2012 the ninth album from Mark Dwane!
Thematically based on Mayan lore and the end of time.
Mark continues his distinctive sound of skyscraper melodies and ambient atmospheres. An audiophile journey of light and shadow!
Mark Dwane is a musician with a penchant for mystical, mythical and science fiction imagery. His second album was Angels, Aliens and Archetypes, The Atlantis Factor was a tone poem to the mythical lost city, and on The Nefilim he rendered an electro-symphony for an alien race of angels that seeded the gene pool of earth. Now, 2012 takes its title from the Mayan calendar, and the year that marks the end of the 12th Baktun, a cycle about 400 years long.
From his first CD, 1988's The Monuments of Mars, Dwane has wed this imagery with a cinematic music that paints the sky in electronic colors and drives the grooves with interlocking sequencers and percussion. Dwane stands apart from most electronic musicians because he's not a laptop jockey or keyboard player. He's primarily a guitar player and his songs are built around electric and acoustic guitars, and most notably, his MIDI-guitar or guitar synthesizer. He uses this device to bring an orchestra of sounds to his strings.
"Skywatchers" is quintessential Mark Dwane, with a surging, filtered electronic rhythm sequence demarcated by strumming acoustic guitar and topped by swelling string-like synthesizers and some of Mark's own patented sounds like an echoing glissando trumpet choir. While many electronic musicians have given up the art of the solo, Mark Dwane whips it out, with a melodic lead that builds off his kinetic grooves. As a guitarist, Dwane has a melodic gift and dramatic sensibility that sets him apart. On a song like “Baktun Cycle,” plucked strings play off each other in a contrapuntal loop, while guitar strums emerge into a chordal solo.
Dwane makes effective use of environmental ambiences on songs like "The Sacred Tree" as very electronic sounding birds create stereo glissandos across his flute melody, blending into the echoes and rustles like a neon-lit jungle. The sound of rain mimics an electronic rainstick on one track and accompanies electronic droplets on another.
While so many electronic musicians have headed off into the drone zone of sonic abstraction, Mark Dwane is an artist who still believes in the power of melody, the grandeur of a big crescendo and the stories held within a dramatic turn. He brings it all together on his ninth CD, 2012, our Echoes CD of the Month for April 2007.
© 2007 John Diliberto
Trondant/Orbian Music (2007)
Mark Dwane started playing spacemusic on guitar and (guitar) midi- synth in 1988 (The Monuments of Mars). 2012 is the next step in his evolution towards a more progressive fusion sound (a movement begun in earnest on Planetary Mysteries and continued on The Sirius Link. Dwane’s albums are always steeped in either science fiction or mythological influences and this one is no exception, drawing its title from the Mayan culture and featuring titles that pertain to it. While some trademark musical elements from previous Dwane recordings are present (e.g. the chorals, crescendos, arpeggios and soaring synths on the opening title track), other parts of the album reflect a prog rock/jazz fusion influence laced with ambient/electronica textures. As is usual for Dwane, 2012 is filled with complex, propulsive, energizing and imaginative music recorded with sterling production values and textbook engineering.
“Skywatchers” weds strummed guitars sparkling with chromium sheen, wailing tones and sequenced thumping rhythms. The emergence of stinging lead electric guitar and trap kit drums moves the piece into aggressive prog rock territory. At the start, “Baktun Cycle” crackles with a thunderclap and moves briskly forward with midtempo sampled hand percussion and a variety of lead and rhythm guitars, along with background chorals and spacy waves of melody. Decidedly different, “The Sacred Tree” features bird calls, some of which are altered to have a slightly alien-ish quality to them, slow measured tribal beats, what sounds like a wooden bass flute and some gentler world-fusion influenced guitar. “The End of Time” has an ambient/spacemusic prologue of haunting male and female chorals set against a backdrop of pealing electric lead guitar, nicely echoed for an added eerie effect. When the rhythms are folded in, they are of a tribal fusion variety, not unlike those heard on recordings from Kudzu or perhaps Archetribe. The music ramps up the energy but not to an overpowering degree so that the mood stays mysterious and intense. Likewise, “Codex” starts off quietly with falling rain and a repeating refrain on a shimmering harpsichord and synth. Trademark melodic textures are eased into the song as well as forceful piano. At about the half-way point (four and half minutes), trap kit drums pound out the midtempo rhythm and a new instrumental sound takes over the lead, before eventually submerging and leaving behind the opening instrumentation amidst the sound of rain again. “Ascension” closes the album with the most overt prog-rock sound yet, anchored by lighting flashes of power chords and soaring leads, acoustic rhythm guitar and snare/bass drum beats. While slow in tempo, this may be the hardest Dwane has rocked. Had he placed this song anywhere but last on the album, I might’ve taken issue with the song itself. However, with its celebratory mood (note the song title) long fadeout and as the closing cut, I can’t fault the artist, even though my personal taste runs toward the softer tracks on this CD.
In some ways, the more powerful guitar chops and aggressive musical and rhythmic stylings of 2012 may actually increase Mark Dwane’s audience, provided prog and fusion fans find out about it (hello, reviewers at Exposé magazine, are you listening?). Dwane’s music has always contained dramatic and rhythmic elements (check out tracks like “Solstice Ritual” on The Monuments of Mars), but 2012 explores less spacy landscapes in favor of a blend of the accessible with the exotic. Solidly recommended for progressive fusion fans and those who like to crank their music up (which is what this release deserves).
New Age Reporter
MARK DWANE: 2012 (CD on Trondant/Orbian Music)
This release from 2007 offers 46 minutes of dreamy electronic music.
Lavish tonalities gather with dramatic intent, providing a dreamy foundation for Dwane's central themes and delicate embellishment. These airy passages establish a lush backdrop for Dwane's sultry guitarwork.
Guitars (MIDI and conventional electric axes) supply a host of ethereal sounds that undulate and pulsate in the tuneage. Nimble fingers generate riffs of sparkling character, from strummed chords to ricocheting melodies to searing pyrotechnics, all combining in a slick mix to form beautiful melodies that seethe with vitality and spiritual potency. Harmonic elements blend with energetic melodies to generate sensuous tuneage that touches the soul with the same power that it stimulates the mind. The riffs intertwine and cavort with a relaxed vibrancy that achieves a heart-stirring cadence.
There's some percussion, but many of the rhythms are created through guitar patterns that bounce with lively tempos. What e-perc there is resounds with soft impacts which somehow blaze with major passion despite their gentle presence.
The compositions exhibit immense humanity with melodies that combine an atmospheric quality with a distinct strength. This fusion of vigor and dreaminess is quite remarkable and thoroughly satisfying. While inducing introspection and leisure, the tunes are equally capable of stimulating expansive elation and thrilling exultation.
Matt Howarth / Sonic Curiosity
MARK DWANE 2012 (Trondant) • Mark Dwane is a guitarist, yes, but he’s as iconoclastic in his approach to the instrument as “guitarists” like Robert Fripp, Steve Hillage, Phil Manzanera, etc. A big proponent of MIDI and its varied interfaces, Dwane’s finger-plucked chords are dominant in the mix, right as rain, and shine like the crown jewels, though cocooned within the symphonic glaze of numerous synths and other devices he not only expands his instrument’s vocabulary but invents an entirely new syntax for its use.Calling out his favorite (and oft-used) pseudo-'prog' tropes offset by dungeons 'n' dragons sci-fi imagery, Dwane negates the faint whiff of cheese that tainted some of his recent ventures thanks to his dexterity, chops and compositional prowess. The widescreen production values don’t hurt, either. The record sounds absolutely gorgeous, a touch no doubt sustained over many years behind the console jockeying sounds into just the right positions. Wander across “Codex,” for example, Dwane orchestrating limpid pools of interweaving stringthings into which a summer shower pours out of the horizon, electronic gas bubbles softly rise, the atmosphere changes color, then out of nowhere drums beat out a chorus for the enveloping storm. All is not sturm und drang; both the title track and the closing “Ascension” convey arch, sweeping Vangelis-like majesty in the brashest sense, but it’s important to note that 2012’s tone alternates between the triumphant and the tender, emotional states juggled with the utmost cunning. Even when Dwane’s prog tendencies burst forth (obviously so on the Andy Pickford-esque space rock of “Skywatchers’), he keeps things lively enough that only the most chastising of listeners would turn a deaf ear—probably those listeners in a mad Rush wasting the years on their way to misguided 2112 nirvana.
Darren Bergstein E/I Magazine
MARK DWANE 2012
What I love about the music that is covered on Ambient Visions is the diversity of what comes in to my PO Box and how great some of the music turns out to be. Though the name of the site has the word ambient in it I like to think that AV is open to many other types of instrumental music as well. Mark Dwane’s CD 2012 is one of those albums that I liked from the first and have grown fonder of with repeated listenings as each time through the songs shows me different aspects of the music or of the atmospheres that Mark was able to create with this release. Mark is a fellow Ohioan who has been making music since 1988 on guitar and midi-synths ever since. This project was composed, performed and produced by Mark so his touch can be felt throughout the music and that touch shows a skillful hand indeed.
One of my favorite songs on the CD is Codex (track 6) which begins with a simple repeated sequence and the sound of rain in the background. It builds ever so slowly and adds other instrumentation to augment the very basic pattern that has been repeating to this point. The synth is added to give it a smoother feel and then a more direct keyboard sound that still does not overpower the other elements of the song but rather joins them in creating a more complex palette of sounds to hold the listener’s attention. Mark does not stop there with this song as about at the 4:30 point in the song drums are added to bring the song up to another level entirely. Mark never lets the drums overpower the basic vision of the song but rather lets them act to tie the entire song together with a more vivid feel that offers a climatic point to the music before drifting back down to the basic rhythm again and ending with just the repeating sequence and the rain. This song is very well done and it shows all too clearly that Mark is able to craft music that is effectively able to harmonize the dramatic and the subtle elements of his music into single compositions with great effect.
That is not to say that all of Mark’s music will be as subtle as Codex because another of my favorite tracks on this CD is Skywatchers which is the second song on 2012. This song jumps right out at you with a very catchy rhythm right from the start. From there it very quickly escalates into synths, an acoustic guitar and finally into a soaring electric guitar solo that rises above the other instrumentations to take the spotlight. This song is another great piece of work by Mark and really shows off his capable guitar playing and his production expertise as he weaves the instrumentation into an impressive final mix.
As you may have guessed by the description many times Mark’s music has more of a prog-rock feel to it than an ambient vibe. This is not a bad thing but a good thing. There are ambient and space elements in Mark’s music below the surface or even a little more obvious than that but there are also very dramatic elements of prog-rock as well. 2012 consists of 7 songs that are all varying degrees of those elements. The Sacred Tree is a little more laid back with an acoustic guitar guiding you through the landscape along with some voices and processed bird sounds that are interspersed in the music to embellish the mellow feelings that the song generates in the listener. This song has a steady rhythm but nothing that really dominates the song. It is simply there to act as the canvas upon which the other elements of the song are painted on by Mark.
Overall 2012 is a very enjoyable album and each song is an accomplishment in and of itself but when brought together into a single CD it takes the listener on a conceptual journey through the landscapes that Mark has skillfully created on this project. His storytelling is filled with elements that run the gamut from gentle and comforting to pulsing and soaring. There is an ebb and flow to the music that washes over the listener with dramatic elements and then eases back to more relaxing elements that caress and soothe the listener on their journey. I found that repeated listenings only enhanced how I felt about the music and added to my enjoyment of what Mark had created on 2012. With this release the listener will find a great CD filled with thoughtful, progressive and textured songs that will be sure to please anyone with a taste for music that showcases such a wide range of qualities. AV recommended CD.
Reviewed by Michael Foster editor of Ambient Visions
Like Jim Brickman, who is known for his New Age instrumental music, Clevelander Mark Dwane is also an instrumental musician. However, Mark Dwane falls into the category of Electronic Music; a form that gives the listener a feeling of floating through the clouds while listening to the music.
To help describe Mark Dwane’s sound, I will let him describe his sound in his own words. This is an excerpt from the interview Mark had in May, 1996 with Margen Magazine, a publication from Spain:
“As a child, I was always interested in music, which was mostly classical. I began lessons on the guitar at age 10 and progressed through a formal education on the instrument. I began composing my own songs very early on, and made my first recording at age 12…..
“Classical music always remained a heavy influence, as well as film scores and experimentalists such as Stockhausen, Reich and the emerging electronic composers.”
Aside from being interviewed in Margen Magazine from Spain, Mark Dwane has also been interviewed in the U.K. magazine Sequences in August of 1996. You can read both interviews in full by clicking on the “interviews” icon on the homepage of Dwane’s website.
With the classical and film score influences running throughout Mark Dwane’s music, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Mark also makes a salary writing music for the entertainment industry. On his website, you can find a section devoted to the production music that he has written over the years. Production Music is that type of music that is used in the back of commercials and on television shows to add atmosphere. Some of the clients that use Mark’s Production Music include: Fox Sports, Univision, Comcast Sports, the Playboy Channel, and many others.
Mark’s Production Music is for “commercial use only” and is not available to the public. However, Mark has also been writing and recording his own albums for more than 15 years. His library includes 9 albums and an album of alternate mixes and unreleased tracks. The newest album in the library is 2007′s 2012.
2012 was recorded by Mark Dwane in his own Trondant Studios, in Westlake. Each song was composed by Dwane using his MIDI guitar (a guitar that transforms vibrations into electronic sounds by way of a computer) and many other guitars to create the finished product. While some of Dwane’s other albums could be described as “background music for epic sci-fi movies”, and other as “concept albums”, 2012 has some of both styles in its sound.
The album begins with the title track of “2012″. Like the song title suggests, the music of the track begins with Mark Dwane creating a song that has a very ethereal feel, which is helped along by the inclusion of the harp. It is the best way of sliding into an album full of ethereal concepts.
2012 continues with the track “Skywatchers”. “Skywatchers” features some of Mark Dwane’s best guitar work as he creates a song that has multiple layers and seamlessly blends New Age and Jazz together. This blending makes for one of the best tracks on the album.
With the track “End of Time,” Dwane creates a song that features music that seems to suggest a very ominous occurance. It contains some of the eeriest and most intense music on the entire album.
2012 concludes with perhaps the most beautiful of all of the track, “Ascension”. “Ascension”. contains the feeling of being taken up into the clouds. This track will definitely leave you with two feelings at one: one feeling that suggests some sadness and one feeling that suggests beauty. The final track of the album makes for a great way to wrap up this album that features a lot of beauty and complexity.
Wth 2012, Mark Dwane created a release that is full of imagery that will capture your imagination. If you like New Age or Soft Jazz, or if you are a fan of background music from movies, give Mark Dwane and his release 2012 a listen and find out what the rest of the world already knows: Mark Dwane is a very talented musician and composer. Visit Mark at his website.
Matheson Kamin / Cleveland Free Press