Press Reviews


Morpheus Music, U.K.  ( November 2006 )


Rhythmic electronic space music with clean synths and a warm floating ambience. Dimensions presents a series of tracks with smooth washes and airy swells, unhurried and uncluttered propelled by gentle pulsing sequences and sonic breezes. There is no percussion to most tracks, no drum beats, but lucid melodic rhythms cycle and roll along with sufficient emphasis to keep the music in constant motion. There are static effects put to use in places, a measured crackle bright and crisp, providing a top layer to the delicate atmospheres and soft transparent hues. When a beat arises during 'Enter The Light' it is sparse, light and flickering. The overall effect is very floatational, as the cover imagery suggests - more a drifting in the upper reaches of the atmosphere than in the remote emptiness of deep space.



The mood of Dimensions is one of gentle celestial radiance, delicate shafting light free from the restraints of gravity. There is something of the stillness of dawn, a suggested solitude, a comfortable freedom from distraction, from care, from the weights of the world. John Lyell masterfully spins endless sheets of subtly graduated tone, expanses of sound that meander effortlessly away into remote distance. In harmony with the cover imagery there is often a sense of hanging high in the atmosphere, gliding through empty space, stretched out in the emptiness of air.



Some lovely complementary imagery adorns this CD - high, high above the clouds a weightless pyramid hangs, a trail of spheres trailing loosely in its wake. Salmon pink mists and orange-pink cloudbanks sheet through a flawless steely blue-grey sky. This design appears with variation throughout the package - on the jewelcase rear, no clouds, rather a dark fractal hole apparently attracting multiple pyramids, spheres and planets - here is the single tracklist. Behind the CD and on the reverse of the booklet similar fractal magnetism distorts pyramids, clouds and sky into swirling curves. Within there is only the lone pyramid and accompanying spheres against a graduated sky - delicate details alongside brief credits, a gear list and website details.



Dimensions is the third CD release from Minneapolis based John Lyell who has been a musician since 1984. This being his first solo album, previously working with friend Brent Reiland to produce Wormholes in 1998 and Synthetic Universe in 2002. John's music and graphics here reflect his keen interest in astronomy, time travel, and related cosmic subject matter, he writes, records, engineers, and produces everything with mastering credited to ambient legend Robert Rich. Promotional material describes Dimensions as "an Ambient-SpaceMusic Experience that is a mixture of "Rhythmic Pulses" as well as "Floating" SpaceMusic pieces". This is a CD for anyone enjoying tranquil electronic music that defies gravity and stills the mind.



This is an album for lovers of ambient silk, fans of sonic softness and grace. Not a minimal album, yet one uncluttered with plenty of space.

--Paul @ Morpheus



Hypnagogue   (November 2006) 


On his first solo release, John Lyell crafts a solid, drifting piece of classic-style spacemusic that demands and rewards close listening. Riding on spacewind drifts with swatches of quiet beats, Lyell immerses the listener in a journey at once soothing and intriguing.

Dimensions is an easy, inobtrusive ride through familiar spacemusic landscapes. Lyell crafts and layers his sounds with an expert hand. The journey begins on an upbeat note with the opening track, "Of Space and Time", but then Lyell immediately cuts the engines and coasts into the beautiful drift of “DreamSpace” and from there, it’s all interstellar chill. One of the highlights of this CD is the elegant, floating “Transport", which excels in its pure simplicity. Also worthy of note is the hypnotic flow of  “DreamSpace Return", which again makes good use of Lyell’s understanding of how to make the most of a minimal style.

While this trip may be reminiscent of others you’ve taken, it’s one worth setting time aside for.

~ John Shanahan - The Hypnagogue



New Age Reporter  (December 2006)


This is John Lyell’s first solo offering (his previous two recordings were with Brent Reiland). Just as Synthetic Universe, his last effort with Reiland, was a leap forward from their debut, Wormholes, Dimensions is an equally impressive upgrade (considering how much I liked Synthetic Universe, that’s saying something). Dimensions is one of the best spacemusic offerings in a long time, evoking comparisons to both the pioneers in the field, e.g. Geodesium, as well as current day artists, such as Alpha Wave Movement and Sylken. Lyell displays complete commitment to the genre with nary a moment of crossover or fusion to be heard, however, this is not just floating Serrie-like soundscapes, (a la And the Stars Go With You). The CD includes gentle rhythms wedded to cruising textures and luxurious deep space washes. These types of rhythms have been a part of spacemusic since its inception, although some fans may prefer the genre be completely beat-less. The artists mentioned earlier (Mark Pedersen, a.k.a. Geodesium, Gregory Kyryluk, a.k.a. Alpha Wave Movement, and the trio Sylken) recognize that spacemusic can coexist with gentle unforced pulses (usually synth bass notes or tones that have a regular cadence to them). The key to inserting these elements is to maintain an ethereal/cosmic sensation via layers of synthesizers, washes, chords, and pads, so that the “beats” merge with the other more ambient components fusing into a “whole,” hopefully evoking starfields, nebulae, planetary surfaces, et al. Lyell accomplishes this feat with flair, style, imagination and artistry. The liberal use of retro style keyboards adds a nice touch of nostalgia to many songs as well.

Things start off briskly with reverberating panned shimmering synth tones set against washes and breathy synth chorals on the opening
“Of Space and Time", followed by the gentle pulsing bass beats, echoed bells and floating retro keyboards of “DreamSpace". “Red Shift” sees the pulsing synth bass rhythms become more prominent set against a variety of retro washes and synth pads that float, hover, and gently soar across the soundfield. Lyell introduces some contemporary glitch textures on “Transport” counterpointed by ethereal chorals and sparse twinkling bell tones. “Enter The Light” features both long warm drones/washes and spacy electronic effects as well as a panned rhythm played out on clicking percussives. The title “DreamSpace Return” is, I believe, a nod to Steve Roach’s Dreamtime Return as amidst the assorted spacemusic elements is a haunting flute at the outset and the beats bear a subtle resemblance to Roach’s tribal ones from that period of his career. The synths themselves may also remind you of Roach as well. “Twilight Passing” is the rhythmless closing number, sounding like it’s from any one of several Spotted Peccary releases from the label’s earlier days, e.g. Deborah Martin’s Under the Moon.

I haven’t described every track on the CD because, by now, you’re either salivating to get your hands on this disc or you’ve already decided to pass it by. I figure I’ll leave one or two tracks for you to discover on your own. I’ll simply close by stating what should be obvious by now. I LOVE THIS ALBUM!

I wondered how Lyell could top Synthetic Universe, but he did it with apparent ease. No lover of spacemusic should be without Dimensions - period. I usually loathe using terms like “essential” to describe recordings, but I honestly don’t think your collection is complete without this album. Unless you adhere to the narrow belief that spacemusic never contains rhythmic elements, this is one CD you need to get. Once it’s in your hands, grab your lawn chair and play it while gazing at the heavens on a warm night. Trust me, it’s gonna whisk you away and take you out among the stars themselves. My highest recommendation.

~Bill Binkelman - New Age Reporter

Electroambient Space (March 2007)


A few years back I reviewed John Lyell’s collaboration with Brent A. Reiland called Wormholes (see my review at www.synthmusicdirect.com under Reiland in the Reviews section). I really liked about half the music, but felt the album was a little uneven. I am pleased to see it has all come together in Lyell’s solo effort Dimensions. This is smooth, easy going, relaxed space music. A laid back bubbly little sequence carries the opener, “Of Space and Time.” “DreamSpace” is aptly named, gently floating music like Jonn Serrie’s early work. “Red Shift” features swirling synths around a steadily pulsing bass line. For the most part the album ebbs and flows smoothly along. One exception is “Transport", which has a little repeating bit that makes it sound like a scratchy vinyl record. Not to my taste, but the rest of the disc most certainly is. “Enter the Light” takes us right back into velvety soft space realms, with a light percussion loop gently spinning in the background. “DreamSpace Return” is a fun play on things, a seeming inverse piece to “DreamSpace". The floating continues through the last three tracks to the dreamy finish. Highly recommended.

~ Phil Derby - Electroambient Space


Sonic Curiosity (March 2007)


This release from 2006 offers 56 minutes of tranquil electronic music.

Sighing atmospheric tonalities are laced with more vibrant keyboard expressions. Tones rise and writhe, while auxiliary textures seep into the mix like passing clouds. Patterns of astral disposition appear and coalesce, lending density to the feathery tuneage. Waves of rarefied sound wash over the listener, establishing an interstellar realm of great scope and infinite promise. These drones are lighthearted, designed to subtly invigorate rather than lull.

Livelier chords chitter and surge and swoop with a touch of dynamic verve amid the generally pensive soundscapes. While these embellishments remain generally submissive to the serene structure, they do serve to imbue the tunes with a delicate potency that is quite charismatic and rewarding.

While melody plays a solid role in this music, the overall mode is one of shimmering harmonic flows seasoned by sedate chords. One might classify this music as contemplative if it weren't for the distinct sense of curious exploration evoked by the compositions, a sense of yearning for more knowledge that drips from each successive sweep of the expansive tonalities.

This CD is crisply mastered by ambient pioneer Robert Rich.

~ Matt Howarth - Sonic Curiosity



Ambient Visions (June 2007)


I first became aware of John Lyell's music when I picked up a copy of Synthetic Universe a few years back which was John's 2nd collaborative release with Brent A Reiland after hearing it on Forest's Musical Starstreams internet version of his popular radio show. The pair had released one CD prior to Synthetic Universe called Wormholes with which I am unfamiliar with but if it is anything like Synthetic Universe it is probably worth picking up a copy.

Dimensions is the first solo release from John Lyell so when the CD arrived in the mail I wasn't sure what to expect or which direction John might go as a solo artist. John composed, performed, engineered and produced this effort all at Light Year Studios in Minneapolis,MN and except for the help of one very recognizable name, Robert Rich, who digitally mastered the project at his Soundscape Studios in Mountainview,CA this project is John's baby from beginning to end. 
The quality of this project is evident from the first track right through to the very last track which as you can probably infer from that statement I enjoyed Dimensions from the first notes of track 1 through the last notes of track 9. The CD is 55:45 in length and takes the listener on a smooth soothing trip through a peaceful universe of John's creation.  While Dimensions falls squarely into the space music camp it does not stop there and leave you floating without anything to latch onto but rather he has given most of the songs on this collection a rhythm and a pulse as well. I enjoy space music as much as the next Ambient Visions reader but I especially love to immerse myself in the kinds of atmospheres and washes that Dimensions exhibits throughout this disc. For those purists who don't like "peanut butter with their chocolate" or pulses or gentle rhythms with their space music then this might not be the CD for you but for everyone else who loves to feel the gentle touch of these electronic waves washing over them while they cruise through this serene universe you should run on up to John's website and begin your journey today. 
One of my favorite tracks on this CD is called "Red Shift" and it combines the elements described above in a wonderful way that leaves me breathless each time I hear it. The gentle pulsed rhythms are with the listener from the get go and take you to the end of the song. Meanwhile there are some interesting synth waves that move around you moving from speaker to speaker in the mix and at times taking center stage even from the ever present "beat" that holds this piece of music solidly together. And when I used the word beat it has nothing to do with the beat you might find in your favorite techno song but rather a solid guiding cadence that keeps the listener moving forward in a steady but unhurried kind of way. The music on Dimensions share similar characteristics from song to song such as the washes and the rhythms but each song is unique in and of itself. Each song still evokes the feeling of floating and drifting in a vast open space but each song does it in a different way and creates different perceptions in the listener. This CD represents a great effort on John's part to be able to take the differences of each track and still blend them into a cohesive whole that delights the listener. 
All in all I was very pleased with this CD and find that John's music on Dimensions has matured and grown in new and extraordinary ways since his collaborative work with Brent A. Reiland on the first two releases that he worked on. While exhibiting certain elements of those previously mentioned CD's, Dimensions kicks on its hyper space drive and jumps into a new universe that John has been so kind as to take us along for the ride. This CD has been in my player almost on a daily basis since I received it a couple of weeks back  and the music seems just as fresh and innovative the 10th time through as it was the first time I listened to it. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this CD and get started on this journey.

AV recommended CD.

~ Michael Foster - Editor of Ambient Visions



Something Instrumental  (June 2008)


When John Lyell sat back and listened to the final mixdown of this wonderful album, he had to have been overjoyed!

The album includes some really uplifiting ambient arrangements that have a tendency to strike just where they're needed... the sensory 'g spot' if you like....that all of us need to have replenished at some time or another in our lives and Dimensions is the album to do it.

Sequences are very well thought out and I can't find anything at all in this album that's in any way negative. John's compositional skills are undoubtedly first division but it's the superbly decorated stereo image complete with lots of lush pads and sweeps that keep your attention fixed and focused.

Musicians that signpost their self released albums with 'produced', 'engineered', 'composed', and 'performed' need to be very careful these days as it's a hanging flashing sign to many of us on this side of the fence that the recordings are likely going to be uninventive, amateurish, or at best 'ok'. John Lyell is an exception here, all of the time, effort, and energy he put in to making this album possible was very worthwhile for what I consider to be a very strong and exceptional collection of recordings.

~Colin Lynch


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