Lux Aeternae and Thee Divine Imagination
reviewed by Larry Kerr
2. Lux Aeternae
4. Por Argento
5. Le Charme
6. Lapis Philosophorum
7. The Samovar Song
8. Sacred Site
Thee Divine Imagination
1. Thee Divine Imagination
2. The Solar Disc
3. Solis Artus
4. Faerie Magick
5. Spiritus Lenitatis
9. Un Danse Petite
10. Solis Occasus
October 1, 2000 - Lux Aeternae and Thee Divine Imagination, from Steven D. Stokes (under the name of Elemental), are two CD's of blissful synth atmospheres.
About the Music
Almost all of these pieces are slow, evolving landscapes that combine airy pads, swirling synths, angelic choruses, and jangling chimes over arpeggiated pedals or progressions. These tracks are primarily joyous and dreamy. Occasionally, the cheerful ambience is shaded with by a more somber, almost gothic mood.
Who is Elemental?
Elemental is just one of Stokes' many artistic pseudonyms. Apparently, by adopting aliases, Stokes frees himself to develop a certain aspect of his art without confining himself to one persona. In the works is a third Elemental album, as well as another project called "SKULT" that he indicates will be the "polar-opposite" of Elemental.
The most amazing part about this music is the fact that it was created without a computer or MIDI. Stokes' studio includes the ARP 2600, ARP Odyssey, and ARP Sequencer, as well as more modern synths such as the Yamaha AN1x, Kawai K1, Kawai K5, and K5000s. He records his music through Mackie 1202 and 1604-VLZ mixers into a Fostex R8 analog multitrack. Staying analog as long as possible, Stokes is able to maximize the warmth of his recordings.
Style & Influences
The most important element of Stokes' creative force is his intuition. With no formal musical or technical training, he sculpts sound and composes using only his intuition, and things "just 'happen' after 'exploring.'" Unable to describe this feeling in words, Stokes' intuition guides him through every step of the creative process, from selecting the right synth for a part to naming his compositions.
In terms of his synths, Stokes seems to favor his ARP's. Citing Jean-Marie Jarre as an early inspiration to use ARP's, he also indicates more pragmatic factors in choosing them. At the time, ARP synths were easier to find and more affordable than Moogs (read about ARP's marketing strategy in our ARP Room). By now, Stokes often likes working with his ARP synths as he has become so "friendly" with them over time.
Stokes has a wonderful studio setup. Since this picture was taken, he has made further improvements, adding another ARP 2600, a warmer mixing board, and arranging everything in a circle around him. With this layout, Stokes says he feels like "the pilot of a spacecraft."
Stokes' perception of his equipment sheds some light on the resultant sound of his music. The pieces on these two CD's are very textural, like almost like paintings in sound.
This aspect of his music may stem from his early development. His first musical experiences were what he calls "painting on the piano" as a very young child. Later, Stokes pursued actual painting and drawing for a number of years. But a certain point, he stopped painting, when he realized that his synthesizers could be "an infinite 'palette' of colours" on a canvas of magnetic recording media. Since that time, which was many years ago, these sound paintings have been his primary expressive outlet.
The music from Elemental is triumph with a touch of the mysterious. If you're the kind of person who might like to sit back and contemplate the cosmos, Elemental's music is for you.
To visit Elemental on the web, goto http://www.teleport.com/~revfever/.
To purchase Lux Aeternae or Thee Divine Imagination
in the U.S., contact Eurock Distribution:
Phone & fax: (503) 281-0247
P.O. Box 13718
Portland, OR 97214
In Europe, contact Synth Music Direct (SMD):
Phone: 0114 2864889
PO Box 592
Sheffield, S35 0FE, UK