2001. The first solo Hypnos release for A Produce, following his critically acclaimed 1999 collaboration with M Griffin, ALTARA. This is also the first A Produce solo album of new material since INSCAPE AND LANDSCAPE (1996). One of the underappreciated greats of the ambient/atmospheric genre, A Produce masterfully demonstrates with SMILE ON THE VOID his unique approach -- blending deep, churning ambient atmospheres with compelling yet restrained trance rhythms.
A Produce says:
"I've always been interested in the slow movement of sound; indeed how it evokes a seduction of the listener, gradually drawing them in. Smile on the Void is a study in the movement of sound, the overall theme relating to the sleep cycle: restlessness/insomnia; sleep; dreaming; and awakening. The project over the course of time as an attempt to characterize sound in the various stages of this communal experience."
Track listing with MP3 clips:
Smile on the Void
The Big Sleep
I Woke Up Dreaming
"A Produce has created a stunning ambient excursion!"
--Jim Cole, Spectral Voices
"Wow , A MASTERPIECE!"
"Night and Sleep usually travel together and are paramours to those who
stave off rest until day. Sensual and encompassing, Night falls like a
velvet cape, exposing the moon, planets and stars in the darkened sky.
Seductive and comforting, Sleep gently conquers, uncovering the dreams and
ambitions of the unconscious mind. "Smile On The Void" is A Produce's aural
impression of the relationship between humans and the many stages and
conditions of sleep.
Both ingenious as a representation of the natural states of slumber and as
an interesting soundtrack to such, "Smile On The Void" uses intricate
rhythms, clear harmonies, hybrid percussion and deliberate pacing to
deliver its message and have its effect. Big chords rising over the pulse
pattern of the title track serve as a preamble to the journey inward. The
slow melodies and steady drive of "I Woke Up Dreaming" convey the fleeting
remnants of a dream quickly fading. The dense textures and dark tones of
"Night Curve" slowly burn and evaporate into a cloud stirred by unconscious
visions. Used as a soundscape for dreaming, "Smile On The Void" is an
excellent constant in an uncontrolled experiment. As a sonic treatment, it
is a significant source for any investigation into the moods and levels of
--Chuck van Zyl, Star's End Radio host, WXPN Philadelphia
"Latest from A Produce is superb. Cuts 6 and 7 in particular absolutely
blow me away. Another excellent release on Hypnos."
--Mark Stanberry, Space Music Mailing List
"The new A Produce album was positively splendid!"
--Mike McLatchey, Expose
""Smile on the Void" occupies
smiling voids on our programming at WAWL. A. Produce gets
exponentially better with each release. Thanks HYPNOS."
--Flyingman (aka Mark Caldwell), WAWL Radio
"Run - don't walk - and snap up a copy of Smile on the Void!
If you're curious about where an artist goes after winning
Ambient Album of Year awards, this is the answer to your
I was talking to somone at a music store who pointed out that
it's hard to do something original in the space/ambient genre.
Probably so because of certain stylistic requisites, but it is
clearly still growing and evolving. If you are wondering about
the meaning of creative progress in this genre, Smile on the
Void will shed light on that."
"First new solo material from Los Angeles´ A Produce in five years, Smile On The Void
is a yeoman effort of evocative space music, creating its minimalist ambient atmospheres
primarily via the soft coughing of synthesizers.
A small handful of guest musicians add some nice extra colour to certain tracks, such as
when Ruben Garcia caresses the electric piano keys on Inner Sanctum."
--Stephen Fruitman, Motion
"Opening with the sound of a bell-like tone and a soft drone, A Produce¹s
first solo CD in five years, Smile on the Void, represents the return of one
of the true pioneers and 'envelope-pushers' on the ambient musical scene.
When the sensuous tribal rhythms, subtle yet not subdued, enter the first
(title) track, I couldn¹t help but smile and think to myself, 'Yeah - A
Produce is back!' Reminding me of his best work from such important albums
as Land of a Thousand Trances and Inscape and Landscape, Smile on the Void
may be the artist's most refined, complex, and mature (although I detest
using that word!) recording to date.
As he has done at times in the past, the ambient artist does not work alone.
He is joined by stellar talents: Dean de Benedictus, Ruben Garcia, and Scott
Fraser. All of these musicians contribute significantly to the album, even
though they only appear sporadically throughout the CD.
The tribal underpinnings of the first track are accentuated by liquid/fluid
sounding 'organic percussives' (per the liner notes). The 'theme' of the CD
itself is the sleep cycle, portrayed in sound/music. So, the CD starts off
with insomnia and restlessness and progresses through other stages, such as
sleeping, dreaming and awakening. Since A Produce characterizes his music as
'trance' music, not ambient, there are percussive elements peppered
throughout Smile on the Voice. But they are so well-integrated into the
natural flow of the ambient and spacemusic textures that unless you are
diametrically opposed to any rhythms at all, I happen to think the fluid
nature of the beats will, as A Produce himself writes in the liner notes,
'...evoke(s) a seduction of the listener, gradually drawing them in.'
The second song, 'Night Curve' begins with a low drone and darker noir-like
noise effects. However, rather than being truly disturbing, there is a vague
sense of, if not comfort, at least safety. This is not so much nightmare
music as it sonically represents the passage into that first phase of sleep
where dreaming has not begun but consciousness has fled. Smile on the Void
is a fantastic musical depiction of sleep, representing various moods and
permutations that we, as humans, go through on the way to alpha-stage
slumber. As the cut winds down, a swirling drone and a drawn-out bell tone
waft lazily through the air. Way too cool! This is drone music by a true
master of the genre. Damn, this is fine!
Engineering throughout the disc is exemplary, as it always is on Hypnos
recordings (and also was on all of A Produce's Trance Port CDs as well).
And, by the gods, the cover is finally something different from Hypnos
(thank goodness!).The smoky orange/gold cloud-like wisps combine with the
minimal lettering to create one of the better cover graphics I¹ve seen this
The third cut, 'The Big Sleep,' marries spacemusic washes and drones with
low (I mean LOW) rumblings and strange bassy percussive sounds. The music
undulates with a gentle yet insistent rhythm and the vague tribal/trance
elements impart a small amount of primal energy to the cut. The washes ebb
and flow in intensity as the song progresses through its almost nine minutes
(song length on the CD varies from 5:47 to a tick over twelve minutes). The
addition of lush synth strings mutates this piece into something almost
soothing, despite the presence of the rumbling undercurrents.
'Visions' again begins with ambient drones and vague noise effects. and
slowly weaves a ambient web of electronic swirls. This new layering of
drones, washes, with the more 'industrial' elements, as well the very
creative integrating of rhythms, is what induces me to say that Smile on the
Void represents the pinnacle of A Produce¹s recording career (so far). He
has always been self-assured, making music that is both unique and daring
and yet never pointlessly avant garde or hopelessly self-absorbed. Smile on
the Void reflects the development of his previous talents as they are
refined and honed as well the introduction of even more interesting and
'Inner Sanctum' must be the musical equivalent of deep alpha-state
restfulness. Gentle and pulsing notes from an electric piano create a
serene, yet not numbingly so, pillow of sound. The electric piano is
credited, in the liner notes, to both the artist himself and fellow ambient
musician Ruben Garcia. Whoever it is, he/they sound(s) great! This cut
stands side by side with the best from minimalist geniuses like James
Johnson and Stephen Philips. Coming as it does at track number 5, it signals
the midpoint of the album from an aesthetic perspective. Spacy textures,
like fleeting dream-thoughts, cruise into and out of the arrhythmic melodic
notes, adding even more peacefulness to this already quiet and restful cut.
The last two pieces on the album, 'I Wake Up Dreaming' and 'Spirit Room,'
veer Smile on the Void into totally different territory. The former opens
with rhythmic keyboards, buzz-saw drones, and those wonderful A Produce
organic flute-synths of his. This song more than any other may remind
long-time fans of his previous albums, especially Land of a Thousand Trances
(one of my fave recordings of all-time, by the way). The music has a certain
heat and an energy as it drives forward, propelled by the rhythms and
soaring electric guitar (or what sounds like it, as if played by someone
like Jon Durant). Yet, despite all this, the cut most resembles spacemusic,
albeit of the cruising variety. This song should just about send Robert Rich
fans to the moon. It's easily the equal of Rich's best work from his
ethno/tribal/ambient recordings, or at least to my ears it is.
The last cut, 'Spirit Room,' on which A Produce is joined by Scott Fraser on
guitar and Dean de Benedictus on lead synth, brings Smile on the Void to a
wonderful conclusion. Opening with hushed synth flutes and drones, the song
soon moves in a midtempo-paced trance/tribal rhythmic direction by the
introduction of an assortment of hand percussion elements. Flutes and washes
coarse throughout the song like a river of smoke. Representing, as I think
it does, the awakening after a night of slumber, the cut has an affirming
glow to it. Even when the drones are in a minor key the overall effect of
the music is one of a positive emotional sensation. As the song hits just
past the mid-point, electric guitar licks, tasteful but still stinging,
bring even more energy and liveliness to the music. I¹m sure there are some
ambient purists who will cringe at the guitar, but some people just don¹t
know the beauty of variety in their music, I guess. I think adding this
element to the song, alongside the propulsive rhythms and smooth synth
washes, is a great idea. Again, as it¹s meant to do, it signals the end of a
night of sleep and the beginning of a new day, so to speak. Sure, it's a
bit risky for an ambient musician to actually bring the intensity of an
album UP as it concludes (the overwhelming majority of ambient/spacemusic
recordings I¹ve heard do the opposite, i.e. they fade and wind down). And,
truthfully, in the last minute or so, 'Spirit Room' does subside as it nears
the finish of the song. But, by making the last song the most 'active,' A
Produce put his money where his mouth his, so to speak. After all, you
wouldn¹t wake up to softer music than you sleep to, would you?
Smile on the Void should land on just about any critic's (whose worth a
tinker's damn, as my dear departed mother would say) 'Best Ambient Albums of
2001' list. I¹ve always belived that A Produce was under-appreciated. With
this album (and kudos to Mike Griffin, head Hypnos honcho, for releasing
this puppy), I don¹t see how anyone can deny this musician his rightful
place alongside the greats of the genre. If Smile on the Void does not merit
his a place in the ambient/spacemusic 'Hall of Fame,' than by the gods,
nothing will! My highest recommendation - with ease!"
--Bill Binkelman, WindAndWire.com
"The seven tracks that constitute this album are inspired by the
novel of the same title by Stuart Gordon, where myth and the
modern world meet, weaving a tapestry ranging from restlessness to
dream to a strange awakening, as suggested by the music itself,
since it turns out to be mysterious, cosmic, oniric, mystic, at
times dark, and undoubtedly suggestive of a strange world in the
--Montserrat Andreu-Marin, Amazing Sounds
"On his first new album since 1996's Inscape and Landscape, ambient space-electronic composer A Produce mixes ethereal dreamscapes with trance rhythms in a deep and compelling aural experience. The album title was inspired by Stuart Gordon's 1982 novel, and the corresponding track leads to an electronic synth drone atmosphere that shifts into a slow djembe drum "tranceportation." A Produce considers himself a "trance-maker," creating abstract pieces that include synths, drones, dissonance, beat drums, and even guitars."
"The Big Sleep" takes listeners deeper into the sleep zone on waves of synths. Peaceful and placid "Inner Sanctum" offers the solitude of muffled electric pianos and background synths, ideal for contemplation, meditation and soul exploration. After the deep sleep, the pace quickly changes into throbbing synths and the worldly trance beats in "I Woke Up Dreaming." In the "Spirit Room" finale, the ambiance of controlled trance is shattered by the searing rock guitar of Scott Fraser and Dean deBenedictus's synth keyboards. SMILE ON THE VOID is one of the best ambient trance creations of the year and certainly worth the five-year wait."
--Ted Cox, Music of the Spheres, in New Age Retailer
"I've played this several times since receiving it, and I'm far from wearing it
out. This is A Produce's first solo outing since 1996's Inscape and Landscape,
though it's hardly a one-man effort. Ably assisted by other ambient artists such
as Loren Nerell, Dean De Benedictus (Surface 10), Scott Fraser, and Ruben Garcia, their musical talents meld into a wonderful collage of soothing minimal textures and drones. The title track, based on a 1982 book of the same name, shines, shimmers, floats and drifts. The music sounds just like the rich, mahogany tones of the beautiful cover art. 'Night Curve' is deliciously dark, churning stuff. It turns from rich drones to a more metallic timbre as it continues. 'The Big Sleep' is more ethereal at first, but a low pulsing sound gives ominous overtones. The thick, velvety smooth synths remind me just a touch of Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber's work as Synaesthesia, though it is softer than that. 'Visions' features deep, echoing clanging, again with rich full synths for atmosphere. The latter part of the disc develops more musical structure. Soft electric piano introduces 'Inner Sanctum,' cool ambient with the slightest touch of jazz - think of Spyra on Valium or something like that. The longest two tracks, and the most active and accessible, finish off the disc well. 'I Woke Up Dreaming' is powerful and dramatic, with a rhythmic undercurrent that really works. Scott Fraser's guitar wails at just the right times in just the right dose. 'Spirit Room' blends more smooth synths with soft tribal beats. Just as it seems to be settling in to a relaxed mood, Fraser's guitar asserts itself again, somewhat more forcefully this time. It's a wholly different tone that the rest of the CD. Finding it out of place on the first listen, I've grown to enjoy it. For those who don't, it is brief and fades soon enough, bringing things back to more soothing sounds as it ebbs away. Easy listening ambient with style."
--Phil Derby, SMD
"Smile On the Void is a fantastic and dynamic recording. Dynamic in the sense
that there's a lot going on. This is a thoughtful compilation of varying
works. I usually like a recording that's tied together a little tighter
thematically, but this collection of recordings manages to be just different
enough, to not be too different. The pieces fit together well. A Produce's
work is thoughtfully arranged, and the sequence of the tracks provides for a
thoughtful and tasteful sonic excursion into the world of dreaming and
contemplation. What's amazing to me is how different a sound A Produce has
gotten with this recording. I don't know if it's the synths that he's using,
or if it's the post-production work, or what it is, but the timbres chosen,
and the ways that they are blended, cross-faded, and ultimately mixed to
bring the listener into the very core of the music is awesome. But this
collection of pieces isn't all atmospherics, there's some Djembe, and
guitar, and a variety of other carefully chosen timbres.
Smile On the Void
has a very distinct sound, it's dark, and placid in places, but very organic
and warm in others, thus another way that this recording's dynamicism is
illustrated. Smile On the Void is dark as I've mentioned and it pretty much
stays with that overall feeling, but as the recording progresses, it moves
into less of an Ambient recording, and starts to be come more like
Spacemusic...or more substantial, Ambient is usually less melodically
substantial as it's Ambient, but Spacemusic kind of borrows the
contemplative vibes of Ambient music and adds much more to it, rhythms,
melodies, harmonies, whatever- Anyway A Produce takes a favorable direction
as this recording progresses, the recording turns from a dark atmospheric
Ambient recording with some pulse to a mildly rhythmic and melodic
experience..... As a guitar player I've
been plum wore out on the guitar idiom for some time, but this recording
breathes new life into it, not in a Jeff Pearce sort of way, but more like
the guy playing guitar on Robert Rich's Seven Veils, rippin' it up, full
step bends, whammy, slides, and not a damn ounce of subtlety, just straight
on "ballsy" guitar. Don't get me wrong the guitar doesn't take over the
works, but it's definitely there and claiming it's place in the overall
landscape of the recording. Overall I would have to recommend this
recording. These days I don't review many recordings that I don't recommend
and this one is no exception. Smile On the Void is a fine work from one of
the greats in the genre."
--Matt Borghi, The Organization of Sound
"A Produce has been quiet for some time, save for a collaboration with M.
Griffin (hypnos honcho), and this is his first album since 1996. And since
that was some time ago and much water has passed under the bridge, I don't
seem to remember what I wrote back then. To me it seems A Produce has
progressed a little further, incorporating various percussion instruments,
like the djembe. Music that is ambient with the big A, and A Produce is
like ambient with the big A, dwells on enormous washes of synth sounds,
that come in slow waves from the speakers. The seven new pieces are no
different then before or then others, but the occassional percussive parts
give this just a little bit extra. Good, solid and at times dark ambient
--Vital E-Zine, Frans DeWaard
"This is the first brand new solo release from A Produce in five years. His collaboration
with Mike Griffin on the much-respected 1999 album Altara was his last excursion on to
the CD medium. There has been much excitement over this new release and I am glad to
report that Smile on the Void is a most enlightening album of deep and mindful
soundscapes. The overall theme of the album is the sleep cycle common to us all,
restlessness, sleep, dreaming and awakening.
With his music A Produce is able, with much skill, to draw in the listener with his
“Trance music” which he prefers to call his particular brand of ambient music. The title
track for example starts with what sounds like Tibetan singing bowls ringing out an
almost subliminal message. Added into the mix an almost organic rhythm is heard,
entering and entwining around ones senses. The next track “Night Curve” acts like a
brief respite of shifting and shimmering ambience as if the listener is being prepared
for sleep, which one guesses as the following track is called “The Big Sleep”. As may be
expected this “big” track envisages on the listener the main sleep cycle so consequently
it flows as a powerful and strong melodic music.
Another track of note is “Inner Sanctum”. This is a most beautiful piece of music and
reminds me of Brian Eno and Harold Budd’s “The Pearl”. In my view a definite contender
for ambient track of the year. The last track “Spirit Room” contains much of the above
ingredients, but a surprise awaits the listener. Starting with trance atmospheres this
has it all faint tribal references in the form of an ethnic drumming sequence, and in
the last part the addition of an electric guitar really brings the track and
consequently the album to a most satisfying end. This is a very impressive album indeed.
Lets hope we do not have to wait another five years for the next A Produce release, this
guy has tremendous talent."
--Gary Andrews, Ambient Visions
"Enigmatically pseudo-named electronic musician “A Produce” has returned
with another of his somber, elegant albums, this time with a title which is
a wry homage to Steve Roach. Some of the music on this Produce album does
show a bit of influence from the Tucson master “floating” electronic tones
accompanied by percussion rhythms - but most of it is original, pure
grade-A Produce. It can flow in the classic “dark ambient” mode, with
brooding, dissonant electronic atmospheres shimmering with menace or
despair, as in track 2, “Night Curve.” But it can also access more poignant
emotional territory, with tragic almost organ-like minor chords accompanied
by rumbling bass lines, as in track 3, “The Big Sleep.” And then again,
Produce can do the “drone” thing as well, with the psychedelic “Visions”
(track 4), one of my favorites on the album.
Produce’s earlier albums specialized in a kind of minimal, gemlike sound,
provided in (usually) short pieces which did not change from beginning to
end. Smile on the Void still makes some use of this style, but in
this album Produce has chosen to enrich his textures and move away from
minimalism. He can still create an ultra-quiet “relaxation” piece, such as
track 5, “Inner Sanctum” which is very much in line with the quiet Hypnos
sound. But then after that, he wakes the listener up with two longer,
up-tempo pieces which derive not from ambient so much as from thirty years
of electronic rock, complete with sequencers, drums, bongos, and other
percussion, and minor-key power chords. There are even some passages played
on hard-edged electric guitar, courtesy of Produce’s friend Scott Fraser.
With this variety, “A Produce” shows that he is more than an electronic
minimalist or experimentalist. He proves with this album that his electronic
voice can sing in many styles, from the mystical to the dramatic. There are
even moments of passion, though they are always tempered by his ironic and
sometimes detached attitude, which keeps Produce’s music from being either
naïve or pretentious. The musical smile is gentle, and the void doesn’t have
to be magnificent to be quality produce.
HMGS rating: 9 out of 10"
--Hannah M.G. Shapiro, EER