COLUMBUS | Author © Marcel Bossaert / 2019
I do hope Brian will continue making brilliant cinematic electronic music the way he composed this track.
Truly the Maltese counterpart of Vangelis in his best period.
BEYOND 02 | Author © Bert Strolenberg / SONIC IMMERSION 2019
This Ep is the sequel of Brian’s 1998 album “Beyond” sticking to the same playing time – 31-minutes- as the first one. The idea behind the album was to create a kind of sonic sci-fi novel or movie where the listener once again can listen and imagine his or her personal mental pictures as the cosmic journey into the beyond unfolds. This time, upon arriving at 25.5 Light years away from Earth the crew starts its mission to detect signs of life and possible contact on a new planet.
The seven very well produced and mastered compositions (shifting between rhythmic-sequenced and textural atmospheric) are rich, pleasantly lush, majestic and elevating, shifting sonically between realms of Jarre and Vangelis along Vassallo’s own sonic print. The best tracks on “Beyond 2” turn out to be opener “25.5 Light Years” as well as the bit longer compositions “Flora” and “Revelation”.
It’s recommended to listen attentively from start to finish and in one go to grab the full impact of this nicely crafted cosmic narrative.
MEMOIRS OF A LIFETIME | Author © Chuck van Zyl / STAR'S END June 2012
The CD Memoirs of a Lifetime (42'53") seems to have been built on Brian Vassallo's respectable 2003 release Beyond. Upon a strong foundation, his new sonic structures feel bigger, brighter and more complex. As Memoirs of a Lifetime spins through its eight tight and polished compositions we hear Vassallo heading past classic works by synth heroes Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis, and ever closer to a unique symphonic prog-space. The first few tracks are spacey and pleasurable as climactic chords and a fluttering arpeggio of notes swirl in a breezy whirlwind of synthetic sound. The mood continues to escalate as ever-shifting sequencer patterns run through a series of imaginative progressions. Dropping in and out then jumping from one key to another they keep the pace careening as the listener follows the reeling transfers. From here on out Memoirs of a Lifetime gains momentum as big bouncy electronic rhythms expand and recede beneath dramatically arranged synthesizer orchestrations and atmospheric textures. The heroic guitar inspired keyboard solos next to elegant chamber ensemble simulations timed with a well-placed drum kit mix may give listeners from the mainstream an access point - just as the more cerebral among us will become absorbed by the fascinating modulations, engaging arrangements and masterful programming of sounds. Music and memories are among the few things that have the ability to evoke some of life's most powerful emotions. Memoirs of a Lifetime is Brian Vassallo's search for such powerful things - things that we cannot physically touch, yet may touch us so deeply.
BEYOND | Author © Bill Binkelman - Wind & Wire
Brian Vassallo's debut recording, Beyond, may be short (it clocks in at just over 31 minutes long) - but what a fantastic 31 minutes it is! If you love classic space music, Beyond could become one of your favourite recordings of recent memory. Six tracks are divided between soaring drifters full of all manner of retro synths evoking the golden era of the Hearts of Space record label, and quasi-Berlin EM cruisers. All of the tracks are solidly engineered and produced, with a spacious sound field (headphones are a must, in my opinion).
"Are We Alone?" opens the album in grand jaw-dropping fashion - swooshing synth washes, whooshing sonic effects, echoing tones, and dramatic analog chords combine to evoke a true sense of the cosmos. Minor key undercurrents and lush drones are carried along in a current of bouncy Berlin-like drum rhythms and soaring synths on "Out There" (one of my favourite tracks on the CD). "Distant Stars" reverses field with its plaintive and heavily echoed digital piano (notes seem to go on forever - receding further and further into the distance) evoking the vastness of deep space, helped along by whooshing solar wind effects and subtle drones deep underneath the piano. "Where Are We Going" returns to the bouncy rhythms of "Out There" but this time the mood is emotionally lighter and also more of a straightforward homage to Berlin school music. Warm melodic keyboard chords flow over percolating sequenced beats and synths. Later, more retro synths enter the track, yielding an even warmer sound and bringing a smile to my face, as I recall the LP recordings by Larry Fast (a.k.a. Synergy) that I first played way back in the '70s.
Two more floating space music tracks remain on Beyond: the serene "Heartbeat Above Earth" (Michael Garrison meets Jonn Serrie perhaps?) and the uncharacteristically more sparse ambience of the title track (which is a dark formless scary short trip into forlorn synth choruses, strange reverberating rhythms, and mysterious drones). Beyond, indeed! The only fault I can find with the track is that ends very abruptly - almost too much so.
Brian Vassallo will hopefully be encouraged by a positive response to this fine recording. Beyond may signal the start of a great space music artist's career.If you're a fan of the golden age of space music (the mid to late '80s), you will be too.
BEYOND | Author © "Bert Strolenberg" - SonicImmersion
Well, what is got here is electronic space music from the Maltese musician Brian Vassallo, who steps forward with an album he already seems to have released back in 1998. It’s a pity it remained so long in whatever vault, as this is a real gem for fans of the genre. There are only 31 minutes of music split in 6 tracks, in which we enter the vast territory of space, accompanied by great floating synth-washes in the openingtrack “Are we Alone”. After a while, things develop in a soft bouncy Berliner School-structure, but the vastness of space remains, also when we get in the realms of “Distant Stars” with atmospheric wind-effects. The 4th track “Where are we going
” returns to some light Berliner School sequencer/rhythms, both engaging and offering a vast sound spectrum. “Heartbeat above Earth” is another deep floater with echoing piano-keys, warm but with mysterious undercurrents, before we delve in the closing title-track: this is an overall adventurous, slightly eerie soundscape drifting off into the deep cosmos, which is abruptly cut-off after 3.36 min. although the journey just started, so this really needs to be properly fixed. The mastering & production of the album are outstanding, headphones are a must.
All in all, Beyond is a strong debut of which I do hope lots of the same quality will see the light. Space fans out there, make sure you check this one out!
BEYOND | © 2004 Phil Derby / Electroambient Space
Great space music from Malta!
Good things often come in small packages. This gem of a half hour is some classic space music in the vein of the greats like Jean-Michel Jarre and Jonn Serrie. “Are We Alone?” starts very much like Jarre’s classic “Oxygene Part VI,” in fact, with that sweeping pseudo-wave crashing synth sound. Classic space music wafts across your living room as it evolves, full of wonderful gentle vintage sounds. The coolest sequence picks up the pace on “Out There,” along with a nifty beat and full rich pads forming a melodramatic undercurrent. The melodic synth lead is cool, too. Moving into complete drift mode is “Distant Stars,” with whooshing sounds accompanied by bright echoing piano. This one really captures the mood of Brian Eno’s classic, Apollo. It fades out so slowly that the music seems to disappear before the equally long fade in to start “Where Are You Going?” But once it arrives, it brings the highest-energy track. Once again, the sequencing and beats are excellent, irresistibly catchy stuff. This is followed by the quietest deep space excursion on the disc, “Heartbeat Above Earth.” Similar in feel and composition to “Distant Stars,” it remains distinctive enough and strong enough to more than warrant inclusion. “Beyond” rumbles in low as the spaceship’s engines shift gears, slowing to explore the outer realms. It’s a rather ominous ending, but it works, including the abrupt ending. Set up your planetarium, lie on the floor, and enjoy it.
Author © Wednesday Elektra
It's amazing how music from different areas of the world transcend boundaries. BRIAN VASSALLO is a Maltese musician and producer who creates an astonishing array of atmospheric electronic music. Electronica, no matter where you are in the world seems to have the same basic sound and structure, but BRIAN's music is powerful, bold and dynamic in a delicate way. His song "Are We Alone?" (from his first album "Beyond") is haunting, with its progressive drones and twinkling side effects mixed with various electronic sound waves. While "Nights Tranquility" (from his latest album "Flashback") though it has a soft undertone, is still shockingly strong with it's backing beats and various key tones. "Reflections" (also from "Flashback") brings about the more drum 'n bass meets EBM style of electronica, with a rhythmic pattern of drum beats overlapped by layers of keys and synths. Even though I'm not a huge fan of electronic based music that leans towards the soundtrack/sonic/sound waves side, I did enjoy all of BRIAN VASSALLO's tracks and no doubt his full-length albums would be something to behold.
BEYOND | Author © ERIC MONTFORT -The Sunday Times
Beyond is impeccably produced and although it is essentially instrumental and incidental music, there are also some moments where technical ability and musical creativity are evident.
FLASHBACK | Author © Michael Bugeja - The Sunday Times Of Malta / The Malta Independent
Two albums in the space of eight years may seem a bit sparse in terms of output to some, but in Brian Vassallo’s world, quality and essence have always been at the helm of each and every piece of work he does. And if you’re thinking you’ve heard of Vassallo somewhere or other, think back to 1998, when he released Beyond. The album has been critically acclaimed both locally and abroad, mainly for its electronically constructed cosmic ambience, and continues to attract a variety of audiences – from New Age to Chill-out to Ambient. Incidentally, Vassallo was also among the first Maltese musicians to establish an online presence with a sizeable foreign following, and it is the feedback he has received through the internet that has inspired and motivated the release of flashback, his second album.
When compared to Beyond’s cushioned layers of soaring digital sound, Flashback is, however, something a mixed bag. For his second outing, Vassallo, a big Jean-Michel Jarre fan by his own admission, has opted to alter his vision beyond the ethereal and infuse more rhythm in his music. The result, somewhat inevitably, bears several references to the French electronic wizard’s style (particularly opening track Senses) but the presence of more prominent beats is more akin to Orbital’s epic electronica than Jarre’s soundscapes. More importantly, however, Vassallo has successfully preserved his own timbre by balancing the various aspects of his new record into one eclectic yet cohesive electronic expedition that should increase both his profile and following significantly.