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Kevin Keller – Ice Worlds

Kevin Keller’s first few albums were heavy on the synthesizers, but much of his recent music has been “acoustic,” even orchestral in one case. “Ice Worlds” is something of a throwback, then, to his beginnings. Made entirely with a vast array of synthesizers and samplers, “Ice Worlds” casts Keller in the role of a more melodic Klaus Schulze, the cool sheen of his keyboard timbres reflecting a snowy landscape.

Vintage gear abounds (Moog, ARP, Roland), with even an Olympia typewriter and a Bissell vacuum cleaner listed among the album’s instruments, leading one to describe this music as not merely “electronic”, but more aptly, electric.

While the title “Ice Worlds” may conjure thoughts of frozen wastelands, it seems Keller is one of those artists who actually enjoys winter. Many tracks are disarmingly upbeat, taking us across terrain that, while definitely on the cool side, is more like what Deadmau5 might spin at an arctic discotheque where heavy bass beats are traded in for the crunch of ice and snow.

The album plays out like a galactic travelogue of sorts, propelling the listener from one ice world to another, with foreign astronaut chatter suggesting the vastness of unexplored space. This is “kosmische musik” in the truest sense.

Each world has its own distinct mood. While there are moments of somber reflection (like the dark, minor-key “Ice World 3″), a percolating rhythm will always come along to lift them back up. Even the sinister opening of “Ice World 5”, its eerily oscillating tones reminiscent of some “Forbidden Planet” episode, shifts mood with a reassuring arpeggio and a music box melody. Unlike much of today’s electronic music, the rhythms of “Ice Worlds” are never over-insistent pounding, but rather pitched patterns providing the beat organically, with drum-like sounds often buttressing the rhythm in a low-key way. The one exception is the brooding “Ice World 7”, which seems to float suspended over an alien dreamscape.

“Ice World 8” brings the album to an emotional conclusion. Our anonymous astronaut seems a bit pensive at first, perhaps travel-weary and homesick, but gradually we feel him getting pumped up for the next adventure. Where he may go from “Ice World 8” is unknown, but we know where we’re going: back to the beginning to listen again, over and over.

The CD is available on Bandcamp

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