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Rod Modell & Michael Mantra - Sonic Continuum

Artist: Rod Modell & Michael Mantra
Title: Sonic Continuum
Label: Hypnos Recordings

Rod Modell and Michael Mantra's first collaboration is comprised of two 35-minute pieces, and works best at low volume, especially when played while sleeping or relaxing.

Sonic Continuum tracks listing (with extended MP3 sample clips):
Vitamin M -
Vitamin K -
(total playing time about 70 minutes)

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"Meditation/Ambient Music Top 10 of the year."
--Glenn Hammett, The Raging Consciousness Desk


"Anyway, one of my fav Hypnos CDs (I think they're all so good, sometimes hard to have a favorite) is Rod Modell and Michael Mantra's "Sonic Continuum" I think. It has two tracks -- long and longer :-) It's gorgeous -- moody, deep, not necessarily dark, but definitely brooding and just plain wonderful."
--John Michael Zorko on the Ambient Music mailing list


"The best album on the label to date, this features just two 35-minute tracks with such a cavernous sound, you could actually imagine that the synth musicians had set up their equipment and a massive sound system inside some glorious lost underworld, wiht the faint sound of running water echoing in the distance, as the towering synthscapes boom out and fill the room with a mass of glorious sonic splendours, into which you dive to envelop yourself in the riches that the music has to offer. Immaculate and then some."
--CD Services newsletter (Scotland)


"I ordered this based solely on its label, Hypnos, and the catalog description. Beat-less, floating ambience, sometimes murky, always enchanting."
--Cliff Tuel, Space Music mailing list


"Both Mantra and Modell were formely recording for Silent Records, Mantra under his own name and Modell as Waveform Transmission. Their work for Silent was of the more daring ambient kind. It only seems natural to see them together on a CD and it may be no surprise that Hypnos is the label (they continue where Silent stopped). Rather then playing a few pieces, this CD is split in half and each track is some 35 minutes epic, wavering backdrop of synthesizers that float. They mix in a quite bizarre wash of sounds, footsteps, people walking in the mall, and processed water sounds. Quite dark at times, but not unpleasant to listen to. As suggested by the artists, I imagine this would work best when played on a soft volume, lying down and with your eyes closed (none of which I did however, as I was cleaning the house, making coffee and played it a volume were I could hear it everywhere in the house, but alas). If you do fall asleep, there is no need to feel uncomfortable. Or as I, when it stopped, being surprised that there was no music for such a long time..."
--Frans DeWaard, Vital E-Zine, The Netherlands


"Two long pieces each over 35 minutes in length. In the distance you can make out voices, seagulls, occasional footsteps, the sound of water. Washes of sound permeate your immediate presence. There is this constant drone. Sounds are looped in the background, at times an almost clutter of noise. It at times reminds me of Peter Miller's loop of train wheels going over train tracks, that sense of hypnotism. There's nothing really new here but it's done well. The piece seems to gather momentum with time constantly evolving, working best at low volume, like most ambient music. It's when the background sounds are stripped away and all you hear are the sounds of the synthesiser induced drones that this recording becomes quietly beautiful to listen to, away from noises and distractions. This duo is reminiscent of the Australian group Social Interiors, whose sonic worlds are comprised of sound collages mixed in with ambient textures. I think this is a bit more on the experimental side of ambient. I find myself listening to this recording mostly at nights, when Julie and Atticus have gone to sleep, and I want to write or think. Both pieces segue effortlessly and there seems to be little to differentiate from one piece to the other. According to the bio notes which came with this Michael Mantra, who in the past has recorded for the Silent label, is considered an expert on 'brain tuning' and binaural brain techniques. Rod Modell was half of Waveform Transmission, and on this plays mainly keyboards, while Mantra employs Tibetan singing bowls. On the back of the cd it says ultra ambient music. Sonic Continuum say they are 'dedicated to the spiritual liberation of all sentient beings.' A recording like this certainly adds to the possibilities of such an occurrence eventuating. Another unique recording for Hypnos."
Hans Stoeve, PowerSpot Radio, NSW, Australia


"Lush, gorgeous and cinematically unfolding, these aural journeys by Rod Modell and Michael Mantra can lead the listener deep into a sound-defined sonic continuum. Two long tracks, with numerous well-blended sound effects, lead the way (though more adventurous listeners may feel corralled by the specificity of the sources).

In vitamin M (35:55), a simple, naturalistic cycle is established by the ebb-and-flow of synth layers upon which various aural events and patterns are seamlessy applied. More ebbing-and-flowing comes in the form of often-present ocean waves and wind sounds, though others appear (such as birds, thunder, muffled voices, ceramic tinkles and occasionally unidentifiable percussive effects). Slowly abating toward its end, the long track length accentuates the "total immersion" effect that can easily be achieved.

Constructed of very similar elements arranged in a similar fashion vitamin K (35:07), too, expands and contracts in waves of electronics adorned with more natural sound sources. Again, the sea figures prominently in the mix, though in this outing, the synth sounds are a bit darker (despite occasional laughter), and the overall atmosphere somewhat more industrial (with a distant, shrill feedback tone and even a ringing phone).

I suppose my main complaint with both tracks is that (when ambient listening is generally patterned around a total lack of constraints) the sounds here tend to be rather concrete. Not a major problem, but reinforced with repeated listenings... "Yep, we're back at the beach... mm-hmm, there's that bird again...". Calming and expansive, Modell/Mantra's pieces go beyond some cheesy "Soothing New Age Sounds - w/Ocean Noise!" relaxation cassette, though it's not an inconceivable comparison. sonic continuum is an expertly rendered ear journey and, despite inherent limitations, warrants an 7.9."
--David Opdyke / The AmbiEntrance


"I have been listening to this CD for a couple of months now, and I've been trying to figure out how to write about it. It is always somewhat of a challenge to describe with words what ambient music sounds like, but in this case I was really stumped. Also, to simply say, as it does on the label, "ultra ambient music," would be plagiarizing, not to mention a really short review.

So what kind of ambient music is it? Well, it's like, uh, really, really ambient. At the same time, I wouldn't call it minimal. Minimal, to me, implies that the music is a very simple drone, with very little else going on. Though there is a main drone theme that courses through the two 35-minute tracks, "Vitamin M" and "Vitamin K," the real artistry in this CD lies in the strong undercurrents of sound. "Vitamin M" is, on the surface, a drone of a few notes, which alternate slowly, over 35 minutes. But beneath, there are water sounds, people talking, metallic rustlings, and a host of other interesting noises. Sonic Continuum is at its heart a sound collage, which can be enjoyed equally with headphones or without, though each would provide a totally different listening experience. Without headphones, the CD epitomizes Brian Eno's definition of ambient, that is, music for passive listening. With headphones, the experience becomes more involving. Throughout the music, there is almost always something going on in both the foreground and the background. This becomes readily apparent when, for fleeting moments, the background disappears, leaving only the drones, which are in themselves quite peaceful and soothing.

"Vitamin K" is the more abstract of the two, and is largely centered around water sounds. Unlike "Vitamin M," discrete notes of any kind are not observable. This is truly a canvas made up of sounds instead of brush strokes. It is at once fascinating and relaxing. Somehow, the effect is much prettier than one might expect. Deep drones and noises like this are usually associated with darker music. Still, I wouldn't suggest playing Sonic Continuum for party guests. It is best suited for quiet introspection and relaxation. Have a safe and pleasant journey."
--Phil Derby / Wind and Wire Magazine


"There is all kind of binural processing going on in this ambient soundscape masterpiece. On the surface synth chords drift slowly in an On Land or Steve Roach style. Underneath all kinds of sonic recording evolves including thunder storm, insects, oceans, wind, animals, human movements, dislocated speech and much more. It has a constructed feeling and is woven into the overall fabric. It makes for a very interesting and enjoyable sound, almost approaching musique concrete. It's very hypnotic indeed and it lulls you, drawing you in.

I played the whole thing through with headphones on (as recommended) and within half an hour I was transported to some strange place inside my head, the music clearly still audible but everything else gone. It was most unsettling and one of those rare moments when music takes you out of yourself completely. At the end I came gently back and was shocked to see it an hour and twenty minutes later."
--Mark Coyle -- Ambient Mailing List


"Sonic Continuum is comprised of two thirty-five minute pieces by a pair of Americans. On the first track, the synthesizer lays down a majestic and repetitive three-note backdrop, while the second is more drone-like. Sounds are layered overtop both pieces - everything from seagulls and crickets to the whoosh of the surf on a beach, muffled industrial clanging and stretched out, low gong-like sounds with a nod in the direction of Robert Rich or perhaps Thomas Koner. The pieces are sure to please many..."
--Stephen Fruitman (Umea, Sweden) -- Ambient Mailing List


"An aural excursion into eerie, murky waters. Two 35+ minute songs that make me feel like I'm sitting below a pier from late afternoon into the night, with all the sounds like seagulls and waves and distant voices that you would typically hear, but with almost ominous synth chords drifting in the background. Ambient in the true sense of the word - I love this when I'm working on something mindless so I can drift into the scene."
--Dave Reade on the rec.music.newage newsgroup


"Just received Sonic Continuum in the mail from Backroads and am again blown away by another superb Hypnos release. This one has earned a spot on my "10 best" of '98 list, and I thought I'd pass along some comments that perhaps you could share with website visitors or anyone else interested in purchasing the CD who needs a little push to take a chance on it. I've never heard of Rod Modell but have heard of Michael Mantra from the Silent label. I heard some of his previous music years ago but don't remember it much. I did take a chance on this and was more than pleasantly surprised.

These 2 long pieces are the sonic equivalent of floating in a body of water on another planet, with gentle washes of water sounds, waves, and deep, harmonic synth chords that breathe and expand. Organic sounds like twigs/sticks bring to mind Alio Die's sacred, earthy tone poems, plus we hear mysterious voices in the background that disorient. This album is a total sound immersion experience, and should be listened to on headphones for the full, almost "3-D" effect as the sound swirls and washes over you from all directions. Sonic Continuum is a serene, cyber-organic journey, both earthy and alien at the same time. Anyone who appreciates deep space music, especially original, cuttting-edge sound sculpting, should immediately drop what they're doing and buy this album!!! And once again, the brilliantly colored cover graphics are so amazing you just want to dive in and start swimming around in it."
--Chris Knowlton


"Sonic Continuum is quite different [from other Hypnos releases], but it was to be expected, having in mind the wonderful and mindblowing Sonic Alter, which was my first contact with that kind of natural recording. Continuum doesnt have such intensity and power as its predecesor, but Rod Modell's input has its advantages, as the sounds are more gentle and slowly evolving into a quiet watery soundscape. This is so far the most hypnotic of all Hypnos releases."
Vladimir Jovanovic, Inner Space Radio, Zagreb, Croatia

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