Gathering Series Graphic

The Gatherings

various artists:

The Ministry of Inside Things
Ben Neill
Steve Roach
Robert Rich
Kevin Bartlett
Jeff Greinke

The Gatherings The year 2002 marked the tenth anniversary of the first concert in The Gatherings Concert Series, Philadelphia's premiere concert series of innovative music from the ambient, electronic and space music worlds. Over the years, nearly every concert has been recorded and archived. An anthology of excerpts from early performances from the series has been produced and compiled onto one CD. The Gatherings (volume 1) was released on 11 August 2002 at The Gatherings CD Release Party and is available for a modest donation to CIMA of PA.

The Gatherings (volume 1) CD contains over 60 minutes of live music, unique performances taken from past concerts by some of our community's greatest talents. Included on the disc are previously unreleased live selections donated by: The Ministry of Inside Things, Bionaut, Ben Neill, Steve Roach, Robert Rich, Kevin Bartlett and Jeff Greinke.

MoIT Bionaut Ben Neill Steve Roach Robert Rich Kevin Bartlett Jeff Greinke

THE GATHERINGS compact disc includes music by:

  • The Ministry of Inside Things: "While the Rest of the World Sleeps" (5:44)
    Chuck van Zyl and Peter Gulch have been influenced by the Berlin School of Electronic music. Their spacemusic has been described as linear, leading the listener across rich sonic terrain. Based on improvisation, MoIT create electronic realizations that flow from theme to theme, transporting the audience on an internal sonic excursion.

  • Bionaut: "Astral Unraveller" (5:51)
    believe that live performance is the path to creativity. Chris Green and Paul Eggleston create entire electronic realizations through spontaneous interaction in the live setting.

  • Ben Neill: "Chemistry of 7" (8:38)
    combines spacey ambiences, trip-hop, jungle beats and virtuosic playing on the "Mutantrumpet". His multi-layered live performances are controlled in real-time from his custom built trumpet. The sound from the trumpet and input from controllers mounted on the instrument are fed into a computer running interactive software. All of the synthesizer parts and drum patterns behind the trumpet melodies are triggered and controlled live.

  • Steve Roach: "New Planet Passage" (17:16)
    is considered a pioneer in contemporary electronic music and a leading innovator in the atmospheric/tribal/ambient music world. Roach is a rare constant as live performer on the international electronic music scene. With over 40 albums to his credit he continues to set the standards by which this evolving genre is measured.

  • Robert Rich: "Mosaic" (14:52)
    creates a world of primordial mystery and intense beauty in his music. Electronics merge seamlessly with primitive instruments in lush atmospheres. Above it all float melodies played on bamboo flute and steel guitar. With the fabric of this hypnotic journey, Rich weaves a connection between human cultures both past and present, near and far.

  • Kevin Bartlett: "GDS1? Ask Larissa, she knows" (9:50)
    performs on synthesizers, guitar and a multitude of effect devices. His musical dream excursions evoke a personal visual experience for the listener.

  • Jeff Greinke: "Vocal Overlay" (5:17)
    is a musician, composer, performer, sound sculptor and visual artist who is known worldwide for his unique sound. Through a highly developed process of layering, Greinke composes and performs music rich in texture, depth, mood and subtle detail.


Thanks very much to all the artists who've donated their music for this project!


Selected Reviews

Review - Various Artists: The Gatherings

Compiling seven of the artists from Philadelphia's ongoing ambient events, the gatherings flows as a 68-minute tapestry of interwoven highlights. Nice stuff, particularly for those of us who can't make it to a live Gathering.

Deep pulsations occur "while the rest of the world sleeps", crisscrossed with light flutestreams and soft percussion, courtesy of the ministry of inside things. That zone slips seamlessly into bionaut's "astral unraveller", a spacey realm of fluttering wisps, low drones and other celestial projections. The nighttime mixtures of "chemistry of 7" by ben neill merge trickling and blooping electronics with hornsounds and sporadic drumplay (eventually coalescing into a smart groove).

Even before the didge emerges, the shift into Steve Roach's arid delights of "New Planet Passage" (17:15) is evident in its convergence of twilight skies and desert terrain; throbbing/clattering rhythms steer through shapeshifting soundclouds of entrancing wonder. Robert Rich constructs his elegant "Mosaic" of ethereal vapors, elusive tonal colorings and sparkling sprinkles. Simply lovely.

Misty essences drift from the spacious portal into kevin bartlett's enigmatically titled "gds1? ask larissa, she knows". Funky name aside, the sounds within sweep and swoop into compelling nebulous vagaries; eventually sparse guitar plucks begin to wander over the swelling contours. In the only "non-live" track, jeff greinke emits high-and-low layers of drone-strata apparently with some larynx-power in the thrumming currents of "vocal overlay" (5:16).

Ambient music done right by those who do it best... the gatherings brings captured-live soundscenes home, filling your space with A-level listening. Impressive work from all involved.

-David P. Opdyke/ 6 October 2002

Review - Various Artists: The Gatherings

The Gatherings are a series of electronic music concerts held in Philadelphia in loose conjunction with the WXPN radio show "Star's End", which focuses on dreamy electronic music. This thoroughly engaging 67 minute CD collects tracks culled from some of these performances by:

The Ministry of Inside Things (aka Chuck van Zyl from Xisle and Peter Gulch from Nightcrawlers) offer a sonic journey into realms inspired by the Berlin School of electronics, evoking the lilting strains of heavily sequenced riffs in a drifting manner.

Bionaut (aka Christopher Green and Paul Eggleston) deliver a somber piece that blends ambient tones with more jarring sounds to produce a dreamlike passage into the depths of consciousness.

Ben Neill's track escalates the pace with lively textures and persnickety percussives. Pulsating quasi-trumpets fuse a jazziness with the ambient flow.

Steve Roach contributes a 17 minute section from a 1996 gig (in support of his "On This Planet" CD). Typically masterful with relaxing tones and softly emerging tribal instruments, this music captures the mood of passing through regions of limitless clouds.

Robert Rich's track is a 15 minute performance (from 1996) of an ancient (1991) composition, modernized with contemporary sensibilities and digital technology. The music is lush and sedately structured, achieving great power through minimal expression.

Kevin Bartlett employs delicate percussives and ethereal electronics to produce tense ambience that enters a passage of romantically acoustic guitar.

Jeff Greinke contributes a track that uses treated voices to enhance an eerie soundscape of elongated tonalities and softly growling synthesizers.

-Matt Howarth/ 17 November 2002

Review - Various Artists: The Gatherings

Chuck van Zyl's Philadelphia-based series of concerts are an oasis in a desert of pop, offering a strict diet of ambient, electronic and space music to a thirsty audience. Here seven past performers - van Zyl's own The Ministry of Inside Things, Bionaut, Ben Neill, Steve Roach, Robert Rich, Kevin Bartlett and Jeff Greinke - offer relatively short tracks (three around 6 minutes, two around 9 minutes and two of 15 and 17 minutes) from what must have been epic concerts performed between 1991 and 1999.

It's easy to see where the Ministry are coming from, at least on this piece - this is classic, slow Stratosfear-period Tangerine Dream, with a pulsating beat, simple hi-hat percussion and sweeping Mellotron chords. Then we crossfade to Bionaut, which features more abstract, ring modulated sounds, tubular bells and great sweeps of analog strings.

These are entertaining pieces, but this style of music does need space to spread out, and on almost 9 minutes of "Chemistry of 7" Ben Neill is able to do just that, bizarrely throwing sampled male voices, Miles Davis-like muted trumpet and clicky '80's beatbox patterns into the mix. Pretty unusual stuff.

Steve Roach and Robert Rich are more well known, and their tracks are pretty typical - deep ambient drones, acoustic gong and chime sounds, some ethnic percussion and shifting multi-layered textures. Kevin Bartlett uses many of the same elements but comes up with a slightly lighter texture, while Jeff Greinke's closing piece sits on a bed of harmonic overtone singing, another technique closely associated with Roach, and brings the album to an atmospheric conclusion.

There's some great stuff here, and in contrast to other recent space music CD's., it feels as if it could have gone on longer. Room perhaps for a double CD, or at least another volume featuring more recent performers from the "Gatherings" series.

-Mark Jenkins/Emix 25 November 2002

Review - Various Artists: The Gatherings

The Gatherings is a collection of live recordings (altough you'd be hard-pressed to tell it here, since the engineering is excellent and there is no audience noise to be heard anywhere) culled from the classic concerts that have been held for many years in Philadelphia under the watchful gaze of Chuck van Zyl. The Gatherings (the concerts) are legendary on various newsgroups and mailing lists on the Internet (fans from literally around the world meet "in person" to hear their favorite ambient and EM artists in rare live concert appearances). I have never been lucky enough to attend one, so I was interested to hear this CD, obviously.

The album contains a solid assortment of the kinds of music that the concert series has featured over the years and the music on the CD was more varied than I anticipated. All of the tracks were (as I stated above) well-recorded (as good as most studio work, to my ears) and the musicians are all in fine form.

I particularly liked the opening track, The Ministry of Inside Things' "While the Rest of the World Sleeps" (this is Chuck Van Zyl's band). The cut is an intriguing semi-Berlin school exploration yet is more haunting and melancholic than most Germanic EM, even with its sequenced beats. Keyboards weave about with a slight middle-Eastern modality, like some snake-charmer who also happens to use drum programing. Very nice! I had never heard any of Bionaut's music until I listened to "Astral Unraveller" here, and I liked their classic slice of somewhat retro spacemusic with European (as opposed to strictly Berlin) EM elements (expansive analog keys soaring in broad brushstrokes over assorted drones and synthetic textures). Ben Neill's "Chemistry of 7" is a lot of fun, with muted trumpet playing over all kinds of cool ambient and EM effects - a heady mixture of Miles Davis-ish jazz, spacemusic, and EM rhythms that all morph into something approaching acid jazz meets drum and bass.

Of course, the "masters" are represented here too. Steve Roach contributes "New Planet Passage" (a characteristically dark ambient excursion featuring less floating musical passages and more of his frenetic and/or sensuous tribal rhythms, which Roach does as well, if not better, than anyone). Robert Rich reworks one of my favorite songs from his album Gaudi, "Mosaic," although I think he stretches it out way too much at the beginning (the track takes what seems like forever to get going). Once those shining shimmering bells enter the picture, though, the wait is almost worth it (maybe played live this long lead-in was easier to handle than on CD).

Closing out the album are offerings from Kevin Bartlett ("GDSI? Ask Larissa, she knows," a mysterious and shadowy piece with electric guitar and synths and one of the more "untraditional-for-ambient" tracks on the CD) and Jeff Greinke ("Vocal Overlay," a blend of overtone chanting, processed vocals and subtle ambient drones).

Amazingly, van Zyl (who produced the CD), aided by engineers Jeff Towne and Art Cohen, found a way to segue each track into the next seamlessly. There are time cues, but no discernible breaks between songs. Since the time span covered by these recorded pieces spans from 1991 to 1999, I can't imagine this was easy to accomplish (one wonders how many tracks they had to pick from, for goodness sake), but it lends the album a continuity that is a big plus, given how distinct the various artists' tracks actually are. Whether or not listening to The Gatherings is truly "like being there" at a real Gathering or not, the CD is enjoyable and can stand alone as one recommended to fans of ambient and EM music (more the former than the latter).

-Bill Binkleman/Wind & Wire

Review - Various Artists: The Gatherings

This excellent compilation is another feather in the cap of Chuck van Zyl, who has already done so much to further the growth of the electronic and ambient music scene in the states. He makes his own very worthwhile CDs, has a first-rate EM radio program called STAR'S END, and hosts a concert series set in an historic church. Called The Gatherings series, he always manages to bring topnotch acts to perform. This CD is a collection of works from those proceedings. Sometimes compilations have a very random, almost haphazard feel to them, but this would not be one of those. Chuck allows himself (with Peter Gulch as The Ministry of Inside Things) center stage to open the disc with the Berlin-influenced "While The Rest Of The World Sleeps," the most upbeat track here, and therefore an appropriate way to launch the disc. The rest is various explorations of mostly quiet ambience, all of it remarkably consistent and first rate. From well-known names like Steve Roach and Robert Rich, to names unfamiliar to me such as Bionaut and Ben Neill, it's all good. I recommend every single track. Steve Roach's contribution, "New Planet Passage," is a variation on the title track from his On This Planet CD, fused with other passages to form a new musical creation. Robert Rich's "Mosaic" is another wonderful dark ambient excursion. Both of these pieces make up about half the CD. But I also love uncovering the gems from the lesser knowns, such as Ben Neill's "Chemistry of 7," a wonderful blend of different genres for an unexpected but entirely successful effect, combining ambient, trip hop, and other influences into a pleasing sound palette. This is a very stron compilation, easy to listen to from beginning to end.

-Phil Derby/Electroambient Space November 2002

The Gatherings (volume 1) Compilation CD is available when making a modest donation to CIMA of PA

The Gatherings Volume 2 Compilation 2CD set was realized through individual support and came into being on 22 April 2006: The Gatherings Volume 2

For Further Insight into The Gatherings (volume 1) CD, Please Access the: