Songs of the Alchemist

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The term electronica has, in the '90s and 2000s, been used to describe a wide variety of electronic music; electronica could be anything from the most harsh and abrasive techno to something as hauntingly ethereal as Aurah's Songs of the Alchemist. This ambient disc is far from abrasive; Marc Dold and Judith Martin (who comprise the duo Aurah) show listeners how dreamy electronica can be. Dold and Martin wear different hats on this material, some of which features Martin on lead vocals and some of which is instrumental. In addition to singing, Martin provides synthesizers and flute; Dold, meanwhile, helps with the synthesizers and contributes acoustic guitar, bass, violin, and percussion. Some electronica experts might wonder whether a CD that uses so many acoustic instruments is really electronica -- if an album is only partly programmed instead of totally programmed, should it still be called electronica? In Aurah's case, yes. The synthesizers are quite prominent, and they are an integral part of the sound that Martin and Dold bring to ambient, atmospheric tunes like "Dreams Come True" and "I Can See." Those are among the tracks that feature Martin on lead vocals; the instrumentals are equally noteworthy, and some of them incorporate elements of Spanish flamenco and North African music. Songs of the Alchemist was inspired by the work of Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, who is best-known for his book The Alchemist. But one doesn't have to be familiar with Coelho's writing to appreciate Aurah's CD. Regardless of how much one knows -- or doesn't know -- about Coelho's work, Songs of the Alchemist stands on its own as an appealing example of electronica's calmer, more peaceful side.

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