "Painted Clouds" moved me even farther into the realms of spirit, sensuousness, and drama, as did "The Way In," with its haunting trumpet theme.
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