Spacemusic Reviews

Louigi Verone: Solar Cycle

Solar CycleLouigi Verona

Louigi Verona: Solar Cycle
Released: 11 November 2021

The seven tracks that comprise Solar Cycle (43:59) all seem in their own separate state of motion. With everything moving, everything centered Louigi Verona (aka Kirill Alferov) builds layer upon layer of serial steadily winding weight – realizing a new fidelity as his music flies. Synchronized sequencers pump out intricate rhythms and echoing tones. The lines run out, in, up and down intervals and scales – shifting vaguely – to hurry the current within. Echoing and recoiling through the soundspace broken chords interweave in machine meter, as spiraling electric patterns blend perfectly beneath vivid atmospheres. In a helix of syncopation energy arcs through this work, irradiating rather than occupying the scene. These pulsing, crowded moments hold the listener, so that Solar Cycle may find its order within your mind. While each individual pulsing band interacts with its neighboring row, an interweaved structure comes forth – and makes for a mesmerizing, ever-evolving texture. As the converging swells join forces to produce a peak, a dramatic momentum emerges. The rushing, breathless arrangements transcend the motor metrical, landing with poetic precision. Circling and cycling at the speed of thought, Solar Cycle dances and whirls along currents of creativity. Its bright velocity sparks the imagination – in a remarkable flow of bracing, swiftly moving sensation.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 November 2021

Serena Gabriel (feat. Steve Roach): Seeing Inside

Seeing InsideSerena Gabriel

Serena Gabriel (feat. Steve Roach): Seeing Inside
Released: 22 October 2021

Exploring relationships between the electronic and the acoustic, Serena Gabriel works again with producer and collaborator Steve Roach on Seeing Inside (72:12), their creation of atmosphere and constant sonic motion. In rolling synthetic waves and tender ethereal textures they conjure a beautiful inward space. Softer sounds prevail, as emanations of world instruments, vocals and keyboards are pushed into ever more thoughtful realms. With its slow procession of rising and receding tones, mingling with a most ethereal voice, Seeing Inside seems more a ceremony of sacred sounds than a conventionally composed body of music. From the deliberate pacing, and a sense of consonance over the churning electronic wash, to the issue of warm rounded timbres, these distinct characteristics resolve into an experience so captivating. Classic synthesizer sounds are layered among swelling drones and shimmering accents. In a swirling mist of ever-changing tonality, we progress from areas of darkness to light. These reflective zones are meant to provide a state within which secret webs of knowledge may be revealed. Yet, in moving from one mood to the next, Seeing Inside never loses its sense of direction. In her vocalize style of wordless, emotionally charged expressions Gabriel directs listeners through idyllic nocturnes and compassionate laments. Her voice soars fluently above haunting synth arrangements and rumbling bass notes. Moving effortlessly across registers, she glides from exaltation to soft benediction, and on to that of something seemingly beyond human extent. Swirling amidst sources such as harmonium, lyre, wooden flutes, frame drum, and the earth tones of the didgeridoo, Seeing Inside unifies in a distinct condition best attended to with eyes closed. In such a state the transportive qualities of this work may be fully felt – and its truth heard.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END11 November 2021

Steve Roach/Michael Stearns: Beyond Earth & Sky

Beyond Earth and SkySteve Roach/Michael Stearns

Steve Roach/Michael Stearns: Beyond Earth & Sky
Released: 5 November 2021

Exploring ingenuities of form and mysterious pressures of feeling, Steve Roach and Michael Stearns each inhabit a distinctive zone of their own. Their joint effort Beyond Earth & Sky (71:20) is a release of discovery, for the musicians and their audience alike. A meditation on enchantment, it strives for timelessness, ascending to a rare spiritual intensity. The seven tracks focus their creativity under the regime of collaboration, and take us places we cannot get to with anyone else. From moonlit soft chords and floating synthesizer atmospheres, to dramatic tonal transitions and gradually darkening visions, the music skillfully twists and shifts in imaginative ways – leaving listeners lost in the thoughts, memories and passions of two extraordinary talents. Sounds ebb, flow and glow as each tingling detail stimulates the imagination. Vast in their proportions every musical phrase is shaped by the color of fantasy. Impressed by the enigmatic, swirling current of textures and tones – including the famed towering steel stringed instrument “The Beam” – we find Beyond Earth & Sky leveling itself, and waiting for the world to follow. The album is beautiful, full of commanding synth-borne harmonies, animating electro-ethno grooves, and the echo of ethereal rituals throughout. While Beyond Earth & Sky may seem not of this earth, after repeated listenings we hear that its beauty is completely of our world, and undeniably explicit. Whether meant as a travel soundtrack to accompany us to some distant planet, or within to the warmth of our own inner realm, as a work of human imagination the journey Roach and Stearns provide is retraceable – so long as we are open to the possibilities of their adventure.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END 4 November 2021

Martin Sturtzer: Dyson Sphere Alpha

Dyson Sphere AlphaMartin Sturtzer

Martin Sturtzer: Dyson Sphere Alpha
Released: 22 October 2021

Through our pandemic era Martin Sturtzer has transformed his home studio into a sanctuary. His Dyson Sphere Alpha (156:10) collects six tracks worth of live streamed sets from an ambitious schedule of Sunday evening performances. Across this outsized collection the atmosphere is wordless, but not thoughtless. As meaning crystalizes in the trembling air, the clean strike of high notes makes for an easier upward reach of the mind – toward a deeper interpretation of the spirit. All these recordings of live realizations begin in a contemplative nature. A few stay in this zone throughout their duration, but from most emerge lines of ordered notes, exerting a serene, secure authority. Haunting and time bending the warmth of rapt noble toned synthesizer patches ascends like incense. As the energy level of each set rises, so does the appeal of Strutzer’s selections. Clinging tightly to Berlin-School sources a melodic backbone may be located in the prevalent sequencer engine. Coming fully to life these insistent patterns provide an aural energy in the language of electricity. The structure is more spiral than linear. Circling around core chords in ever tightening loops, Sturtzer disappears into the performance. But perhaps more interesting are the dark tones at the edge of these works. The shifting shapes and expressive shades of sound portend the vast scale of an unknown expanse ahead. The prevailing mood, which is enigmatic, is yet reassuring. Here we may watch the darkness until the darkness leaves us, or we leave it. Some enjoy this kind of music as a means of wandering the cosmos in a daze, to keep the realization of existence at arm’s length – while the more adventurous among us use it to better understand their deeper self. In his meditations on enchantment Martin Sturtzer inspirits us. As sure as twilight will follow these fading sonic shadows, the electric night concedes the healing of fractured minds, and the knowing of wounded souls. So plug in the synths, dim the lights, and breathe deep… for when it is time for a concert, it is time to dream of a better world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END28 October 2021

Chas Smith: Three


Chas Smith: Three
Released: 15 October 2021

A musician, a builder, and, most importantly, a dreamer, Chas Smith releases striking works of enigmatic proportions. Fully invested in making its own kind of magic in its own time his album Three (48:50) fills the air with an unremitting expressive force. As this music’s innate surrealism fully flowers, we venture into the musical terrain of a unique innovation. Listeners will need to be brave and just jump into his metalized universe. Conversing using, not any established language, but rather through the sheer manipulation of steel sound, Smith thoughtfully and purposefully bows, bangs, taps, raps, rubs and otherwise manipulates his hand-fabricated ferrous instruments. Producing a range of sustaining burnished tones – which mingle and layer into everything from imaginative soundscapes and floating textures, to thought zone drones and nightmarish metal fields – we sense a tremor of floating lustrous shapes in disconnected geometries. When the product of this metallurgic encounter surrounds shuddering, steel strings electric, the unsettled meditation grinds with an industrial intonation. Humming over the shifting shapes and expressive shades of sound, trivial tones reside alongside the apocalyptic in such proximity that they combine – and point toward something beyond itself. In what furnace did these dreams forge? Behind the toll of no earthly bell Smith’s Three goes on into its own vibrating wilderness, and invites the listener along on the journey. Traversing distances of thought, we follow this drama – where we may meet the spirits of Harry Bertoia and Robert Rutman – and their proclamations from the deep.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END21 October 2021

Ian Boddy: Nevermore

NevermoreIan Boddy

Ian Boddy: Nevermore
Released: 15 October 2021

The beginning of this album sounds like the end of the world. Nevermore (60:27), the live release from Ian Boddy, sets out hovering just beyond the edge of tonality. Stark, inscrutable, his mental circuitry on full display, Boddy thus pulls us in and carries us along his hour long session from SoundQuest Fest (streamed on 27 March 2021). As the raw, resonant core of the bolder sonic palette recedes, the new zone he builds is lush, complicated, immersive, and alive. Avoiding cog-in-a-machine sequencer operation, the music awakens in walking bass steps, and palpitating percussion – and soon takes flight in echoing tone patterns and electronic grooves. Here some intimate drama may be felt in Boddy’s passionate synth leads. Gliding between notes his dexterous playing visits areas barely imagined beyond conventional synthesizers. Prominent against the backdrop of inter-layered rhythms these passages feel enveloping and fully imagined. Managing to wring big moments from his live rig we find Boddy glowing even in moments of darkness – as might electrical fireflies sparking slow against the velvet black of space. Residing in the upper registers, above a rich middle, synth leads rise on a thermal of melody. Making use of this form’s proven excitements, well-crafted tones burn through the clouds. Boddy knows how to hold an audience’s attention, and even at this height, when the instrumentation finally contracts, knows just where to land. The exploration of a bolder sonic palette, the inflected wonder of his concert, and this musician’s uncommon aliveness, are an indication that modular synthesis is propelling a new era of music innovation. While these instruments may seem made of something other than inert metals and plastics, the sound moving beneath these kinds of concerts is the experience of truth. While we are away, traveling through this rich aural universe, no non-negotiable realities interfere with our dream. It is upon our return from the Nevermore journey that we may have a clearer look at what is left of our realm.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END14 October 2021

Arjen Schat: The Extragalactic Sessions Part 1

The Extra Galactic Sessions Pt 1Arjen Schat

Arjen Schat: The Extragalactic Sessions Part 1
Released: 1 October 2021

Most people are busy thinking about where they are going. The Spacemusic of Arjen Schat will have you reflecting on where you are. The first in a series, The Extragalactic Sessions Part 1 (67:05) maps the trackless void of space as thoroughly as it does the psychological terrain of the listener. It sounds like a thing the mind already knows, but the journey along its cycling sequencer structures and echoing tone patterns is nonetheless endlessly rousing and inspiring. Full of stirring sparks and charged currents this album imparts a wondrous sense of things much bigger than and far outside of one’s own self. An accord of cultivated synthesizer tones provide celestial accompaniment above the mysterious motoring meter of echoing notes. Giving rise to a palpable sense of propulsion the aesthetic of the Berlin-School is certainly felt in this monument to the imagination. Slow lead lines enter, resounding in a luxurious synthetic zone. The charged performances light out in expressive fanciful flights. Cycling away in space, then reverberating into a cool calm, this ride explores ideas of proportion and scale. Entirely enjoyable and fully felt, and possibly connected to technology in a spiritual way, The Extragalactic Sessions Part 1 takes us to a place that never ends. Its grand ideas, quiet drama and dark imaginings suggest a universe as large as the one within this artist. The voices he hears are those of his synthesizers. They talk in his head, combine, then divide, and in this way Schat’s sonic story comes together. An intelligence extending beyond the cold logic of machines, it is through our listening to these four substantial tracks that the pull of the cosmos commences. The emergence of an electronic musician such as Arjen Schat, one who asks the genre to go further, is an enormous gift to the discipline. His work is a communion with something that will be with us forever. It is about finding peace, beauty and meaning, the positive effect of which should be considered part of everyday human experience – and not merely the random rare chance encounter.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 October 2021

AES Dana: (a) period.

(a) period.AES Dana

AES Dana: (a) period.
Released: 7 July 2021

(a) period. (71:33) offers ten tracks to fire the imagination. Deeply felt, with absolutely no threat of overheating, AES Dana delivers the listener to that rare real thing; a sweet spot balance of the sonic and the psychic. An uncanny talent for interiority, Vincent Villuis‘ cool music accommodates equally well a steady heart and a moving mind. Reaching for transcendence, these realizations expand or contract based on the imaginative capacities within each individual listener. Rising out of the engulfing sense of depth, here and there we encounter soft beats. These slow pulsing grooves add an occasional propulsive direction to the drifting nature of (a) period.. Further in, the sense of atmosphere is palpable, and keeps us searching. Smooth and untethered, piano notes ascend through reverb. Among the venting synth pads and sustaining harmonies clouds of chords escape into the air, dissipating into deepening, questioning drones. While roiling electronics and slow melodic rolls provide vague signposts of the distance we have traveled, it may be difficult for some to determine their whereabouts along this album’s gradual arc. From a place of dispossession and alien thought, to self-sustaining, deliberately designed structures, (a) period. portrays the artists emphasis on the more ephemeral states. With its occasional swerves into the surreal this enticing music feels like a response to the future. By inviting us into its spacey colorful dream realm, the creeping dread of modern existence may be stilled – in this work’s response to an impatient world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 September 2021

Various Artists: Gemstones 2

Gemstones II

Various Artists: Gemstones II
Released: 17 September 2021

When you have reached the limits of what listening to Spacemusic offers, one must then make their own. The 12 synth sharps of Gemstones II (85:16) have studied the greats – not to imitate them, but to advance their beliefs. Extending the impressive anthology series from Cyclical Dream, the Ambient and Berlin-School themes and forms this second installment explores should be embraced by even the most casual listener. Each mindscape is a realm of its own, individually distinct and unrestrainedly imaginative. Few other electronic artists can conjure up such complete other worlds with such clarity, depth and beauty as these do. Setting forth from the here and now, these works forge forward under their own momentum. Each submission works off the energy of the one before it, and draws us into the next, showing connections and amplifying the value of all – illustrating that the meaning of this music is much greater than that of the individual maker.

Presenting an even dozen skilled electronic musicians, possessing abilities and backgrounds unique to each, Gemstones II opens with Gradient 12 by Robert Rich. Building a captivating sequencer backdrop, he lets lead lines freely flow to snake and drift about in the foreground… Expose by Erik Wollo follows in a glimmering beauty and striking sonic drama… In a tightly worked sequencer command Spacers by Martin Sturtzer enters rhythmic realms somewhere past ours… and even the author of this review (Chuck van Zyl) submits a personal expression; in The Child of Night light lilting melodic patterns settle into a Berlin-School sequencer ride… It’s Taken by Sam Prekop brims with an uncommon aliveness as energy and heat are exchanged… The trio Cartas de Japon hears their identities in the striding motor-motion of Estepa… Traveling through the void of space, Merging Into the Night by Max Corbacho descends into darkness… On Much Too Late the duo Perge spin out of orbit on rousing anthems atop ardent echoing tones… Then, with Still Untold Sophos rules the night… In what furnace did this dream of Fritz Mayr forge? Energized by a striding mechanized pulse his From the Ashes crosses an unimaginable gulf to reach us… Suggesting new dimensions Michael Bruckner & Rebekkah Hilgraves ask that we Love One Another, a restless and imaginative piece of beguiling sonic charm… Fondness by Filter-Kaffee begins as a portrait of desolation, infiltrates our minds with cycling arpeggio notes and ethereal harmonies, and concludes with questions posed at the edge of doom…

Inside this collection we find a universe in flux, where space flows like time and time stretches out like space. The music will live up to what we believe in it, what we believe it to be. For those robbed of their optimism, listening to Gemstones II should restore your faith in the future – because after all, that seems to be where all this great music is emanating from.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 September 2021

Lyonel Bauchet: The Diver

The DiverLyonel Bauchet

Lyonel Bauchet: The Diver
Released: 17 September 2021

Lyonel Bauchet‘s collection of electronic implements seem to carry the weight of ceremonial objects, that is until he starts operating them. Working off the energy of his imagination, he delves into a singular sonic cosmos of relentlessly synthetic sound. His The Diver (52:38) teems with weightless sonorities and blended timbres. Issuing from a well-managed system of modular synthesizer components and keyboards we might guess that this work belongs as much to the musician as it does to his instruments. But while this studiously constructed album exalts the modulation possibilities of the studio equipment, Bauchet’s music delivers a substantial revealing experience. From intense droning depths to lighter harmonic progressions, the five tracks on The Diver are continually contracting and expanding. Drifting in a cool blackness, then rising into orbit, the sound field shifts shape and scale – swinging gently between contemplation and dynamism. Further in rhythms rise in sonic celebration. A space motor spins out its sequence of notes. Echoing in unguarded patterns the aural energy expands, as we revel in how beautifully electricity may be rendered into music. Part of a genre with no limiting principles the wordless structures found here provide many inviting and reassuring textures – countered well by moments of experimental introversion and metaphysical mood. On this journey into the materiality of sound we may certainly notice the connection of imagination and creativity to technique and technology, but the most thrilling moment in listening to The Diver comes finally when we listeners claim what we are hearing as our own.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END16 September 2021