I have a very biased opinion and an unfair appreciation for Ambient Temple of Imagination. I was fortunate enough to see them perform live at The Gathering Winter Solstice 5
Year Anniversary (a performance that was recorded and later released by Mindspore Records as "Planetary House Nation"). The event was held in a massive abandoned Home Depot warehouse
(affectionately called Home Base) in Oakland, California on 12/21/1996. After a dj set by the Orb's Alex Paterson, ATOI proceeded to take the listeners on a journey of epic proportions. It wasn't
long before the line between listeners and creators began to blur. We were all filled with a sense of awe... something important was happening. As the music drifted and swam around me, I couldn't help
but feel that my presence and energy was equally important that evening. We all felt that way. We were all "fellow travelers". Different contributors kept joining A.T.O.I.'s
Richard Sun, Seofon and Thermal (Joshua Maremont). Stephen Kent played the dig, E.A.R. (Mark Wayne), Darwin Chamber (Mark G!), Astronout (Mark Camp), Roy Robinson (from Silent Record's 23 Degrees), IAO
Core and others drifted in and out during the performance. This was my last big rave. After this event, things changed in
the Bay Area rave community. As I stood there in the main room at the
end of the night, the sun coming up behind me through the open receiving doors, hundreds of straggling ravers chanting, "one more record" - I knew that this was the end of an era. Even the
liner notes for Interplanetary House Nation mention, "It's 3 am and temple services are beginning. A mass of 3000-seething Fleshbodies have been screaming sweating and savoring the moments shared in the
rarity of an actual warehouse event that is legally(?!?) happening in the bay area and the 5 year anniversary of the Gathering marks an evolutionary turning point in the scene and in the seen."
Speaking with Seofon years later he states that the event was "the best ever! Some events resonate both in memory and in valuable connections established, and that night
qualifies on both counts."
Ambient Temple of Imagination is made up of core founding members Richard Sun (a legendary character from the San Francisco rave culture) and Seofon. Part ambient-trance group,
part holistic listening-music healers, Ambient Temple of Imagination was formed in by Richard Sun and Seofon at the Imagination event, September 10, 1992 at Townsend in San Francisco. Originally created as a
chill-out room for raves around the area that were intensely involving and psychedelic. The Imagination event claims to be the city's first dedicated all-night horizontal chill-out space. Seofon performed at
this event and the ATOI Mystery School seed was planted. As the ambient-house style entered dance music as a whole during the next few years, Sun continued putting on ambient nights and providing alternatives
to dancing. Events of this sort were popping up all over San Francisco from 1992 to 1995. Weekly events like Charles Uzzell-Edward's The Gardening Club and the bi-monthly Ambient Jungle offered the
perfect escape from the typical house party or warehouse rave. Ambient labels began appearing and artists from around the world found the San Francisco vibe to be too tempting to pass up. ATOI manages to
capture beautifully this special time.
But, what is ATOI? From the ATOI website:
"The songwriting process for Mystery School usually begins with an extensive dialog and/or meditation on the material that
is to be brought forward in the transmission of that session, with attention to both experimentation and continuity of the album. The piece is thus created on the mental level first; then it is just a matter of
bringing it into being. Richard Sun relies heavily upon the techniques of automatic drawing, channeling spontaneous inspiration with whatever tools are available. Although Mystery School is electronically based,
Richard occasionally plays guitar and acoustic instruments for injections of raw energy."
"Mystery School is of the awareness that new technology, even like electronic music instruments, affects the
destiny of humanity, and that music is not about becoming a public figure but about discovering and learning--both for the artist and the listener. Evolution in the present time requires more than a rock and roll
mentality, or a product mentality--We want to change and open that paradigm, and facilitate the progress to a galactic mind. We are clearly in intense times on this planet. ATOI and Mystery School focus explicitly
on religion and prophecy because religion is used to program and control people, but we have power over this enough to change the "doomsday" prophecies, to demonstrate that we have choice in these
Seofon and Ambient Temple of Imagination Discography
A.T.O.I. - Mystery School [Mystery School volume 1] Silent Records, 1994
Seofon - Immanence, Visible Records, 1994
Seofon - Causal Collapse, Visible Records, 1994
Sonic Acupuncture [Mystery School volume 2], Silent Records [disc 1] 1995
A.T.O.I./Freezer/Iao Kore - Eleusinia [Mystery School volume 3] (recorded live 1/1/95 at the Cow
Palace, San Francisco), Silent Records [disc 2] 1995
A.T.O.I. - Planetary House Nation [Mystery School volume 5] (recorded 12/21/96 at the 5th Anniversary of The Gathering), Mindspore Records, 1997
(includes: Richard Sun, Seofon, Thermal (Joshua Maremont), E.A.R. (Mark Wayne), Stephen Kent, Nevele (Evoltwin), Daniel Callahan (IAO Core), et al., IAO Core (Johannes Ayres), Darwin Chamber (Mark
G!), Astronout (Mark Camp), Roy Robinson (23 Degrees)
A.T.O.I. and Boxman Records present: Thermal + Seofon - A Monument of Chance, Thousand/Boxman Studies, 1999
A.T.O.I. - Y2KAOS 2CD, Mystery School, 1999
Seofon with Vidna Obmana, Steve Roach, et al. - Zero Point: Lessons in being nothing, Foundry/Hypnos, 2001
Tracks on other CDs:
A.T.O.I. - "Initiation" on S.F. Rave X-Plosion Volume 1,
Revolving Records, 1993
A.T.O.I. - "Initiation" on From Here to Tranquility 3, Silent Records, 1994
A.T.O.I. - "The 3rd Vision, on Darwin Chamber: Star Climber 27.Final,
Advanced Research Records, 1994
A.T.O.I. - "Earth/Voices/Mantram" on In Sight Volume One, Visible Records, 1995
Seofon - "Scharae" on In Sight Volume One, Visible
A.T.O.I. - "Thee Al Importance of Imagination" on From Here To Tranquility 5: The Silent Channel, Silent Records, 1995
A.T.O.I. - "Olympiads of Thelema" on
Voyager, Ad Astra Productions, 1997
A.T.O.I. - "Lust" on Resonant Frequencies: Mindspace 101, Resonant Media, 2000
A.T.O.I. - "Beltane 93" on The Event Horizon (theta),
City of Tribes, 1997
A.T.O.I. - "Ancestors" on Der Alchemistische Kongress, Bochumer Ton Manufaktur, 1998
A.T.O.I. - "Dionysus Aphrodite Apollo" on ambient.01@hyperreal,
FAHRENHEIT PROJECT - part one, Ultimae records 2001- available via Backroads
RESONANT FREQUENCIES - available via Trip
- available via Content Provider
A.T.O.I. - Mystery School 12", Visible Records, 1994
A.T.O.I. Seattle - Integratron 12", Visible Records, 1994
Special silentrecords.net interview with Seofon
How did you meet Kim Cascone and get involved with Silent Records?
Kim had already been interested in Richard
Sun’s work for some time, as Richard had been promoting chill rooms and experimental music events in the Bay Area since 1991, but at that time he did not have a dedicated studio or
producer. Our meeting at his Imagination event (9/23/93) led to studio sessions and a good collaborative dialogue, and when an album of original material had come together Kim was ready
to go. (As a side note: we were already somewhat committed to Visible Records, but Silent was willing to put up the resources and so the labels agreed to a co-release with a Silent
Briefly describe the "ambient" scene during the times you were putting out material for Silent.
retrospect, it was uniquely open-ended. At the time I was influenced by the Orb, Locust, Aphex Twin, Paul Schütze, etc. – electronic music of the more idiosyncratic and sound-collage
varieties – while Richard was most influenced by the psychonauts of the 1970s: Eno, Fripp, and especially Bill Nelson. And there was influence on Ambient both from the Industrial scene
and from the Chill-Out aesthetic, which made for an overtly psychedelic foundation. There were very few constraints; there was a sense of ‘anything goes’.
On that note,
Richard has said: “I'm very much into experimentation and that's what Ambient Music is - it's not really music, it's more of an experiment in sonic research. It's what we're doing now. It's
like having a laboratory where you can alter consciousness. You can alter the way people think because they're hearing sounds that they've never heard in the history of worlds; they're
hearing stuff that their ears have never witnessed. It's music that blows your mind to infinity; it comes from nowhere and goes nowhere. It has no beginning and no end. It's like sound that
comes through that's non-classifiable. It's an enigma. It just exists and can't be labeled.”
How has it changed?
It has become
codified and niched in various ways. This is not all bad – the music has evolved through that process, in some places, and crossover into the New Age and Electronica markets has
certainly increased awareness and availability of Ambient music. But I also feel that the genre has been leached of much of its vitality and potential. For one, it has become
over-intellectualized and production-oriented, so that there is less tolerance for naked brainstorming. And for two, it has been reduced to just the music. When I say this, I
situate it next to the fact that, initially, Ambient music was being used as a tool for creating alternative environments. Richard was always insistent that “the CDs are just the outer
circle; that's what we're doing to communicate within ourselves and to humanity the intention of the Temple ... ATOI developed basically as a seed for a future non-religion consciousness
experiment; it is a mystery school.” Now it seems that Ambient has been taken out of the chill-rooms and temples and turned into just more record store shelf fodder. But I suppose
this was inevitable, until the music industry is destroyed or evolves beyond motivations of ownership, entertainment, and consumption.
Is there any unreleased material from the Silent period?
Yes, we have archived quite a few remixes, alternate versions, and live tracks from our
Silent albums. Many of these you can get free from our Mp3.com page: www.mp3.com/atoi/
What is your favorite Silent release?
23 Degrees An Endless Searching For Substance. I also listen to Heavenly Music Corporation Lunar Phase quite a lot.
What are you up to now?
ATOI is still manifesting – In 1999 we reissued selections from our back-catalog as the double-disc anthology Y2Kaos, and
last year we shaped a collaborative work with Steve Roach and friends entitled Zero Point, which was released on Hypnos/Foundry. I have also been involved with two other networks: the
Archipelago and Kimosciotic Communications. The Archipelago includes ATOI’s guitarist, Thermal (who is about to release his first two solo albums on his own Boxman Studies label), and
the Foundry label, with which I have done a variety of work lately. With the Kimosciotic Communications crew I have participated in various collaborations (e.g. Not Breathing, Meat Beat
Manifesto); and I am a member of the outfit Earwicker.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Well, Richard Sun is currently off
on his own journeys, so I am the one conducting interviews and such things; but he is the founder of ATOI, and was personally at the helm through the Silent years. He is a remarkable
and powerful individual, who truly breathed heart and soul into the work. I direct any interested readers to our collection of interviews:
Please include links to any sites you would like included on the site.
Zero Point: www.foundrysite.com/seofon/zeropoint/
Kimosciotic Communications: www.kimosciotic.com/