Sun Electric
30.7.94 Live





Sun Electric is the German duo of Tom Thiel and Max Loderbauer currently on hiatus, but resurrected every so often in each decade so far, starting from the early 90's. 30.7.94 Live was recorded at the Tripping on Sunshine Ambient festival in Ørstedsparken, Copenhagen, Denmark and pressed on CD in 1995 directly from the original DAT masters. That's the reason why you won't hear crowd noise or backcoupling at all – in fact, the audio quality is magnificent and you cannot distinguish this live album from any of their other studio albums sound-wise, despite the hint given in its title, of course. Since its release date, the album is considered an underground hit which became more well-known thanks to the usenet and the internet. I, too, have to confess that this is one of the very best Ambient albums ever produced, its purity and incredible warmth are still mind-blowing to this very day, making the album a timeless classic which is quite an achievement, considering that a lot of Electronic music until the British Big Beat phase starting in 1996 sounds either slightly or even awkwardly dated today. But, as stated above, not Sun Electric's album; it is the vehicle which takes you on a pompous journey consisting of three very long tracks, and its gasoline is made up of the most magnificent synth washes of the 90's. Strangely enough, all featured songs were solely made for this live gig and were never featured on any studio release, not even in remixed or altered form. It is all the more unfortunate – no, downright criminal! – that the album hasn't been re-released for the masses. Although it was released on Apollo Records, a subsidiary label of the now resumed R&S Records, there seems to be no urgent interest in a rekindling. The parent label indeed started to re-release their biggest 90's classics in digital form, which is a fact I applaud, but next to none of its Apollo label releases have been approved. I can only urge R&S Records to consider a release of 30.7.94 Live and I have hope that this will happen in the near future, for Sun Electric's first single O'Locco, originally released in 1990, found its way to digital download stores as well as their 1993 debut album Kitchen, its concomitant EP Natural Energy and their 1996 album Present. So instead of grousing over the missed opportunity, I hope for the best and will update this review once 30.7.94 is re-released in one form or another.


Castor & Pollux is the most Ambient track on the album and without a single beat at first, just a slight percussion added in the middle. It is also the shortest tune with just over 18 minutes. It fades in with gorgeous synth washes and high-pitched galactic pads, moves ramblingly and creates an atmosphere of pure joy and bliss. After five minutes, a mellowly chirping synth melody starts playing and integrates perfectly with the mellowness of the song. Echoey percussion is added in form of muffled claps, lingering wind chimes, ringing bells and flangered pulses. All the time, the melody remains as the base frame of the track and never vanishes. My description is not worthy of this masterpiece, so all I can do is ask you to listen to it yourself. Castor & Pollux is also famous for its use of a certain song by a certain Liverpool-based rock band that blends seemlessly at the end of the song, even though the tempo is entirely different. The refrain gets fuzzy and blurred, but it is still recognizable and it works charmingly as an exhilarant (but dangerous) addition to an Ambient masterpiece. Could this sample be the reason for the missing re-release, I'm pondering. Anyway, Castor & Pollux cross-fades seamlessly into the second phantasmagoric and poetically titled An Atom Of All Suns, which features the same mellow synth strings playing a different but equally comfy melody. The percussion, especially the hi-hat, is more upfront on here, but there are still several moments of tranquility to be found. Yet again, the synth washes can be heard all the time, but various things are added to the foreground like bouncing dark matter pads, glacial polar strings, dotting loops of pulses and reverberant laser beams. Listen carefully and you can hear soothing whale songs and yet another muffled sample of a song with a dominant female opera singer, I suppose; I cannot decipher the source. Northern Lights #3 features the aforementioned synth washes one last time, playing a different melody again. But now, things heat up with real 4/4 beats, twisted morse code-like pulses and fantastically modulated chime bursts that will stuck in your head as a trademark of this piece. In the middle of the track, the aforementioned chime bursts morph downright into synth eruptions and computer noises, but are never used in an overinflated manner. A short sample of an organ ditty is interwoven during the synth wars. The last third of the track is surprisingly calm with no recognizable melody in sight. Instead, different samples of several world music, organ ditties and orchestral songs are played while pulse echoes accompany this section. In a way, the last 7 minutes mark the end of the album that slowly fades away in this surprising way by throwing several samples into the ring and let them flow in and out of the pulse-laden arena. A somewhat quirky ending of a marvelous album, but in no way a downer, since the foible of short music extracts or opera samples can be found throughout the album's runtime. Insofar, I call the ending of Northern Lights #3 a plausible conclusion.


This is Sun Electric at their peak. This is Ambient music at its peak. I am a fan of all their works, from their Berlin techno hymns of Kitchen (1993), over their melodious downbeat and jungle experiments on Present (1996) to their salient Jazz-oriented IDM album Via Nostra (1998). But 30.7.94 Live is the pinnacle, the pharos, the technicolored beacon of their complete works. It still sounds fresh as a daisy in outer space. Never did Thiel and Loderbauer proceed with this Ambient style but chose a different direction with each subsequent release, making this a highpoint and a once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece of the highest order. Whatever review you are reading on the net, most of them are glowing and deeply in awe of the release and thus form a rare consensus. This is an album everyone likes but not too many people know about. But believe me, it is utterly fantastic and I recommend it with every fibre of my heart.



[Update Jan. 10, 201230.7.94 Live is available on several download stores, but due to a horrible typo – 30.74.94 Live – it has never appeared in any search result. Strange but remediable since you can re-name the album.] 




Ambient Review 013: Sun Electric – 30.7.94 Live (1995). Originally published on Dec. 18, 2011 at