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Harkonnen : Harkonnen

Harkonnen’s eponymous album is a gem. There are two versions available. The version for sale on the Harkonnen website includes nearly an hour of bonus material taken from a rare live performance. Buy it anywhere else and you’ll just get the studio tracks.

Harkonnen are Rob Warner and Uwe D’rose. Rob plays synths and Uwe plays guitars. These two guys have produced an amazing album where all the music flows around a common theme. When asked, Uwe says that both he and Rob were in one mind as to what the finished product would sound like. It shows. This is a well performed, well laid out album. Rob Warner was responsible for the technical and production duties and has done an excellent job. Uwe describes Harkonnen as the ‘other side’ of Beyond.

Harkonnen opens with a scorching track called Rise Of The Machines that employs some amazing gutar work. The riffs used here are deep and menacing, the sort of sound you would associate with the implacable will of a mechanised construct. Awesome. Age Of The Machines is similar – powerful music with gritty lead guitar, but which is a celebration of all things industrial and robotic.

Ghosts In The Bitstream uses a soft lead to evoke a sense of loss – lead guitar creating a melancholic drone. The sound, though, is still within the Harkonnen recipe. (R)age Of The Machines starts gently then drops you back into a harsh industrial environment with plenty of twisted lead and awesome riffs.

All Human Is Error makes an unequivocal statement. Humans? Who needs them!

The Last Robot and The Final Sunset have a certain melancholy. The drones in The Final Sunset evoke a beautiful image of the sun setting, but you know that it will never be appreciated by the mechanised society over which it sets.

The Machines (Live) is a showcase of what lead guitar can sound like when done well. The lead overlays a rich synthesised background and the two harmonise very well. When you listen to the live tracks on the extended version of the album (remember – only available from the Harkonnen website), you may not realise that what you are hearing is the work of Rob Warner on his own. He plays everything. There are three live tracks, two longform at about 20mins (The Man In The High Castle Pts 1 and 2), separated by a shorter track named The Machines which is rich with plenty of guitar work. The Man In The High Castle Pt 2 begins with robotic murmurings and quickly becomes quite dark, lending it a tense atmosphere. This is maintained when a rythmic pulse gently creeps up on you, and the voices occassionally become louder and more ominous. The track is a showcase for deep minimal mechanical noises put together to create a powerful dark industrial soundscape. Man In The High Castle (Part 2) live is original dark ambient synth style. This is a classy piece of music and ends the album beautifully.

Rob and Uwe have worked together on various projects for 35 years and it shows in this album. The elements harmonise very well, the live performance is excellent, and the album has a common theme throughout. When you hear any particular track from the album you can most definitely recognise it as being ‘Harkonnen’. It varies from full-on melodic lead, awesome synths and gentle drone. There are classic elements of electronica here too, particularly in All Human Is Error, where the voice reading the charge appears to emanate from some kind of Orwellian mechanoid. The album is inexorable. The tracks march on, effortlessly overcoming all obstacles. Production is excellent, especially on the live tracks – everything is clear and stands out.

I’ve played this album many times and it really appeals to me. If you enjoy classic lead guitar, great riffs, marvellous and original synth sounds, and if you prefer your albums to play around a common theme, then this is definitely for you. I can’t recommend this enough!

Rob Warner is presently working on three other projects: The Beyond (With Uwe), BROADKAST (an industrial dance project) and the record label/sample library Ambient Source. He is also part of an as yet unnamed elctro-acoustic ethnic folk project. Uwe D’rose is the guitarist in Landmarq who have just released a double CD and will be playing various UK dates this year.


Last February Waiting World Records released Like Hemlock by Dan Miñoza  & M. Peck.

Just over one hour of music begins with Bloodwood, a silken track with organic sounds accompanying synths and a base drone that carries it along. The track hints at innocence, before descending into a dark landscape before it finishes. The dark ending of Bloodwood prepares the listener for the tense start of Kapala – something ominous this way definitely comes. As Kapala progresses, industrial sounds are introduced, hinting at some mechanical process.

The amazing dark ambient sounds that comprise Atlantia are deep and bassy. Rising and falling, the track pulses with a palpable atmosphere that places you in some scary environment. The track develops very slowly, with just the occassional sound of something being moved about, scraped along the wall or being torn. A great track that is tense and forbidding.

The slow extended distortion that introduces Mara rapidly develops into an intriguing piece of music that is the essence of strange. This is as close to ‘noise’ as the album gets, and the stereo panning with delay effects on this makes it a must for the headphones. The track is in no way unstructured, and it will certainly transport you to a strange place.

Redjinnerate has a great atmosphere that incorporates both light ambience and darker layers. It is difficult to pull off tracks that merge light and dark aspects but this one definitely succeeds. Dejinnerate, on the other hand is a wonderful piece of light airy ambience. It shimmers with an Eastern flavour and uses light synth sounds to create a bright atmosphere that is uplifting and relaxing.

The title track is excellent. Organic sounds overlay a strange landscape. Underlying drones provide an edgy backdrop to a track that becomes cinematic. Sometimes syncopated, the music here is rich and varied and finishes on a very smooth ambient note.

Like Hemlock succeeds in presenting mixture of ambient compositions ranging from tense, dark and sometimes industrial imaginings through to bright light pieces. A varied piece of work which maintains a very high quality throughout. The tracks evolve slowly, their minimalist style contributing to a professional piece of work. You won’t go far wrong by purchasing this.

Listen to more of Dan Miñoza’s work and collaborations here. You can hear more of Michael Peck’s sounds here

Official Press Release:

The debut album from Dan Miñoza and M. Peck is a masterwork of isolated kinetics, turgid textures and vast dynamics drawing the listener in with stark minimalism and dark ambient atmospheres coupled with sparse sound design.  

These collected works were inspired by the novelist Charles Bukowski and photographer Sally Mann, from whom both Miñoza and Peck draw much influence. The album was recorded from August 2011 through December 2011, then later mixed and mastered by Peck at Audio Propulsion Labs in January of 2012. The result is an intimate voyage into the abyss with two of today’s most diverse independent ambient musicians.

Magnetic Wind : Astral Vortices

A great piece of electronic elegance. Fans of ethereal drift and electronica will want to add this little gem to their collection.

Astral Vortices begins with Infinity which evokes a sense of travelling, of discovery. The track begins with some quality electronic ambience. After a few minutes the beat kicks in and the track acquires a sense of joy and is quite uplifting. Following this is Contact, which contains regular hisses/static, just like those you associate with the manoeuvring jets on spacecraft seen in sci-fi films or what you’d expect to hear when turning the dial on a radio, searching for signals. These overlay some lightly upbeat synth sounds that gently carry the tune, and slowly become quite ethereal towards the end of the track.

Journey starts on the shore where waves rhythmically wash over shingle and bird calls can be heard. Slightly inquisitive, certainly exploratory, the track represents, according to Magnetic Wind, the journey of “an individual starting on earth, getting lost in the earthen ocean and being transported out and beyond the horizon to a greater sea of atmosphere in the universe”. Epic. And it works 🙂

The slow downtempo beat of Gravity gently picks you up and prepares you for waves of slow luxuriant sound that make for a particularly serious track. Bliss takes the listener back to the shore and the dazzle of sunlight through sprays of water. Light and gentle. Smiles and Sunshine 🙂

Satellite brings to mind the icy coldness of space. This gave me a real sense of travelling and seeing, more than the others, and remains upbeat. Two more tracks maintain the same pleasant atmosphere, Sonic Lullaby and The World Below. Both help finish the album on a gentle tide of ethereal sounds.

The album is quite obviously centered around travelling, and Magnetic Wind takes us on a journey through the universe. She says that at the time she wrote this she’d wanted to do a ‘space drift’ album that was “drift, ethereal and free floating through space”, designed to take you into the ether, beyond the physical state and which would allow the listener to “explore space”. Each track is designed to describe a singular Astral Vortice, or “universal journey”, which is what the whole album is about.

What I really like about Astral Vortices is the genuine ethereal nature of the sound. This is brilliant electronic ambience. Sometimes, electronic ambience can sound really cheesey, but Astral Vortices rises up above the rest. It captures the attention and tweaks the imagination in a positive way. If you like classic electronic and enjoy ethereal sounds, you’ll feel positvely relaxed and re-charged after listening to this. Magnetic Wind has a philosophy based on finding beauty in the inner self and discovering beauty in others, and her music illustrates this wonderfully.

Released during 2010, Astral Vortices is available from Endless Ascent. To listen to other music by Magnetic Wind, check out her Bandcamp page and to keep up with the here and now that is Magnetic Wind, read all about her on Facebook (see below).

From Magnetic Wind’s About Me on Facebook: Official Page for Magnetic Wind (Ottawa/Choctaw) -one woman electroaccoustic, ambient, new age project in the U.S. Magnetic Wind, acting as a conduit for the sacred, creates soulfully, spiritually uplifting, music and video with the power of the universe to revel in beauty inside you.

Big thanks go to Magnetic Wind for providing some background information on the album

[Edit April 2012]

Magnetic Wind is now Mesawzee. Use this >link< instead to disocover more about her work via Facebook. And, you can follow her work as Mesawzee on Bandcamp, too

The Magnetic Wind website

The Mesawzee website


Honorable Mention 01

I listen to a lot of music and only the smallest fraction of that is reviewed. I hear some good stuff, and there is quite a bit that I really enjoy. So, these are some of my personal favourites that I have heard recently and I think they deserve to be shared. Ctrl+Click on the images to open the download/review/purchase pages in a new tab.

In The Mist’s Lost album is gloomy atmospheric longform dark ambient released by Nulll netlabel. Great for those dusky moments 🙂






Magnetic Wind : Storm- a break from the usual ambient sounds made by Magnetic Wind, this is a much more energetic album. Full of electronic goodness. Get it from Bandcamp.





D. Kuhl – live PA @ golden gate, berlin, 05/01/2012 A live set featuring D. Khuhl’s own tunes  – do not miss this dub-techno feast. The guy has talent. Get it from his Soundcloud page.





Kristus Kut – The Black Queen Kompendium. I am very wary of ‘noise’ as some noise just turns me straight off. Kristus Kut, however, was very enjoyable. A professional blend of noise that uses a minimal dark ambient base. Get it from Sombre Soniks’ bandcamp page.





Ludal – Jupiter. This is a great mix. Featuring dark ambient tracks that phase into some gentle, then full-on noise, before subsiding back into dark ambient. Check it out on courtesy of LoadandClear netlabel 🙂






i AM esper – Echoes From A Cold Planet and Explosion Of The Red Giant. i AM esper’s two longform tracks are great. These EP’s represent a break from the traditional i AM esper style and comprise cold, stark ambience with a very dark edge. Both are excellent. Available from Bandcamp.


Kirill Platonkin – Taiga Dream. Released via Darkwinter, Kirill’s Taiga Dream is a very ‘organic’ piece of dark drone ambient. It is a reflection of his experience of the Taiga region during winter-time. Highly recommended.





Smoke And MirrorsBen Sims – Smoke and Mirrors. This is a techno gem. Full-on original groovin’ music that will get you moving. Buy it from Beatport, Juno, and eMusic.






Descending OutKino Oko – Descending Out Into The Distance released by Digital Diamonds netlabel.  Kino Oko’s album is a happy, groovy feast of quality techno music. Available via Digital Diamonds and Ektoplazm.




Ekoplex – Discovering The Ancient. Superb tribal downtempo beats. This really gets under your skin and communicates with something deep inside. Released via Ektoplazm.

Metlay! : Eocene

Dreamy, laid back blissful sounds. Eocene, released on the excellent Earth Mantra netlabel in 2009 is an album comprising a single longform track by Metlay! that is a lesson in patience and relaxation. It is a masterpiece of sonic maturity. It is something to find solace in during life’s hectic moments or if you think you’re losing control.

Mike Metlay wrote this during what he describes as a rare period of genuine peace. When you listen to Eocene, this is certainly what comes across. What is amazing, though, is that if you read Mike’s ‘about me’ (click the ‘about mike’ link on, you realise that solo projects like this are a bit of a rarity, as he considers himself at his best when working with other muscicians, not on his own, and generally finds solo work not as much fun.

What really makes the album stand out for me, though, is the way the music wraps itself around you. As the album plays out, it does everything for you – the music lifts you up and carries you along, supporting you throughout.

A remarkable thing about this is that the music never becomes dull. It changes as it progresses: subtle resonances appear that change the timbre of the sound, adding extra depth and warmth to the composition. It has a sublime beauty.

Pump this out through a juicy system at a reasonably loud volume and you will be enfolded in a series of ‘reassuring’ tones. You will find yourself focused on the music. It’s like being wrapped in cotton wool. It is very cosy, warming and soothing. As it moves along at its slow, measured pace the listener is placed into suspension, gently carried along while the sounds drift around you, phasing in and out, massaging the mind and encouraging a relaxed state of consciousness.

By the time this album finishes you’ll be in a state of (horizontal) bliss. You won’t want the music to end. It is excellent. There are many albums of a similar style, notably those by Stars Of The Lid, and while SotL are great, Eocene takes the concept way beyond what they have done. This ambience really gets inside you. It is a very positive album.

Mon0 : Colliding Textures

Mon0 aka Andre Zufall is a German artist from Solingen. He started his musical career as a DJ in the second half of the ’80’s and creates ambient and dub-techno music.

This album, called Colliding Textures (what a great name!), and released by Test Tube begins with some incredibly well done industrial drone sounds. Cathedral Of The Lost evolves slowly, introducing a sense of urgency, then of expectancy, or perhaps it is conveying a sense of discovery. Listening to this is great – I got the distinct feeling that the track was trying to convey searching for something and not being able to find it. It is also, in my mind, one of those pieces of music that manages to be light and dark at the same time. Brilliant!

Next, consider a parched, empty landscape. Imagine a slow, difficult journey through this place where you have no choice but to move on, your feet creating a sonorous painful cadence, driving you inexorably to some distant, unseen location. Hints of something pass you by, rising and falling, out of sight and out of reach… This is Marching Into Desperation. Quite evocative.

The third track, Distant Reality, introduces some rushing atmospherics, moaning horribly. Deep bass regularly punctuates the track, keeping time with some obscure rhythm. Frail tortured sounds wash in and out like a tide, exposing a voice then smothering it again.

One other track, Orbit is also worthy of praise, but I’ll leave you to decide how best to interpret what you hear 🙂 I enjoyed it very much.

This is an incredibly rich album. Here are 60mins of dark ambient impressions that stand out – atmospheric sounds designed to stimulate the senses. This goes well beyond the ears 🙂 I’ll definitely be listening to more of Mon0’s work. Check out his Soundcloud page, too 🙂

Colliding Textures: Cathedral Of The Lost [13.36], Marching Into Desperation [12.32], Distant Reality [14.24], Orbit [19.12]

Kundar : The Ghosts Still Haunt Me

Kundar is a project by the same person responsible for The No-Tone Project and Descent Into The Void. The track ‘The Ghosts Still Haunt Me’, available via Soundcloud is a wonderfully immersive piece of ambient music with blunt dark edges. By that I do not mean that it is raw or without finesse, but that the music has a palpable, almost physical effect. It is heavy and you get the feeling that it is trying to push against you, to smother you.

This is one of those pieces of music that can be described as a ‘soundscape’. As such, it is best enjoyed through headphones and should be played Loud. As the track plays out, you can almost feel those vibes buffeting you, as if you were stood in a windy place. The dense bass rumble hovering in the background suggests that something huge is there, keeping its distance, but supporting everything you hear. As the track nears completion, you can hear the sounds of something trying to speak, to escape. It is a great effect and the track is highly recommended. The latest news is that we can look forward to more music from this project. That will be a treat!


Alchemist : Fire (and) Water

Alchemist has released two EPs via Sombre Soniks, a label which promotes ritual dark ambient music and ‘Muziks for thee darker side of life’. The EP’s each comprise just a couple of tracks with alternate mixes/demos. But, these tracks are amazing. The EPs released so far, named Fire and Water, are part of four from this artist whose home is in Helsinki, Finland.

Joka Vuotaa Verta introduces Fire. It also appeared on Explorers Of The Darkest Depths Vol. 1 and is a great composition that merges a classic dark ambient rumbling background with a light but edgy repeating synth with a distinctly ominous air. Translated as ‘that which is leaking blood’ you can imagine the life-force of some esoteric creature slowly ebbing away. Tumma Alkemisti, or ‘dark alchemist’ is more ‘organic’, and very atmospheric. The imagination conjours a subterranean environment housing the work place of this mysterious entity, whose experiments are scattered around, created, alive and unable to escape from this forbidding place.

Two other versions of Joka Vuotaa Verta are included – a demo and a remix by P23, and a demo version of Tumma Alkemisti closes Fire.

My favourite of the two EP’s is Water. Essence kaiken elämän (Essence of All Life) is an 8 minute piece that is much lighter than the two tracks found on Fire, but which still retains an element of mystery. The track is more of a journey as opposed to the feeling of a single environment that I got with Fire. My favourite of all the tracks, though, is Kallioilta merinäköala (From the Cliffs Overlooking the Sea). This is more of a  classic dark ambient composition, but what really stands out is that is has a retro sound that would not be amiss in a 70’s horror flick. The difference, though, is that this is a very professional track. It has an amazing cinematic feeling. The retro organ sound really gets the imagination going. I can’t really describe it adequately. It is dramatic without being loud or in your face.

As with Fire, Water includes a P23 remix and a demo of the introductory track and a demo of Kallioilta merinäköala.

Overall, the EP’s certainly compliment each other. Fire is 23 minutes and Water is 43 giving an hour of dark ambient sounds which are guaranteed to stimulate the senses. Cinematic, dramatic and evocative, the listener is taken on a journey through aspects of both elements. I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of the series.

[Edit 13 Feb 2012]

Air has just been released. Get it from here


Fantazma is a compilation created by Sentimony Records and is available from the distinguished Ektoplazm netlabel.

Each of the artists featured on the album are Ukrainian, and this is Sentimony Records debut release from 2007.

The album is a joy to listen to and will appeal to those who appreciate downtempo, chill-out, psychill and even fans of the Berlin school of electronic music. Each of the artists stands out. The tracks comprise a wonderful blend of psychedelic ambience and slow, relaxing and warm beats.

Great as background and also through the headphones. Several of the artists are worth following up. Harax really caught my attention because his tracks are traditional electronic tunes, but which, to me, are evocative of what you would expect from Tangerine Dream.


Harax – Dreamy (80 BPM) Sphingida – After This (90 BPM) Solcast – Chinese Pineapple (90 BPM) Zymosis – Alien Creation (68 BPM) Heinali – Endless (91 BPM) Harax – Clepsydra (80 BPM) Zymosis – Sound Of Magic (91 BPM) Frans Gosu – Morbit (130 BPM) Solcast – Cheiook (80 BPM) Ader Project – Serotonin (100 BPM) Sphingida – Outside (64 BPM)

Some of this years music favourites…

I have listened to a lot of music this year and there have been some great albums and even newly discovered (for me) genres. This list is not confined to releases from 2011 but comprises music I’ve really enjoyed listening to. Check out some of this stuff. Much of it is free and released under a Creative Commons (CC) license (free for personal use) unless specified. So, dip in and sample some of these treats. This list could have been a lot longer.

Dub-Techno (all CC)

I’m a big fan of dub, and a big fan of techno. Both are, imo, awesome, but discovering a fusion of the two ‘dub-techno’ this year was serendipity. A few of the artists that really stand out for me are:

Slownoise – The City’s Shore. Beautifully crafted dub sounds over a minimal beat that sparkles. For me, this sound is top quality and is suitable both for personal listening and with friends.

Gennaro Molino – Dub Land. This is deep, bassy, rich, contemplative dub-techno. This is a cut above the rest. Slow and luxurious.

Brickman – Consume. An emerging young artist, Brickman displays an astonishing talent for original sound composition and mixing. Check out his work.

44minds & Subform. This is another great piece of work. This one features remixes by several artists and is worth listening to.

Other artists that I have enjoyed listening to include Marc Atmost, Ocralab, Echoton, Rob Velasquez and Urenga.

Various flavours of Trance and Techno

I’ve been a big fan of trance since the early 90’s and it is good to see this genre is still going strong. Stuff that made me get up and dance my socks off include:

Ace Ventura’s Judo Chop,  and The Jolly Roger (with Captain Hook) blew me away. Thumping trance that really gets you moving.

System 7 have been around for a long time and have produced some top quality sounds. This month they released a free recording of their Boom Festival performance

Timedrained : Dilemma. Been out for some time but, seriously, you won’t go far wrong listening to this. Nicely paced and truly mesmeric trance.

This is where I cop out and genralise. I have listened to a LOT of trance and techno and most of it has been released under a CC license. There are two netlabels to watch:

If you enjoy psytrance then check out Ektoplazm run by DJ Basilisk. This netlabel pumps out consistently high-quality music from some very proficient artists. Ektoplazm also releases techno and down-tempo. BPM’s range from <100 to >160 and some actually peak over 190. Something for everyone 🙂 The netlabel is very active and serves in the region of 20 terrabytes of free music to the trance community each month  – I think that in itself is testament to the quality of the music released here.

If you enjoy Techno then Digital Diamonds is the way to go. Specialising in pure quality techno, this label often co-releases material on Ektoplazm as well. The catalogue is restricted but the term ‘small but perfectly formed’ springs to mind.

There are also the copious mixes… I’ve listened to a lot, but one DJ that I’ve taken a shine to is Anyer Quantum. I came across him when he won a mix competition on Digital Diamonds. He’s since released several mixes. Keep up with his work on his SoundCloud page. A versatile DJ, he’ll appeal to many fans of trance and techno.

Various flavours of Ambient

A vibrant genre that always sees a huge number of releases. Apart from those albums I’ve reviewed, I’ve also really enjoyed these:

Aes Dana’s Aftermath. Ambient and hypnotic, this album is suited to all environments.

Anything by Palancar and Tange! For a big selection of CC releases featuring Palancar or Tange (plus a LOT more), check out Earth Mantra Netlabel. These artists have produced consistently good albums/live sessions that are great to listen to again and again.

A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s eponymous album. Emotive ambient classical music designed to get under your skin. Deep. If you like this then you should also listen to Stars Of The Lid.

Anything by Kirill Platonkin. Deep ambient drone with a subliminal edge. Ethereal, light and truly relaxing.

Complex Silence Series. A collection of over 20 ambient soundscapes by various artists. Quality listening!

Red Fog’s Dronerider. Dark and ambient. Along with Milk of Amnesia and Sculpted in Luminol (and reviewed here), Red Fog produces top notch ambient with a dark edge.

IOK-1’s Sensorisk Deprivation. Brilliantly composed minimal dark ambient that stands out. Also check out his collaboration with Red Fog: Bortom Reparation. Although the physical release sold out quite quickly, IOK-1’s Poems is extreme minimal (even skeletal) ambient.

A dark ambient treat was released on the Kalpamantra label a short while ago. Saur Maas comprises 8hrs of top of the range sounds by various artists. For a decent overview of the dark ambient genre the Kalpamantra compilations are a good start.

The artist that got me into dark ambient: Kerovnian – Far Beyond, Before The Time. Dark and melancholic sounds that are truly atmospheric.

Osman Arabi – I first heard this guy’s stuff on a Kalpamantra compilation. He recently released Snakes, Lizards and Shamans which is an incredibly atmospheric and dark piece of music.

There is so much more ambient I would like to include, but the list would be LONG!

Funeral Doom

I discovered Funeral Doom quite by accident. I enjoy Electric Wizard (Doom Rock) and find Funeral Doom to be an extreme version of all things doom and rock. Fantastic stuff I’ve listened to mostly from the Nulll-Void netlabel. Fall Of The Grey Winged One, Until Death Overtakes Me, Uncertainty Principle – if you like doom taken to extremes then this stuff is for you.

Ambient Doom

A lot of i AM esper has been pumped out through my speakers. Ambient and doom, the sounds are characterised by his electric baritone guitar.  If you like dark ambient but also like well crafted guitar feedback ‘doom-style’ that makes you want to practice your air guitar you should check his music out.


Music I’ve heard this year that I can’t categorise, or which has been out for years but which I still find superb listening.

Mahatma Dali’s Steam-Powered Serpent, Noiseflowr’s My life is my own, This Mortal Coil’s Filligree and Shadow, Faith No More’s The Real Thing, Cocteau Twins’ Head Over Heels, Philip Glass A Nonsuch Retrospective – More than 100 tracks (nearly 12hrs) from one of the masters of minimalist classical music. Ptarkh’s Insulin, Inade’s contribution to Tesco Disco – Heavy electronics II, Bungle’s Move On, The Orb featuring David Gilmour – Metallic Spheres, Mystified’s Bone Drone series and Hawkwind’s Eponymous album.

Great stuff 🙂


Updated Dec 20 to flesh out i AM esper and to add Osman Arabi