Morpheus Music Magazine - May 1st 2012

REVIEW of Peter Westheimer’s ‘Tranzworld Express’ album

Global Psychill journey album. Tranzworld Express is a transporting experience that whisks the listener away from home on a speeding dream train breezing across musical, cultural and technological borders. The pace is mid-tempo - a comfortable dance groove with a locomotive-like regularity suggestive of casual speed and passing vistas. Western soul sounds and club elements get the party going, but soon the scene has shifted and a Middle Eastern dub beat drives Peacedance further from home. The sense of the exotic is heightened as the album progresses: international instrumentation and diverse voices interwoven among bright recording effects, vocoder snatches and lush strings. "I know everything about nothing!" declares a lively voice at the opening of Virtually Enlightened; multinational hand drums and twanging plucked wires here juxtaposed against subtle sequences and brash brass flourishes. Peter Westheimer clearly enjoys a rich melting pot of music without the encumbrance of genre restrictions. China India (as you might deduce) fuses the colours of these two evocative Asian sources of mystique - bells trees and electronica; erhu and sitar; expressive tablas and programmed beats; piercing pipes and soft female vocals. The binding factor for the album is the relatively consistent beat - wheels on tracks, hypnotic patterns, express rhythm.

Peter Westheimer brings a sense of global responsibility to his music, dealing with such important themes as the planet's growing population, finite resources and climate change challenges; East-West relations and the struggling of peace processes; religious enlightenment, fundamentalism and media control; ecologically friendly transport modes and natural energy sources. These serious concerns thread the music of Tranzworld Express with a dynamic urgency: stirring beats, driving bass lines and insistent melodies. The tightly woven multinational instrumentation (Westheimer himself plays a wide range of instruments, ranging from keyboard to sitar, with much in between) highlights a vision of potential global harmony and cooperation. That said - this is by no means merely a gloomy presentation of cerebral ideals - the music is full of emotion: ranging from the blissfully ecstatic through lively, vivacious and inspirational to somewhat threatening and disquieting. The artist's website explains that he sees music as an agent of change - unlike much of today's 'worldbeat' music this is an album with an authenticity born from genuine passion and actual familiarity with many of the locations aurally conjured "inspired by travels through Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the USA in 2009. Its' rhythmic energies and perspectives come from the moving scenery of contemporary communities both rural and urban, and a retracing of family history." 

The front cover depicts a young woodland of muted colours and delicate slender birches as seen by a fleeting railway passenger. Faint reflections haze the view and suddenly the stark visage of a tribal mask looms in the lower right. Drawn to peer at the ghostly face a bird form is discerned, gliding vertically; eyes stare fixedly through arched curves in the wings.

Peter Westheimer delivers the aptly titled Tranzworld Express through Integrity Music Records as his sixth full length album and follow-up to the 2004 release Music Sculptures. Based near Byron Bay, Australia, Westheimer has embarked on supporting his music with multilayered videos of all tracks and performing audiovisual shows live incorporating his interests in video art, renewable energy, biodiversity & rail transport overall highlighting music as an agent of change and joy. A classical background in early life, performance with bands & theatre and recording material for soundtracks, documentaries and multimedia installations (to cover just part of the CV) provides a broad musical foundation upon which to draw.


The album opens with a flush of multinational warmth - plucked strings, Western and Eastern, fusing together, leading into the train track beat that will draw the listener throughout the journey. As lush orchestral bowings flow in layers a female voice whispers, "Change the world" signalling Westheimer's underlying theme. The mood is upbeat, positive and lively - throbbing bass line driving the central section of the track. The melodic motifs are taken up in varying forms by different instruments - Eastern organic, Western electronic - with lush washes and pads behind. 

Whilst maintaining the rhythm established by Change Now, this track has more of a Western soul dance floor vibe. Piano stabs, disco guitar chord flicks and deep synth patterns form the backbone whilst a female voice wordlessly soars and further piano melodies dance above. It feels as if we are still not so far from home, hints of the city still glimpsed through the window as the journey gets well under way. 

Here the beats shifts from the measured locomotion of the previous two tracks to a lilting dub rhythm - still at similar pace however - danceable and energetic. Opening with phased guitar and a blunt bass - Middle Eastern flavours soon start to appear. Inspired by the struggling peace processes in the Middle East - sonorous wiry scales twang against smooth synthetics; hints of Arab wails and a subtle female moan waft through the dance. A joyous piece of optimism. 

A low heartbeat drum introduces a rich bowed string melody, building rapidly to that now-familiar mid-tempo pace. Vocoder vocals and international chanting entwine upon tone shifting arpeggios and gutsy bass line; "I could have been born anywhere, somewhere, into times of novelty (innovation) or times of fundamentalism." Briefly the intensity dissipates, the heartbeat returning - more strings and we're off again hurtling further and further from home.

"I know everything about nothing. I am totally light," an oriental voice announces upon a bed of twinkling synthetic arpeggio - weightless for a moment. Soon our train-like beat whisks us forward - hand drumming and programmed grooves in perfect tandem, the electronic arpeggios shifting and morphing, embellished by the hypnotic wires of the East. Virtually Enlightened builds into mesmerising regularity as the track progresses, trance-like and very rhythmically impelling. Brash brass phrases, electric guitar touches and the occasional return of the opening speaker hold the attention and deepen the colour.

An electronically altered vocal wail introduces iRan - a dramatic, low chord beckoning the beat to roll in: a clatter of hand percussion, thumping kick and bright hi-hats. Middle-Eastern instrumentation again features here in keeping with the theme: "I ran from Iran. I ran and I ran and I ran." Westheimer's concern for the oppression and tight media control within the country lend this piece a slightly brooding tone - that said the album's over-riding sense of optimism is present here too especially within the cavorting leap of the beat.

Playing with the words 'Karma makes me calmer!' Westheimer here develops a smooth East-West fusion where sitar phrases dance against reverberating gongs and soft female whispers. Dreamy and blissful, beaten strings and twanging plucks contrast rubbery bass lines and Western drumming. The gradual massing of layered synth pads toward the end of the track lifts the music skyward, fading into heavenly light.

The title track opens with the voice of a station announcer and the clutter of environmental sound whilst a cycling arpeggio gradually builds, surrounded by atmospheric pads. As the arpeggios morph and flow a thudding bass and kick rhythm starts up and the train is on the way. Tranzworld Express has a somewhat more urban electro feel than much of the rest of the album - passing briefly though another station interlude before rolling on - environmentally concerned: clear, clean, fresh and transporting.

Two ancient civilisations steeped in tradition and colour. Westheimer draws on the richness of the sonic histories of these two countries to paint his picture of cultural/political contrasts and shared beauty. The light boom of tablas and the trill of bell trees merge with subdued Western beat material. Chinese erhu, Indian santoor, keening pipes and a range of other evocative instruments join with plodding bass in what is the most concentrated world beat track of the album so far.

Opening to the heaving of waves, Renewable Energy soon rings with bright Indian strings then an upward fading marimba sequence and vocoder voice. Almost imperceptibly the marimbas are thickened with complimentary synth patterns - warm layers lifting the mood high. Double bass steps in at the low end, hand drums and rattling percussion take up the beat. The boom of thunder and atmospheric disturbances recall again the theme of this positive composition - "100 percent of the world's energy, for all purposes, could be supplied by wind, water and solar resources." The piece ends with the gentle trickle of water.

A dark echoing motif sets up a moody tone which is soon developed further by some shadowy synth waves laid down upon a booming Middle Eastern beat. The clatter and thump of Westheimer's, by now familiar, amalgam of percussion patterns takes a prominent role on this final recording - an interlude of resonant tablas, a squelching synthetic bassline and programmed effects broadening the rhythmic appeal - intense and urgent. Peter's website refers to the seriousness behind this composition "Toxic legacies of the future like nuclear waste dumps, extinct species and genocide leave ghosts that fade very slowly." A fitting conclusion to Tranzworld Express - something to think about - an infectious rhythm within which to become absorbed - plenty of international instruments and sparkling effects. The set concludes with a struck metallic bowl - its ringing tones fading away into light.