Alan Mallery 6-August-2001 Soniq Theater

Soniq Theater is the name for a new project from keyboardist Alfred Muller, formerly of the German band Rachel's Birthday. I haven't heard that band as of this writing, so I can't make any comparisons. What I can tell you is that this is a purely instrumental album of keyboard-oriented progressive rock.

It appears to be a one-man production. A lot of times releases such as this are fraught with danger. Compositions by the same person tend to make the disc sound very samey, programmed drums can sound lifeless and make the recording sound like a demo, as well as the use of cheesy Casio-like synth sounds. Fortunately Soniq Theater overcomes these potential limitations and delivers a winning product.

The album consists of 16 tracks, ranging from about a minute to over seven. The first track kicks in with a catchy piano riff reminiscent of Kayak, followed by some nice synths lead lines supported by organ and "guitar". I can't tell if the guitar is real or played on keyboards - it's that convincing. It is obvious that Mr. Muller is definitely a skilled musician. The compositions are interesting, and, equally important, the arrangements and sound layerings are excellent. A great variety of sounds are used, from piano, organ, and mellotron to a variety of both analog and digital synth tones. Stylistic variety helps keep your interest flowing throughout the album. I particularly liked the use of African female vocal samples in the fourth track "Minka E Rano". All the songs make their point and flow nicely, without overstating their welcome. The drums are programmed, but done very well (one of the best drum programming jobs I've heard) and don't detract from the album.

On each track I could list many comparisons, but overall for closest comparison he is working in somewhat similar territory as the French band Xang or the great Japanese keyboardist Motoi Sakuraba. I would definitely recommend this album for someone looking for some interesting modern keyboard progressive rock. Hopefully for the next album Mr. Muller will put together a full band to compliment his keyboard skills and compositions.

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