Kurt Michaels
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Kurt Michaels

Chicago, Illinois, United States | INDIE

Chicago, Illinois, United States | INDIE
Band Rock


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Kurt Michaels - Live in Milwaukee 1/13/06 by Josh Turner"

Kurt Michaels was selected to tag along with The Syn on their most recent Syndestructible tour. As I discovered, he was a suitable fit and a fulfilling choice. He warmed up the audience to a fever pitch, but in a very respectable gesture, did his prep work quickly. I can't say anybody else would have complemented them much better.

When I arrived at the show, I took the only available seat I could find and unfortunately, it was in the far back. This particular venue has great acoustics, but that's primarily for those who have seats within the immediate perimeter.

Unlike a middle manager, Kurt was no talk and all business. He didn't waste a second going through his agenda. There was no vocalist in his band. He has a completely instrumental ensemble that consists of himself, his guitar, and a fellow keyboardist named Jim Gully. His music reminded me a lot of Robert Fripp's latest solo efforts. Using sequencers along with ambient amps and filters, Kurt wove a sonic tapestry of sound. There was a lot of sameness between the songs, but that wasn't too much of a deterrent. They were each sharp-witted satellites that escaped the atmosphere and orbited around the planet. While there weren't really any titles or much of a means to differentiate between the pieces (honestly, it was difficult to determine where one ended and another began), I can say that he saved his best for last. While all were heavenly, I found this to be the dreamiest. Overall, his set was a lot of attraction for so very little action. Kurt was exactly what was needed to get the party started. He entertained the audience without the risk of overshadowing The Syn. In return, the crowd was kind to him, but it was obvious they were there strictly for the headliner. He saved himself a lot of trouble with his swiftness.

When I went to see Porcupine Tree earlier in the year, I was not as lucky with Robert Fripp. While his music shares a number of characteristics and qualifies for the very same kudos, it seemed to go on forever. In the end, Kurt's show was a major success, because he intrigued his audience with magic and then just like that, he vanished.

- 2006 - Music Street Journal

"Kurt Michaels - Outer Worlds"

This review was just posted in the June 2007 "Latest reviews" page at The Hynogogue and written by John Shanahan

Kurt Michaels, Outer Worlds

I have to admit that I approached this disk with a slight touch of trepidation. A couple of years back I had reviewed Michales' Inner Worlds, which wasn’t much to my liking—too uneven and uber-avant for my tastes. But I noted in that review that "what I wanted to hear more of was Michaels' guitar work.” Well, I got my wish. On Outer Worlds, it’s Michaels’ elegant and spirited guitar playing that takes the forefront. This is Michaels playing live with a backing band that seems to keep the more irreverent stuff at bay. They create a smooth base over which Michaels places intriguing sounds and melodies. It's an interesting blend of prog-inspired stylings with jazzy touches and a synth-driven backdrop. There are “experimental” moments along the way, of course. "Jade Princess" and “Hitch Hiker on Venus” take a bit too much of an off-road tack for me, especially after the more straightforward approach of the previous tracks. And in the 45-minute self-described magnum opus “One,” some sections truly stretch into heavy improvisation and challenging tonality—though it must be said that for a piece of that length, “One” is by and large a very listenable journey, tinged with bits of suitable prog-rock bombast—especially at the outset—and an adventurous, exploratory sense. But the highlight of the disk overall (for me, anyway) is “Chucky,” a funked-up, luscious take on Vince Guaraldi’s “Charlie Brown Theme” that's entirely too short but a pleasure none the less. Overall, Outer Worlds is decidedly worth a listen—after all, it pretty much changed my mind about Kurt Michaels!

- The Hynogogue and written by John Shanahan

"Michaels, Kurt: Outer Worlds"

This "Outer Worlds" review was posted on the Sea of Tranquility page at:


written by Michaels Popke

"Michaels, Kurt: Outer Worlds

More melodic and dynamic than many ambient projects, Outer Worlds is a collection of live performances by Chicago guitarist Kurt Michaels. With a playing style that doesn’t really sound like a guitar at all - more like a synth - Michaels coaxes compelling and surreal soundscapes that maintain the listener’s attention.

Recorded between 2004 and 2006, these six pieces provide a 75-minute platform for U-Magazine’s 2004 Ambient Artist of the Year to showcase his layered, improvisational approach that recalls both the moody air of Tangerine Dream and the looping techniques of Robert Fripp. The first three tracks – “Señor Wences,” “Lamb Chop” and “Chucky” – are culled from his 2006 opening-act performance for The Syn, at the time featuring Yes’ Chris Squire and Alan White. (In fact, Outer Worlds – a sequel of sorts to Michaels’ 2004 solo debut studio set Inner Worlds – was released on Umbrello Records, The Syn’s label.) Keyboardist Jim Gully accompanies Michaels on those pieces. Meanwhile, keyboardist John Melnick joins him on the 44-minute magnum opus “One,” which comes alive with piano cascades and flashes of percussion.

This is a worthy introduction to one man’s lively take on what can often be a passive genre.

Track Listing:
1) Señor Wences
2) Lamb Chop
3) Chucky
4) Jade Princess
5) Hitch Hiker on Venus
6) One

Added: June 7th 2007" - seaoftranquility.org

"Kurt Michaels gig reviews 4-13-05 & 1-12-06"

This one was written by a guy named Jim Fox aka Lostinmusing, who happened to be at the 1/12/06 show @ Martyrs opening for the Syn that we recorded, and became part of "Outer Worlds":

"Kurt Michaels gig reviews, 4-13-05 & 1-12-06

As a professional technical writer, computational geek, occasional poet, and gray-hair music explorer, I am occasionally compelled to record significant and perhaps unusual experiences, if only to capture a magic moment in time.

Such is the case for the music of one Kurt Michaels, specifically, recent live performances.

As time marches on I seem to be exploring the fringe areas of “rock music”, including the anatomy of so-called ambient, and also as a geek have been interested in the marriage of electronics and musical thought since my early days. My roots go back to Walter Carlos, the Moog, Tomita through Eno, Frippertronics, Discotronics, various and many internet loopers and soundscapers.

What is fascinating in solo live ambient work, is the complete freedom of sound and structure available on one hand, but paired with the complete nakedness of the performer exposed totally with a huge ‘blank sheet of paper’ to work with, on the other. Gone are any expectations of structure & form of a ‘rock band’.

It’s interesting to experience a performance that is really a synthesis of musical influences absorbed over a lifetime, all distilled into 30 minutes or so. I know Kurt has been hitting the road and traveling the streets for some 30 years. The only major limiting factor in this self expression can often be the imposed live time limit, which can stifle improvisation, or technical gear problems.

I initially listened to an unedited soundboard of a 45 minute ambient performance from a gig on 4-13-05 in a Chicago suburb, a/k/a “One”, and then finally was able to attend a live gig at Martyrs’ in Chicago, 1-12-06, with Kurt opening for the Syn.

It is difficult to categorize this current output of Kurt Michaels. These works seem close to Ambient Minimalism as a first impression, even though sometimes they are very layered, perhaps fitting for a film soundtrack, or multimedia performance. I say minimal since the soundscape consists of one keyboard and one guitar, period. The keys are played by Jim Gully, I believe using a Korg Triton, and typically playing a split keyboard. Kurt’s layering is achieved in real time, with a looping rig, and while blending sound patches that go beyond guitar waveforms.

My first listen to the soundboard recording “One” gave me some surprises, and by the way, this piece continues to unlock surprises on each and every listen. The more I play “One”, the more I appreciate the work.

At first blush, the sounds are reminiscent of ambient interludes from such as Tangerine Dream, very modern Crimson transitions perhaps, or a slightly mellower Vangelis ‘Blade Runner’ motif.

The overall evocative feeling is one of moments of musing melancholy, punctuated by moments of hopeful flight, overlaid on a backdrop of shimmering contentment.

The beginning (and eventual conclusion) of “One” features subtle looping atmospheric, human-voice tones, with distant brass/string themes, minimal percussion, and overlaid guitar tones.

There is an absolutely gorgeous section about 1/3 in, gently pulsating bell type tones and guitar runs, and very tasteful use of the bass line to support the mood. This develops into a meandering sound of Eno-style distant sustain guitar, that seems to suggest moving shimmering sunlit water. About 1/2 way in, the feel is almost a dark ambient, with assault via crashing piano key tones, and distant bass booms, and then moving into a reflective jazz-guitar feeling.

The first surprise is that the music holds a very layered feel, which would not be remarkable for a studio production, but this is a live gig improvised by two, without a lot of processing gear.

The second is that the performance lacks the familiar trap of many ambient tracks I have experienced, namely that of pretentiousness, such as overdone sonic effects or out-of-place voicings, or repetitive rhythms. Rather, the piece is a coherent work carrying more subtlety than pretense. It seems that Kurt and Jim just relax and play more intuitively, and do not necessarily rely on preprogrammed or canned sonic FX.

Brian Eno said early on that one is supposed to be able to ignore ambient music (at the listeners discretion), but I find that I cannot ignore “One” when I try to work on my laptop with “One” in the background. My mind is always drawn back into the world of the sounds.

At the Martyrs’ gig, Kurt and Jim created one longer ambient improv, about 15 minutes, followed by two 3-6 minute “1/2 improvs”. I came to Martyrs’ looking forward to this performance after listening to the soundboard recording over the several previous weeks.

The first piece painted a soundscape similar in sound and texture to “One”, and set a nice atmospheric tone for the evening. The opening was very reminiscent of Vangelis ‘Blade Runner’ theme. Some cool guitar-tone Jazzy runs, as well as synth-toned sustain notes over keys, were very well placed. This piece was slower in tempo, but developed into a rhythmic center section with a steady percussive beat. Like “One”, sections suggested Walter/Wendy Carlos’ Sonic Seasonings from many years ago. My brain kept expecting a shift into a Jeff Beck-ish type screaming guitar run …… which was approached at the end of the piece, and then in the latter improvs.

I think that the shortened ½ songs were necessitated by time constraints. These tunes were more up-tempo, with very effective Fripp/Belew type looping. The first short song was upbeat with jazzy staccato guitar over the looping sustain notes. The final number began playfully and developed into a looping guitar duo, then trio, then layer on layer on layer.

A very enjoyable gig, although I did wish that Kurt was a bit stronger in the mix, as the guitar seemed low in the beginning. Kurt reportedly got this down on CD-R, so hopefully we should have a live release coming out.

If you enjoy the more subtle and moody vibe of the ambient world, or the latest Fripp work, my advice would be to go, experience a Kurt Michaels gig in real time, or get some live material on disc. For me this is an enjoyable and fascinating trip in a rarely traveled slice of the musical spectrum.

It will be interesting to see where this continuing trip leads. I know Kurt has stated that he has not yet realized on the live stage what he envisions in his imagination, and, needless to say, he seems willing to move toward that realization. I would like to see some use of stereo-panning effects, and some layered acoustic guitar over synth patches in the future, which I have been hearing in live performance from other atmospheric-ambient artists. No doubt the musical palette will continue to evolve, and send the live experience out of this world. Who knows? The possibilities are limited only by imagination.

I think it’s cool lately, to play “One” on the PC, in the dark, along with the favorite WinAmp visualizations, to both listen and see these dancing soundscapes! So sit back, listen, dream, and travel to unexplored places.

Copyright lostinmusing 02-24-06"

- allgoodpeople.net by Jim Fox


Inner Worlds part one - Eitux Records released in 2003

The Second Attention - A.M.Y. cd (compilation)

Portals III - Progressive Music Society (compilation)

Outer Worlds - Umbrello Records released in 2007

Soaring Back To Earth - released July 15/2011

all tracks from Inner Worlds and Outer Worlds are in rotation on AOL and Yahoo radio on progressive and ambient channels, as well as being played on over 50 land air and internet stations.



Kurt Michaels career highlights include work with: The Platters, The Coasters, The Drifters, The Temptations, Bobby Vinton, Spencer Davis, Badfinger, Otis Day, Wolfman Jack and others....and is available for your concert, college, club and festival date....by himself performing solo, or with his band.

Michaels has just released his 3rd solo cd "Soaring Back To Earth" which will feature Michaels' lead vocals and guitar work throughout accompanied by his longtime band mates, Jim Gully on keyboards, Christ Andronis on bass, Steve Vining (who also co-produced the cd) on bass, keyboards & background vox and Len Szymanski on drums with prominent guest performances by Billy Sherwood (Yes & Circa), Michael Sherwood (Air Supply) and Tom Brislin (Meatloaf, Blondie & Yes). The five audio tracks posted on this page are previews of the "Soaring" material.

Soaring Back To Earth is the third cd release for Chicago singer/songwriter & guitarist Kurt Michaels. Michaels, a touring veteran has enjoyed a succesful career as a musical contrator & bandleader for many well known legendary rock acts, such as Spencer Davis, Joey Molland (Badfinger) Wolfman Jack, Otis Day, The Temptations, The Platters and many others.

Soaring Back To Earth covers a diverse musical landscape: from early English pop influences to virtual tone poems with smoky ambient arrangments for guitar and rock band. Strong influences include The Beatles, Yes, Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree),Todd Rundgren, Flaming Lips & Muse.

While Michaels guitar, vocals & writing are featured on the cd, there is participation throughout by alumnus from legendary rock icons Yes, who include:

Billy Sherwood (Yes, Circa & YOSO
Michael Sherwood (Air Supply & Yes)
Tom Brislin (Meatloaf, Debbie Harry, Renaissance & Yes)

Michaels' writing on this cd is directed at conveying some very real life cycle stories and reflects a wide gamut of adult emotions, ranging from the innocense of a young couple in love starting out starting out their life together in "It's Our Time"....trying to find a way to make things right with someone whom things have gone extremely wrong with in "Let's Try"....the insecurity of facing serious challenges and feeling very alone in "Will You Be There?"....and the deeply personal accounting of Michaels' reflections on his younger brothers untimely death in 2008 in two songs that are bookended together at the end of the cd. The first, "Didn't Get To Say Goodbye" is a powerful trip to one’s core depicting the initial grief & mourning, that evokes a bittersweet reflection of a bond broken too soon, with a musicality that fills a space between ambient and alternative. The feel is a ballad during a walk down a narrow passage on a damp night, stepping over shards of glass, remembering days that held sun, and a goodbye that never took place. An evocative stroll that builds from the plaintive guitar to an inevitable finish and a final chord – unresolved – . The last track on the cd, "The Epilogue: Hearts & Thoughts" shows the evolution of that grief that occurs over time, where you heal and learn to smile again (even if it's a bittersweet smile)....facing what lays ahead. You don't forget, but you do move on.

Michaels launched the cd with a 7/15/11 performance in Nashville, TN to an enthusiastic audience that traveled from many different parts of the country to experience a performance that one audience member described as a "transcendent and very moving".

Website: www.kurtmichaels.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/kurtmichaels
Twitter: www.twitter.com/gtrman615
email: gtrman615@gmail.com

Relase date: July 15th, 2011

Track Listing

1. Give Yourself Time
2. It's Time To Let Go
3. It's Our Time
4. Does This Come Up For You?
5. Words On A Page
6. Let's Try
7. Make Me Whole Again
8. Will You Be There?
9. Didn't Get To Say Goodbye
10. The Epilogue: Hearts & Thoughts

Influences include: The Beatles, Yes, Police, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Queen, Muse, Radiohead, Dave Matthews, Led Zeppelin, James Brown, Pink Floyd, Genesis and Ernest Tubbs & Junior Brown!