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Spacemusic Reviews

Manuel Göttsching: E2E4

E2E4

E2E4

Manuel Göttsching: E2E4
Released: 1983
www.manuel-goettsching.com

On Saturday 12 December 1981 Manuel Göttsching sat down in his studio and recorded some music. After about an hour he had realized something that he imagined would be nice to listen to on an upcoming airline flight. A few years later this piece was released under his own name through the In-Team label as E2E4. To those more familiar with Göttsching’s Cosmic Music, Berlin-School and Space-Rock roots, this new work took a while to be accepted. With its shuffling beat box rhythms and simple, repetitive sequencer pattern E2E4 seemed to have more in common with Disco Music than it did with Space Music. But once forward thinking radio programs aired it, and club DJs started spinning this disc for the dance floor, more and more musicians began sampling riffs and copying the style – and the status of E2E4 grew to mammoth proportions. What commenced as an easy going musical jaunt, inducing bewilderment among established audiences, E2E4 was embraced by a new generation of people and ideas. As the pulsing relentlessly builds up – working its magic on the mood of the listener – the cyclical rhythms and electronic tones probe the recesses of the unconscious. The spirited energy of E2E4 will have all the lights in our heads lit at once – like an engine coming to life; messages flying, ideas flowering, charges of electricity whipping across the brain, leaving our selves luminescent, awake and alive. The shards and stray threads of mental activity eventually recede, as the closing scenes of E2E4 are enlivened by Göttsching’s wonderful electric guitar soloing. To this day this album manages to feel fresh and inventive rather than stale or studied – an outcome not part of an overarching artistic strategy. Göttsching simply knows that in a work of art there must be something more than what is called force. There must be distinction and a rarity of feeling. In creating music that combined the elements of improvisation with structured composition, he is a genuine innovator – a complicated hero whose humanity is profoundly irresistible.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END   7 December 2018

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Saul Stokes: Expansion

Expansion

Expansion

Saul Stokes: Expansion
Released: 17 November 2018
www.saulstokes.com

Hopefully you will hear the music of Saul Stokes‘ before you will need it. His work is known to have a positive effect on the imagination (which we all would benefit from), but it can also pierce the gloom. An acknowledgement of the gift of life and the realization of existence, the nine exuberant tracks found on Expansion (145’13”), are each on their own journey through a specific world of poetic imagination. While the listening experience of most EM is that of pure sensory input, encountering this album feels quite different – quite like stepping into a lofty, friendly conversation. Synthesizers may be the machines behind the music, but here Stokes is the engine. This man, and his mortal motor, fills every corner of Expansion with a radiant intensity. Partly in reaction to the digital disconnection of our time, the meticulous nature of Stokes’ production values clashed with the desire to make music more spontaneously – so each piece presented here is simply played out live in Stokes’ studio directly into a recording device, and then placed as is on Expansion. But as listeners we are advised to just lie back and lose ourselves in the drama of electricity transforming into sound, and sound into music. Even for those with mainstream tastes, Expansion is potent and adventurous enough to be engaging. From the warmly distorted leads spiriting through billowing harmonies, to the complex rhythm patterns that weave through them, Expansion suffers no shortage of special delights. A pleasant mix of Stoke’s trademark motorik riffs, shimmering synths, and low octane beats, this work presents an overlit, futuristic electronic realm. Out of a landscape of lunar vacancy rises vivid, syncopated grooves – which punctuate smooth electronic accents, and other ethereal sonic forms. Decorating our condition with music, this release asks nothing more than our quiet attention – how radical. Saul Stokes knows something, and he knows that we know it too. His music gets us to some mental place that we would normally be cut off from. Stokes finds in the power of music the ability to introduce order into the harshness of the physical world and still follow the way of an all-embracing, undying life of the spirit. Even with so many concerts and albums to his credit, we never feel we have enough of him.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 November 2018

Saul Stokes: The Gatherings 16 November 2013

The Gatherings 16 November 2013

The Gatherings 16 November 2013

Saul Stokes: The Gatherings 16 November 2013
Released: 17 November 2018
www.thegatherings.org
www.saulstokes.com

A sonic world is waiting for you. A place where the wild past meets the power and the beauty of the future, and is accessed simply with a ticket to The Gatherings Concert Series. Among the finest examples of this phenomenon are the inspiring concerts made by Saul Stokes. Often referred to as a “sonic innovator”, Stokes bridges and bounds the opposing energies of crude electricity and accomplished art – to realize music that aligns perfectly with the beat and pulse beneath and behind everything.

His album The Gatherings 16 November 2013 (86’37”) features the unedited entirety of his performance. The sensitive ear will acknowledge the live, vibrant timbres present at every level of his numerous live performances. Using the altar at St Mary’s Hamilton Village, Stokes is not arranging for the dance floor, but for the place in the mind where sensory detail becomes thought.

If we think of this music as electrical, a thing made of electricity, then we find it to be always remaking itself – transforming in every instant, yet continually preserving its conception. The limit of effect is merely the limit of the musician’s imagination. From moody and psychological to juicy and exuberant, Stokes revels equally in tightly arranged progressions and timeless amorphous drones. Buzzing lead melodies provide a lovely voice in which to deliver a renewing message, while gentle beats and grooves speed up, then slow down – moving these compositions beyond squishy IDM and into the realm of intriguing thought experiment. Unique tones, novel arrangements, comprehensive synthesis and Stokes’ joyful intensity provide fuel for the listener’s mental adventures.

This work could not have been realized outside the intimacy of the live environment. The immediacy of the moment, the consistent pattern of change and the spark of inspiration all act upon Stokes, as he produces continuous currents of sound for his spellbound audience. This venue, and its patrons, have become known for revealing to musicians what they are capable of – and believe that a new idea in music is worth the challenge to make it. The music Saul Stokes made at The Gatherings now has a second life as an album release. The Gatherings 16 November 2013 was made live, in the heat of the moment, before an enthusiastic, informed community. As these conditions are known for revealing the creative spark, we find both the musician and his listeners experiencing this extraordinary music together in the act of being made.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END15 November 2018


Proceeds from the sale of The Gatherings 16 November 2013 by Saul Stokes go to support the efforts of CIMA of PA, the IRS recognized, non-profit, all-volunteer organization which oversees The Gatherings Concert Series in Philadelphia.

Various Artists: Krell Music

Krell Music

Krell Music

Various Artists: Krell Music
Released: 29 October 2018
www.auralfilms.com

The cheapest high in Electronic Music may be had by making unstructured noise. Typically, composers who partake in this kind of exercise are asking of the listener nothing more than, “I dare you to like this” – as only the author alone can appreciate their own impenetrable musical acts. While the works found on Krell Music (119’49”) may indeed pose challenges to the average music consumer, the concept enlivening this collection is of the first order – and excellently informs each and every piece with its mission.

The Krell referred to in the title of this anthology will be well-known to fans of Forbidden Planet, the beloved 1956 cult-classic of Sci-Fi cinema. As the story unfolds, we discover that The Krell were the once thriving alien race inhabiting the distant planet Altair IV – the only remaining evidence of their existence being their abandoned, monumental engineering achievements and equally impressive examples of art, culture, and music.

Krell Music features imaginative extrapolations of the brief example “Ancient Krell Music” presented in the film’s soundtrack – which was realized by EM pioneers Louis and Bebe Barron. Their music, which is heard throughout Forbidden Planet, lacks real-world references, so as to sonically represent the fantastic objects and beings discovered in the movie – yet still managed to serve conventional narrative demands. It is also credited as the first all-electronic score ever to be employed in a Hollywood film.

The reverence shown to the Barron’s by generations of Electronic Musicians borders on the religious, as their amazing efforts are often thought of as the starting point of a continuing, decades-long, amazing experiment. Their early “electronic tonalities” envisioned how EM evokes notions of the exotic Other, and reset every fundamental aspect in scoring a film. This is what outer space sounded like, and still sounds like over 60 years on.

Krell Music will confound anyone with an expectation of continuity. Each track, whether imagined out of the reference scene, or absorbed in the energy of the soundtrack as a whole, is missing any conventional access point. Without discernible rhythm, consonant melody, or even a tonal base, these realizations touch something deeply primitive that lives within us all. Telling their story simply through the manipulation of sound, the contributors have come up with compositions closer to the ideals of modern abstract painting than of music. Arranging sounds without any terrestrial reference, each track transpires into a surreal, unknowable atmosphere.

The instruments used to produce this music must gave gotten a real workout – as the sounds they emit cover a wide range of imaginative sonorities. From the nightmare texture of tensile sonics and arcane modulations, to gentle lullabies and the quiet humming of The Great Machine, the 26 musicians represented here all have their own individual idea as to what the music of the Krell meant and sounded like. This group has absorbed well the film’s meaning and place in history, and even more so the aesthetics of its music.

The collection of music presented here should be considered masterful. Krell Music works both as a stunning document of a fictitious lost alien civilization, and a 26 track soundtrack of unlovely, but not unloved music (for which your attention to all will be rewarded). Yet within all the clatter may be found a questing optimism. Because, as old as it is, the genre of Electronic Music is not yet done teaching us what it can do.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END8 November 2018

Bluetech: Liquid Geometries

Liquid Geometries

Liquid Geometries

Bluetech: Liquid Geometries
Released: 16 November 2018
www.din.org.uk
www.bluetechonline.com

Free spirited and possessed of an Inner Light, the album Liquid Geometries 58’14” is loaded with monumental stuff meticulously realized. As a sonic traveler preparing for a new journey, Bluetech (aka Evan Bartholomew) surely revisited Spacemusic classics such as Phaedra and Rubycon – not for their equipment list, but to re-experience their directness. The hypnotic hymns of electronic dreaming found on Liquid Geometries move easily through somewhere barren and otherworldly to an inverted slowcore electronica – a place where the power of electricity is harnessed by the human mind. Liquid Geometries is a work that slowly reveals its power and complexity – such that the climax of each track may be noticed only in hindsight. Possessing a lulling beauty swirled in Berlin-School atmosphere and culminating in nine sky-high tracks, the dexterous cadence of each piece escapes the absolute. Aiming for a slow-burn build, the temperature of this release rises from cool to simmering. Sounds build out, and lines of rhythm are introduced. Minimalist sequencer runs motor on, brightening gradually along their course. Individual notes are transposed, echoed and repeated, altering minutely the pattern, then quickening the pace of the music. While a magic machine pulse provides a distinctive energy, one more of the mind than of the air, confirming synth lines surface – reassuring the lost and arousing the adventurous. Where dramatic chord changes help us ascend further still, the deliberate pacing in other areas slows the listener with its intellectual puzzle. This album plays in a way that makes us listen anew to the familiar. There is nothing not to like here. While some musicians just tend their machines, those at a more thoughtful level seem to be playing themselves into existence. Bluetech takes full possession of his impulses as he shapes music into something that far transcends the limits of his time. He never loses sight of the wonders he is attempting to capture, nor of the nebulous mysteries we are all trying to fathom.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 November 2018

 

Pollard/Daniel/Booth: Eight

Eight

Eight

Pollard/Daniel/Booth: Eight
Released: 13 October 2018
pollarddanielbooth.bandcamp.com

Throughout Eight (68’55”) Pollard/Daniel/Booth make an exploration into the uncharted depths of the imagination. Favoring the simple expression of complex thoughts, this trio visits realms they may never have discovered on their own. Over its four tracks Eight builds a mysterious drama. In varying transparence the exquisite turbulence of roiling modulations and sustaining chords supports vintage Mellotron lead sounds, red-blooded synth lines and expressive electric guitar tones – all in service to the realization of a dynamic sound experience. Following the dissipation of its vague dread and sonic voids, this area’s central mass gives way to the signature interlacing layers of pumping sequencer patterns expected of this ensemble. Within its geometric planes and compressed space we may find a labyrinthine web – revealing an instantaneous unity between multiple crisscrossing and planar fields. These splintered forms and kaleidoscopic flickering surfaces seem to evoke the energy and dynamism of traveling through space – but without ever a thought of the vehicle used to make the journey, nor the destination. As music making machines recast the artist as an engineer, armed with modular synthesizers in place of pianos and violins, the genre of Electronic Music would seem to downplay the role of the artist’s hand. But with the rapid advancement of technology turning us ever inward to investigate the expressive qualities of sound, the better players in this field have adopted an approach, not so much pertaining to what the instruments are capable of, but what is the creative mind behind the instruments capable of? For Pollard/Daniel/Booth, each encounter with the musical exercises found on their album Eight will reveal, not technicians merely operating an apparatus, but a collective spirit – as they examine and ascertain an atmospheric depth, and contribute again to the restless genre of Spacemusic.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END25 October 2018

Helios: Veriditas

Veriditas

Veriditas

Helios: Veriditas
Released: 31 August 2018
www.ghostly.com
www.unseen-music.com

As Helios, the music of Keith Kenniff has the ability to make our world appear to be a better place. With the 12 tracks on his release Veriditas (45’27”) he takes the listener with him into a liminal space. The experience proves as magical as one would expect. These arrangements portray a wide open realm of the imagination, where the main consolation is the feeling of being energized – not through rhythm or beats, but by the overlapping realities of multiple realms. Veriditas is a gorgeous, contemplative, deliberate ride. With its slowly spiraling triads and prowling bass, ghostly assemblages of drifting electronics coalesce to form big major chords or mysteriously minor ones. The restless searching of harmonies – which takes the ear in a pleasant way – produces a moody reverie. As our thoughts circle within this oxidized eerie beauty, a wayward soul slowly swoons – and a wistful easygoing air heightens the wonder. As grainy detail recedes behind vivid sonic gestures, the crawling tempo, gradual chord progressions and drawn-out notes push through cavernous reverberation as Veriditas strains against the EM form. When it comes to the music of Helios, we should set aside our music history, and just listen. His work resides in an open intellectual forum, one far more likely to help us understand and embrace new ideas than to obliterate them. But more people should recognize this wondrous world, where a love of being alive, a love of our humanity, is essential in itself.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 October 2018