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Spacemusic Reviews

Cosmic Ground: Cosmic Ground Live

Cosmic Ground Live

Cosmic Ground Live

Cosmic Ground: Cosmic Ground Live
Released: 17 June 2017
www.sunhair-music.de
www.cosmicground.de

Pondering galaxy-sized questions, Cosmic Ground entered the concert hall. Compiling performances from two 2016 events (E-Live & The 9th Psychedelic Network Festivals), Dirk Jan Müller and Horst Porkert have realized the album Cosmic Ground Live (77’49”). The four tracks where made in the heat of the moment, as these conditions are known for revealing the creative spark, and finds both musicians and their listeners experiencing the music together in the act of being made. The trick is for neither to become too lost in the process. Cosmic Ground Live begins broodingly downbeat, with dark forms rising from out of dark corners of the mind. Bass laden drones try to swallow a melodious Mellotron flute solo, which lilts blessedly above a maelstrom of writhing timbres. Wrapped in a luminous halo of reverberation a string section rises from the deep dense rumbling electronic tempest, before the introduction of Müller’s signature breathless tone patterns – which mount, repeat and seem to echo out across eternity. A demon behind the sequencer, he occasionally observes the audience – who will always tell you which way to go. Each new ascent presents the classic sound of one or another vintage synthesizer, and a shivery reverence that defies explanation. Weeping choirs and full-throated waveforms endow this release with greater passion. The compression that comes from these reprieves of stillness intensifies feelings found in the passages of acceleration. With each set, our Spacemusic mystics manage to conjure a stimulating atmosphere of mystery, adventure and motion. Once inside this expansive zone, we may travel to the place where lives our dearest hopes and dreams. Cosmic Ground Live glows with mystery and possibility, pushing through the outer limits of mainstream constraints. This is the music we may turn to whenever we need proof that further possibilities for representing innovation, mystery and drama in music still lie out there; in an ever-receding possible elsewhere. These kinds of live concerts are a spectacle of wires, electricity and wits – something that trusts all who hear it to think.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 July 2017

Bernd Kistenmacher: Disintegration

Disintegration

Disintegration

Bernd Kistenmacher: Disintegration
Released: 1 March 2017
mirecords.blogspot.com
www.berndkistenmacher.com

Knowledge alone is flat and lifeless, but may become meaningful through the accumulation of experience over time. Bernd Kistenmacher will tell you that this path to knowing is long, and permits no shortcuts. His album Disintegration (62’46”) offers eight electronic listening studies, informed by his decades long involvement in Spacemusic. Each piece exhibits a distinctive mood and atmosphere which keeps us well within a chilled space throughout this journey. Rhythms and slow beats do emerge in a few places, but the overall feel of Disintegration is that of contemplation. Beneath changeless constellations synthesizer strings build out and hold, as bass laden drones bulge with portent. Then later, like a spark in the open air, glittering modulations spray and dapple their sonic particles in echoing trails. The wheels are stilled, leaving room for the rushing of metal drones and slowed adagio synths. The ambiance softens, as the delicate lilt of an ascending voice reaches us from out of a diffuse celestial realm. Bernd Kistenmacher has learned how to reprogram his own mind. He forges together the vocabularies of technology and art, memory and music, literature and mathematics, electronics and emotion in his search for the perfect language – a cognitive language in which he can truly think. A language that is more expressive than anything we have before encountered. Waiting for a sign in the sky, or a word from the stars, Kistenmacher has taken the way of the thinker – and never loses sight of the cosmic wonders he is trying to capture, or of the nebulous mysteries his audience is trying to fathom. Disintegration can be as warm as the sun on the skin, or just as easily become like the dark light holding grinding galaxies. An exploration of sound mass, where the collective textures of instruments are treated as one single entity, his music breaks out with forlorn voltage.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 July 2017

Steve Roach: Spiral Revelation

Spiral Revelation

Spiral Revelation

Steve Roach: Spiral Revelation
Released: 20 January 2017
www.projekt.com
www.steveroach.com

At every outing, the task of artists like Steve Roach is to craft a new realm entirely out of sound. His album Spiral Revelation (63’00”) offers six electronic realizations of such discovery – meant to stimulate the imagination as well as hurry the interior current within. From the simmer of pulsing synthesized bleeps and soft echoing percussive patter, to chilling angular abstractions of sustained musical thought, Spiral Revelation deepens quietly through hinterlands that call out to be explored. With minimalist sequencer grooves giving rhythm to the surface of sound, patterns echo out across vividly imagined distances. This world seems in a constant state of motion. With everything moving, everything centered, the air seems to ring like a cold struck bell. Conjuring a thick atmosphere as if from a hushed spell, deeply breathing chords stack up and sustain. Shifts in emotional temperature result out of Roach’s exploration of sound mass, as the kaleidoscopic cross link of repeating motifs propel the listener along a helix of syncopated tones. The energy arcing through this work is an appeal to the imagination – where we may ponder the mysteries of the universe within and without. Traveling in place is the promise of all Spacemusic – and this Spiral Revelation aspires to permeate the illimited distance of both our interior and exterior space.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 6 July 2017

Erik Wollo: Different Spaces

Different Spaces

Different Spaces

Erik Wøllo: Different Spaces
Released: 17 March 2017
www.projekt.com
www.wollo.com

Erik Wøllo takes the future wherever he goes. Transporting us far and fast to a tomorrow that never got here, he gives us Different Spaces – his double CD set of high flying dreams. In a pageant of surpassing interest, Wøllo has realized 22 thoroughly imagined pieces across the two discs. Within this psychological recreation the listener will certainly become captivated by his beautiful vision. Different Spaces moves with determined speed, electrifying the space into which it is played. Rising to the astral layers we moonstruck wanderers may hear his melodic certainty. Sustaining electric guitar notes travel through shaping and shifting digital treatments, emerging as tones blurred smooth by worn circuits and warm transistors. Soft electronic percussion ticks eagerly beneath the deployment of plush synthesizer strings – in the endless variation of Wøllo’s signature contemporary style. Further out, slowed down thought zones fascinate in swarms of glittering points and gradations of timbre – showing us that the most powerful works may be those sent to us in a whisper. With Different Spaces this extraordinary musician provides open, thoughtful, honest, wandering explorations of harmony, melody and rhythm – rendered in the sigh of metal strings and rising electro-choirs. As each track opens, breathes and develops, in the stirring rhapsody of notes, and pauses, sustaining tones, and slow snaking leads, clean, clear sounds resound into reverberant space. When subtly driven swells emerge, Wøllo plucks, holds, strums and loops his six strings in perfect placement around elegant synthetic touches, dabs and strokes. Then, just as easily, these emanations draw us down into dark ideas. Out there in the vacant future, approaches the early light of the awakening dawn. Somewhere in this distance shines our tomorrow. Erik Wøllo takes his music to this place – to a world that knows better.-

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END29 June 2017

Forrest Fang: Following the Ether Sun

Following the Ether Sun

Following the Ether Sun

Forrest Fang: Following the Ether Sun
Released: 17 February 2017
www.projekt.com
www.forrestfang.com

Forrest Fang designs music to keep us thinking even while chilling. It seems as though the setting for his work is always some far off exotic land – where miniature worlds are built out of sound, texture and atmosphere. Alive to the possibilities and power of these realizations, Following the Ether Sun (72’54”) is a homage to the pleasure of making things by hand, and another chapter in the story of Forrest Fang finding his way to the people who understand him. These eight sonic tales do not unspool into the world, as much as they permeate the sound space. Quiet chamber pieces present an enchanting sonic charisma, while in more ethereal sections dense waves of synthesized sounds pervade in expanding vulnerable forms. Within extreme digital processing of certain sound elements the various components of a piece join together, as progressive music, minimalism, ethnic, folk and classical influences play their part in the resulting electronic/acoustic hybrid. Always a vivid global explorer, Fang builds remarkable rhythms with an ensemble of acoustic instruments – in support of rarefied electronic harmonies that pass over the vivid, earthen landscape like frosted clouds above. Following the Ether Sun will cultivate inner thought processes, including daydreaming and imagination. Stretching mainly across the brain’s mid-section; it is a compelling example of how neural networks interact during the creative process, and also while listening dutifully. Though it is a mystery as to how this album achieves its resonant effect, we find that by these mysterious means we are transformed throughout its journey. Forrest Fang remains a unique voice in modern music – which needs intelligent artists to seduce us into the genre. In his chosen sonic realm, a hazy place of echoes and hollows, of unreal tones and ghost instruments, he captures, then transforms all the contradictions into something wondrous. This music invites the listener into a unique space, and requires us to have our own experience, repaying the effort ten fold.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 June 2017

Jeffrey Koepper: MantraSequent

MantraSequent

MantraSequent

Jeffrey Koepper: MantraSequent
Released: 16 June 2017
www.projekt.com
www.jeffreykoepper.com

Do machines have a soul? Synthesizers do, as our beloved Robert Moog tried to explain in his 2004 documentary. The circuit boards and overall design of the devices he conceived are infused with just as much of his spirit as is imagined a violin crafted by Stradivarius. Another commonality between these two kinds of instruments is that they both need a human being to animate them – a process that usually reveals more about the player than the builder. Music realized by the Electronic Musician Jeffrey Koepper always carries a unique psychological charge, along with a distinctive personal truth. Few among his ranks possess his technical acumen, which certainly stimulates and informs Koepper’s many substantial releases. On MantraSequent (67’18”) sound is handled like an object. Shaving off frequencies, joining tones, sculpting textures, compressing atmospheres, and ordering notes into repeating trails of echoes this album is the result of the set of choices made by Koepper – which he hopes will turn abstractions into sonic moods and feelings. Once we fall under the spell of MantraSequent, it becomes easy to forget the impressive list of vintage gear which was used to make it. Capturing the cosmic mystery associated with this genre, Koepper deploys pulsing sequencers, sustaining synth-string chords and spiraling spacey effects in an expressive soundtrack for interplanetary leaps. In a swirl of held harmonies the listener is pulled toward a hard chill, and offered an absorbing space of repose – while further along, deeper pieces generate the mystery-machine character of the Berlin-School. Others may struggle to understand what it was like back then (the 1970s), but the powerful grip of the past has always aided Koepper well in the present. The Now, which is always racing ahead of us, through this music, can be caught. In silence we may feel the tick of the clock, but the moments found within each of the nine tracks on MantraSequent carry an opportunity to honor the maelstrom of the mind – and all its dimensional potential.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END15 June 2017

Lorenzo Montana: Phase IX

Phase IX

Phase IX

Lorenzo Montana: Phase IX
Released: 17 March 2017
www.projekt.com

On Phase IX (62’25”), Lorenzo Montana plumbs his psyche for a new revelation… and out has come something that will challenge the definitions of what constitutes Ambient Music. A man of some sonic intelligence, Montana performs the nine tracks on Phase IX with passionate focus. The value of his compositions is not in the time that they last, but in the intensity with which they occur. Charged with Earthen energy, his softly tumbling backdrops support a shimmering solemnity. In a loose but urgent rhythmic rapport, the more energized works on this album present a hurtling, onrushing quality. As a bustling assemblage of entho-electro percussion and electronic textures struggle to lock into a conventional groove, we enter a slow burning meditation on the vital spirit. A storm system rolls in a softly rumbling scene, and the music’s effect slows the motion of the world – so that we may notice that which surrounds us. Gently descending, Montana seems even more interesting when he explores the darkness. Thick drones engulf metallic rubbing and digital crackle, as a grand piano slowly and certainly plays out a somber nocturne. Chords billow bright, then darken, with a throbbing bass pushing sparkling arpeggio chords through echo and reverb. Technology matters, but musicality matters more. This musician has a gift, perhaps even a genius, for translating thought and emotion into sonic form. Each piece feels infused with a measure of mystery and secrecy. Taken together, everything on Phase IX tallies the outlook of the musician. We should celebrate real thinking where ever we find it, and ponder the future in the way this album does, while we still can.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END6 June 2017