Vir Unis & Saul Stokes - Thermal Transfer
The third Binary release, first ever collaboration between Vir Unis and Stokes, Thermal Transfer is also the most uptempo, high energy recording yet released by Hypnos or its related labels. In fact, truth be told, this recording is the very reason that the Binary label was created -- so Hypnos could bring you excellent electronic music, even if the style in question was too "hyperactive" for the Hypnos label. The mp3 clip samples below should give you some idea why we're as excited about Thermal Transfer as anything we've ever released.
Track listing, with MP3 audio clips:
01 Kinetic Center mp3 clip
02 Stroboscopic mp3 clip
03 Replicants in Orbit mp3 clip
04 Modea's Liquid Metal mp3 clip
05 Blurring Maguro mp3 clip
06 Surface Solair mp3 clip
07 The Burning Ground mp3 clip
08 Thermal Transfer mp3 clip
09 Blurring Maguro (interstitial Remix) mp3 clip
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Reviews"John Strate-Hootman goes by the name "Vir Unis" - Latin for "one man" - as he feels this term best describes the insular attitude he holds towards musical endeavor. However, a quick look at John's "Curriculum Vitae" and one finds that most of his musical output has actually been in collusion with others (and a star studied cast it is, including some of the world's most innovative artists in electronic sound). Now Saul Stokes is a guy who really does spend a lot of time alone in his studio/workshop. Stokes, the "Sonic Innovator", not only experiments, composes and records music but also builds, modifies and maintains a unique array of custom-built synthesizer gear - a combination of poetry and engineering as it were. So when Vir Unis shared the double-bill with Saul Stokes at the 4 March 2000 Gathering in Philadelphia, the stage was set for more than just an incredible evening of music - it was felt that putting these two together in this space would surely lead to a greater connection elsewhere. That opportunity came later in the night, at about 2am, when the two commenced their live on-air STAR'S END radio performance - their first actual collaboration together. Having met only a few hours earlier, John and Saul quickly became in tune with their instincts and with each other and set about creating a two hour dreamscape which incorporated bottomless drones, de tuned harmonies and environmental field recordings. The radio concert explored aspects of minimalism in both sound and consciousness as the music affected the performers and their small in-studio audience - all of us drifting off to sleep at one time or another (and occasionally all at once!) throughout the duration of the concert. Thermal Transfer is the first full-length album by Vir Unis and Saul Stokes. The idea of John's micro-managed software based trance grooves interacting with Saul's electrically charged analog sequencer fluctuations seems most promising. This album is certainly unlike anything we've ever heard from Saul Stokes prior to this, having more in common with the design and progression of past Vir Unis albums. Each of the nine tracks flow through an evolution beginning with swirling electronic atmospheres out of which rise multi-layered rhythm loops that are eventually engulfed again by encroaching misty synth pads. The energy level of Thermal Transfer ranges from impulse powered orbits all the way up to warp driven dance floor explorations. Interesting moments arise when one pattern suddenly slips into another, marking a radical fluctuation on the beat meter as well as on the navigational coordinates of the piece. The morphing is done with precision - with the beats staying tightly in phase - and will amuse the attentive listener while merely jostling those less alert.
Thermal Transfer is an album about heat and light where rhythm and timbre are ever unfolding and evolving - a novel study of the intensity of tribal trance grooves tempered by post-new age breathing synth forms."
-- Chuck van Zyl / STAR'S END
"I have to say Thermal Transfer now is one of my favorite hypnos family releases. Very cool production and a very nice synthesis/blending ofthe pair's (Vir Unis & Saul Stokes) individual styles. Recommended!
-- on the Hypnos Forum
"Bouncing along like slightly heated molecules, Thermal Transfer warms the air with vibrant layered blips, meandering synths, and delicate tinkerings. Released on the new Hypnos sub-label, Binary, the electronically hyperactive thermal Transfer from Chicago based Vir Unis and Berkeley based Saul Stokes sets the standards for a new era in relaxing uptempo electronic music. The nine tracks glide through minor transformations with a sweet and comforting mood throughout and an airiness to the beats and synths that cleverly disguises their speed. The energy of techno infused IDM transfers into atmospheric soundscapes, resulting in a meeting place between the two where both elements can simultaneously appreciated on equal footing. Subtlety is key in the sound of Thermal Transfer; however, there are plenty of different intriguing noises, reverberating light beats, swirling synths rhythms, high end squiggles, and glowing sound washes to keep interest peaked from the opening "Kinetic Center" to the closing "Blurring Maguro (Interstitial Remix)." The final equilibrium is a fascinating and inviting sound experience that will tickle your brain and won't tire your ears."
--Outburn Magazine (Octavia)
"Stroboscopic is a helicopter sinking through a time warp in the Bermuda Triangle. This disc begs to be played at riskier volume. Tracks blend inside each other like a tidal wave of tropical vibration as in Replicants in Orbit. Vir Unis, last heard on the collaboration Blood Machine (Green House Music) with Steve Roach is in superb, groovy form on Thermal Transfer blending his sythesizers with the ample rhythms of the Bay Area's Saul Stokes. Portland label Hypnos has established Binary, a sub-label forged in deeper groove-laden recordings with an emphasis on sequencer relationships. Modea's Liquid Metal is a churning concoction of quirky percussion and smooth hand forged electronics via Stokes. This track merges fluidly into Blurring Maguro (which is then remixed for the disc's final track). The Interstitial (John Koch-Northrup) remix crosses semblances between itself and Aphex Twin with an air of free-fusion electronics. This is a sizzling collaboration by two artists who normally reduce the bpms in half. Here we have a solid combine of two electronic wizards, making for an overall more buoyant, singular voice. Turning the tonal levels to a crispy, but darker element, The Burning Ground shrouds the listener in a heavy handed transitional track that emphasizes its weight. On the title track, the preeminent tick-tocking breathes an inverse, anxious sigh. An active listen that performs like stormy weather, complete with its own abstract fractal sunset. This is a recording that pulses above the line and beyond the pale. (TJN)"
--Vital E-Zine, TJ Norris
"I just got this today, and I won't mince words: It kicks ass."
--Brian Bieniowski on the Hypnos Forum
"Whenever I hear that bass cascade on the second track, chills go down my spine. What an incredible disc!"
--Chris23 on the Hypnos Forum
"This is one of the finest ambient recordings I have listened to in a long time. 'Thermal Transfer" is comprised of nine tracks, which span over an hour. All the music was composed, recorded, mixed, and produced by Vir Unis and Saul Stokes. This is the first collaboration between Vir Unis and Saul Stokes. The album begins with the deep liquid sounds of 'Kinetic Center' in which samples and electronic textures envelope the listener in a glowing, gentle sea of sound.
It is followed by the seven and a half minute opus, 'Stroboscopic' which creates a sonic meditation in it's own delicate, austere minimalism. 'Replicants in Orbit' is a dark ambient piece flowing like a train through a dark landscape, with lights of cities passing by. No disturbance, no delay, just a fine relaxing mood of listening to these energetic flows, intercepted by occasional train bumps. With eyes closed, with eyes open - darkness turning light everywhere - Just beautiful!
The album's highlight is the epic piece, 'Surface Solair'. The tones Unis and Stokes produce, do not give up their origin as they are processed, delayed, distorted and looped to create intricate harmonies and timbres not usually associated with any familiar instrument. The duo's triumph here does not lie merely in the technical but in the emotional aspect of this music. The tracks that make up 'Thermal Transfer' are compelling and moody, displaying the duo's talent for traversing the space, ambient, and experimental genres with ease and grace, and perhaps creating a new genre in the process."
-- Ben Kettlewell / Alternate Music Press