Artist/ Band: Soniq Theater
Title: Vision Quest
Label: Self release
Year of Release: 2009
Offical Artist/ Band Link
- Former Rachel's Birthday keyboardist/co-founder Alfred Mueller, under his Soniq Theater pseudonym issued this, his ninth full solo album, in 2009, a homage in an ongoing series to the (synthesizer-driven) instrumental rock genre pioneered by the likes of Rick Wakeman, Jan Hammer, Roger Powell, Pete Bardens (R.I.P.), Win Kowa, Patrick O-Hearn, Keith Emerson and countless others. Mueller's independently-produced albums are insular affairs and thus, the sound mix and composing-arranging credits all start and end with him. Productionwise, for presumably home-recorded affairs, Mueller's albums sound very good. Mueller's penchant for digital sound libraries won't draw raves from retro enthusiasts, however. As a result, much of his music retains a very "Eighties" veneer, but that's by no means a bad thing. At the very least, it offers something different — at its peak moments, the music is refreshingly bright and eclectic in feel.
Some of the less-inspired compositions on Vision Quest, like "Mourning Soul," sound like rock instrumentals in need of a vocal dress-up. Then there are tracks like the title theme and "Ninive" which don't. "Ninive" is an excellent atmospheric piece that unusually, for Mueller, makes use of thick analog strings, and a very fat sawtooth lead sound — hence, a candidate for best track on the album. Its only drawback is a rather unsatisfying conclusion. It's followed by the overdriven quirkiness of "The Hobbit" — think some of Wakeman's mid-'80s cheese, like Time Machine.
Then Bilbo's frollicking is countered by the ominously-titled "Looking For The Gates." The lilt of arpeggiated guitar chords, a wispy synth echo, then the grandeur of pipe organ — even a bloomin' time change with lyrical synth solos performed with multiple sounds. Quite the engaging composition, one that squarely fits into the symphonic-progressive mold. After another "stock" runner in "The Ancient Philosophers," Mueller comes back with the exquisite Tangerine Dream-modelled sequencer piece "Jonathan Seagull." With its samples of gulls, unwavering tempo and stark mood, its inspiration is mirrored further by the album's title and the band that popularized that sort of musical approach.
More memorable than its successor the following year, Vision Quest touches down on several points in the progressive arena, and Mueller's sound palette is better than usual.
Reviewed by Elias Granillo Jr on January 15th, 2012
- 01. Vision Quest 6:24
- 02. Mourning Soul 4:55
- 03. Ninive 5:41
- 04. The Hobbit 3:51
- 05. Looking For The Gates 7:13
- 06. The Ancient Philosophers 5:23
- 07. Jonathan Seagull 5:54
- 08. Half Moon 4:74
- 09. Heavensent 5:57
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