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February 25 , 2024
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California Sunshine - Imperia

 ( Unnatural Recordings / Phonokol ,  1997 )

1. Green Sky 7:15 2. Break the Rules 7:26 3. Alala- Lesson II 9:13 4. The Only One 9:40 5. The Legend 9:13 6. Shintu Shanti 8:48 7. Randomly 7:18 8. Imperia 7:18 9. Avalanche 7:51

This CD has taken a while to grow on me and while I cannot say that it is the best I have heard from California Sunshine, it is by no means any less thoughtful than their other works. It is a very emotional, intelligently composed CD and shows an increased sense of aural experimentation over the first CD. The sonic imaging is more advanced than on the first CD and the incorporation of less conventionally musical-sounding sounds into the flow of the tracks is very tastefully done. There is also a greater sense of subtlety to the tracks in that there is always the sense that there is more going on in the track than is immediately apparent.

Imperia is less song-like than California Sunshine's first CD- Trance, relying more on the repetition of a smaller musical motifs, stacked on top of one another. This technique makes the sense of musical progression more vertical and "harmonic" than linear and "melodic" and works rather well with the more regular rhythms used on the CD. Also, due to the trancing effect of repetition of the more obvious motifs, the hyperactivity of the background sounds and the changes in the backing ambiance become more apparent. The result is an album that is spacious and teeming with activity, much of which is not immediately apparent.

The CD begins to get interesting with track 3, "Alala- The Lesson II". This track is a remix of a track on the first CD. A very curious remix, not much that is overtly reminiscent of the earlier version and much more aggressive.

Next is "The Only One" which has a peppy rhythm and catchy tune, making it one of the highlights on the CD. In addition to being a good tune, it also makes interesting use of a sample that sounds like something metallic scraping across a washing-board, incorporating it into the song such that it is an integral part of the rhythm as well as the melody.

The spritely, syncopated rhythms, repeating figures in the middle voices, morphing ambiance and simple, slightly melancholy tune on "Shintu Shanti" makes this song one of the most effective on the CD. The song has a very spacious sound and is teeming with activity that is excellently imaged, giving an uncluttered, airy, swimming feel to the song.

California Sunshine does very interesting work with sounds that are either sampled from or very evocative of natural sounds. The song "Randomly" begins with what sounds like the orchestral creaking of crickets, this becoming the motif that is used through the rest of the song. Samples of natural sounds are fully integrated into the structure of the music and become an indispensable part of the pacing and shaping of the songs.

Recomendation:  After having been totally overwhelmed by the musical invention on their first CD, this CD, at first, was a bit of a disappointment. It took several listens before the album really began to sink in. As with each of the California Sunshine releases, Imperia is a very powerful, emotional release with an air of shimmering beauty to it. The mood is very upbeat and bright while being hard and driving. At its best, Imperia is an exhilarating listen, full of emotion, exuberance and intelligence. My only real complaint about this release is that it seems to be a musical step backwards from its predecessor, though a technical and aural step forwards. The melodies are not as strong or as developed and, on a few tracks, border on being insipid. Yet, the lack of melodic creativity and invention is compensated for in the vertical structuring of the tracks and excellent 3 dimensional imaging of the sounds in the mix. I would not suggest Imperia as an introduction to California Sunshine, but for anyone who liked Nasha, which was a development of the sound on Imperia albeit with a heavier mood, then this CD would be a worth giving several attentive listens. For first-timers, I would more strongly suggest Trance for more developed melodic trance or Nasha for more layered trance-music.

Favorite tracks:6, 8, 9.

Review by : Milton Durr

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