"Mark Dwane's midi-guitar music continues to evolve in a more progressive fusion direction on his latest recording, The Sirius Link. As on Planetary Mysteries (his previous release), some tracks stray far from the Ohio-based artist's spacemusic past, here integrating more aggressive rhythms and using his guitar in more conventional (relatively speaking) ways. The resulting music is high-energy, propulsive and both immensely and immediately listenable. I'd rank this as one of the best driving CDs of this year, easily. Between soaring midi-synths (controlled via the artist's guitars), electro-organic percussion beats as well as conventional drum kit work, lots of assorted spacy textures and effects, and perhaps the best outright guitar playing of Dwane's career so far, The Sirius Link, if it is given half a chance, could be this artist's breakthrough recording to a much broader audience.
"The title track wastes little time exploding onto the scene (after a brief sweep of synth wind intro), featuring patented Dwane MIDI arpeggios, dramatic chorale effects, cosmic synth work, and a great lead melody that soars and dips. When the hand drums come thundering in, it's like a wave of energy and rhythm sweep over the track and it just keeps building until all the elements coalesce to perfection. In contrast, 'Lion People' introduces what will be a dominant part of the remainder of this album, a particular style of guitar playing that closely parallels the same sound as New Age/Smooth Jazz artist Craig Chaquico (the guitar has that same shining/sparkling sonic characteristic). However, unlike Chaquico's smooth urban adult contemporary music, Dwane takes his guitar into a land of alien-ish sound effects, lush synth chorales, kinetic percussion treatments, and melodies that are anything but pedestrian. I really like this move for Dwane, which I would categorize as a hybrid of spacemusic and prog fusion, bringing the best of both genres to the table and yielding superb results from engineering, production, and compositional standpoints.
"Not everything on the album is uptempo and high energy. 'The Mists of Uncertainty' features echoed piano and multiple layers of MIDI-synths that billow like wind-blown sails on a cosmic sea. Likewise, the closing cut, 'Binary Star,' is another drifting ambient-like selection, this one tinted with more overt spacemusic atmospheres and a sweeping sense of drama from floating washes and assorted background effects.
"There are four outstanding rhythmic tracks featuring trap kit and hand drums, progressive guitar and lots of tasty MIDI-synthesizers adding all kinds of melodic touches here and there. What snagged me on this recording was how catchy the music was without being too slick, commercial, or predictable. 'Stellar Presence' is anchored by nice thick bass rhythms while the guitar on 'Cosmological' sounds so much like Chaquico's work on his signature songs like 'Acoustic Highway' that if it weren't for the absence of anything approaching Smooth Jazz elements, you might be hard-pressed to tell this was Mark Dwane instead. Make no mistake, though, this is all Dwane. I only draw this comparison for the sake of describing the sound of the guitar, not the music itself. Dwane's compositions are every bit as accessible as Chaquico's, but are much more intriguing and densely layered, not to mention void of any jazzy underpinings. 'Quantum Leap' blends guitar with other Dwane MIDI-effects in a low key fashion, trading in the trap kit drums for hand drums.
"I don't know what the Mark Dwane fans who preferred The Monuments of Mars or similar earlier recordings will think of The Sirius Link (probably, they'll have the same reaction they had to Planetary Mysteries, although there are only a few wordless vocals on this album, as opposed to the real vocals on some tracks on P.M.). Myself, I love The Sirius Link, period. It's refreshingly short (about 47 minutes long) which for me is always a plus, the CD sounds like a million bucks in every respect, and features music that both kicks ass and soars the cosmic seas at the same time. How cool is that? Highly recommended!" -- Bill Binkelman/ Wind and Wire
"This time, Dwane adds electro-acoustic guitars to his repertoire of MIDI guitar, increasing the range of his sonic palette by counterpointing the synthetic with traditional resonance. Resisting the urge to indulge in space guitar, Dwane crafts his chords from a different vantage that is rooted in a classical temperament, resulting in a refreshing, unique sound for his harmonious inventions.
"Delicate strumming coexists with searing strings, a compendium that spawns a tasty atmosphere for the MIDI expressions that unfurl in a variety of sonic directions. Expansion is effortlessly accomplished, sending the listener to lofty heights. There, the intricate harmonics meld to form pleasant melodies riddled with a soft tension and a strong sense of cerebral illumination. Chilling winds caress the tuneage, evoking a crispness that fits well with the crystalline qualities exhibited by the music's overall demeanor. A sweeping perspective of the interstellar void as an emotional medium is captured, codified, and presented for the audience's enjoyment.
"Artificially induced percussives inject a stately vigor to these drifting melodies, a bounciness that is wholly appealing.
"Non-lyrical vocals are utilized few times to humanize the spacey music.
"Middle Eastern strains are present in some of this tuneage, tempering astral predilections with earthly influences. This generates a cosmic link between antediluvian cultures and outer space, a favorite topic for Dwane's engaging compositions.
"Enthralling and rewarding, this release explores sonic vistas that escalate ambience to a state of congenial stamina. -- Matt Howarth/ Sonic Curiosity