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Begin 1997 with the ten best Colorado CDs of 1996.

Stephen Scott
Vikings of the Sunrise
(New Albion)

Scott, a Colorado Springs-based composer and performer, operates in a realm that most observers would dub "classical," but the rare beauty that suffuses Vikings demonstrates just how limited such a definition is. The manner in which this music is made (Scott and a team of helpers manipulate the strings of a piano from the inside of the instrument) is intriguing in and of itself. But these three multi-part compositions ("Tangaroa," "Vikings of the Sunrise" and "Vikings of the Sunset") would be worthy of note had they been played on kazoos. That they are presented in so sumptuous, plaintive and indelible a manner is an incalculable bonus. To call Vikings remarkable is to understate considerably its attributes. (Available in area record stores.)

David Willey
Songs From the Hamster Theatre
(Prolific)

Multi-instrumentalist Willey is best known for his past work in Baldo Rex and Thinking Plague, as well as his current role as accordionist and guitarist for the Denver Gentlemen. But Hamster reveals him to be more than a background musician. Rather, he's a sonic conceptualist of uncommon skill. Some of the pieces here are mere fragments (both "Nursery Rhyme" and "Pookypoo" clock in at less than one minute), but despite their brevity, Willey makes them stick. But on others, such as "Litost" and "Ester," he uses the various noisemakers at his command to create rewarding aural environments unlike any you've heard before. (Prolific Records, P.O. Box 482113, Denver 80248.)

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