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Spacemusic Reviews

Jeff Pearce: Skies and Stars

Skies and Stars

Skies and Stars

Jeff Pearce: Skies and Stars
Released: 13 September 2019
www.jeffpearcemusic.com

Jeff Pearce has a way of making unique experiences transferable. Skies and Stars (59’57”) is his dramatic reflection on the night sky, and possibly even the forces that have placed him there beneath it. Celebrating the first lights of evening onward his music widens the aperture on the heavens as it tightens its hold over our attention. With its three tracks of lush layered guitar orchestrations this album seems of an endless energy. Under a cavernous reverberation metal wires vibrate and bend, then breath and bloom into atmospheres, textures, and passages of interiority. Each silvery string on Pearce’s guitar has a story to tell… a different episode of time in which the listener and the music become the same through the seemingly endless decay and regeneration of all things in the Cosmos. This music gives few answers, preferring to dwell on the enigmatic. With its daunting intervals and shiny core, Skies and Stars is shrouded in a misty mystical digital signal processing. Through the clever use of loop pedals, long echoes and the splitting and shifting of sonics a dreamy cloud of harmony is realized – yet with always a few tones still lurking in a vast darkness. Trembling with emotion, the music conveys a timeless yearning. This musician seeks permanence, not transience – but the magic of each of his work’s many musical moments vanishes as soon as we pay them any notice. Fans of this style of Spacemusic will know that from there to here is never a straight line. In an era of fidgeting, Skies and Stars offers an arc of unbroken concentration. As the world seems about to slip and tip off its axis, Jeff Pearce is making music for whatever is beyond the horizon of this failing realm. Listening past its ample exploratory marvels, this album offers a kindness, a gentle warm familiarity, rendered into a beautiful keepsake.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 September 2019

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GROBEK: GROBEK I

GROBECK I

GROBECK I

GROBEK: GROBEK I
Released: 22 July 2019
grobek.bandcamp.com

GROBAK is the duo of Jorg Erren and Christian Steffen, who take part in an annual off-season synthesizer jam in the village of Ouddorp on the North Sea. Each of their Wintertime rituals yields a wealth of new music, made proper after additional weeks or months of editing and re-imagining. The tone of their album GROBEK I veers from quietly electronic and textural, up to the kinetic and the reckless. Moving in the mad poetry of its energized, nodding notes, up through echoing, tumbling sequencer patterns, this album then again backs down – veering between the two realms in an easy flow. Calmly hypnotic, the pulse of this music tries to align the conflicting energies of the mind. Yet, within the overlapping mobility of circling and spiraling notes, the excitement, emotion and mystery of this work is expressed. As bold synth melodies search for accompaniment, the current of sound builds, recedes, then resolves into an adagio of synthesizer strings. Every minute of GROBEK I seems filled with something that demands our attention. With its interlinked shifting arpeggios the sound of a wildly spinning engine softens to that a more harnessed propulsion. The atmosphere is lean, transparent, surging – like currents journeying through a limitless expanse. Raw, dark and dreamy, we feel the potency of every note. GROBEK I is a studio album which vibrates with restrained intensity, yet remains fully energized by the free-form nature of the recording process. In its mix of anthemic melodies, harmonic landscapes and motorik rhythms the listener will find a steady sonic pleasure – as each of its nine tracks glitter with its own charm and electricity.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END5 September 2019

Steve Roach: Bloom Ascension

Bloom Ascension

Bloom Ascension

Steve Roach: Bloom Ascension
Released: 30 August 2019
www.projekt.com
www.steveroach.com

Bloom Ascension (41:25) is a most striking creation. Here we find Steve Roach as musically insatiable as ever – and working through a life-long commitment to a distinct creative impulse. This album exemplifies the spare patterns, unwinding energy and low-boil minimalist vibe which propelled his Grammy nominated Molecules of Motion (2018) and Spiral Revelation (2017). A robustly orchestrated work, Bloom Ascension very nearly allows us to hear the musician’s mind at work. Conducting ample instrumental forces Roach combines an innate feel for texture and gesture with his interest in the sonic intensity of Electronic Music and the sensual potential of modular synthesis. Each of the four tracks move high into the air, tracing graceful arcs of mechanical precision. With the rippling counterpoint of pinwheel dancing notes and skittering flows of sparked adventure we spin forward. As the whirling designs add additional mysteries, this work’s pulsing, generating minimalism portends a slow but relentless tide of change. In this subtle shift in perspective, a deep down dark descends – leaving behind a trail of echoing notes and quickening chords. Inspired by a dream, we wake to a prophetic mission – and a view of the world which belongs to us all. Exerting an emotional pull Bloom Ascension culminates with spirits revived. Building a world in volume and density, we are drawn in completely – held in a true electronic moment, and experiencing the invisible symbols of sound.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END29 August 2019

Caterina Barbieri: Ecstatic Computation

Ecstatic Computation

Ecstatic Computation

Caterina Barbieri: Ecstatic Computation
Released: 3 May 2019
www.editionsmego.com
www.caterinabarbieri.com

It sounds like synthesizers, it sounds like sequencers, it sounds like someone is alive. That person is Caterina Barbieri, who, with Ecstatic Computation (36’04”), has realized a substantial Electronic Music. In her poem of electricity an ecstasy of synthesizer modules, cables and cases are used to describe an imaginary place with imaginary sounds. Irresistible from first bleep to last bloop, this album illuminates corners of the mind which usually stay dark. Overflowing with effortlessly effective musical invention Ecstatic Computation is uniformly excellent. Interweaving multiple tone patterns in a simple, fluid elegance this release comes through refreshingly unlike much of modern music. Full of incident, drama and emotion the six world-warping tracks seem like the inside of a cosmic clock – intricate, labyrinthine, and working around us in a kind of harmony we cannot begin to comprehend… until the final note sounds. Melodies bound along with rhythmic freedom, harmonies shift from one color to another, with full-strength synthesizers bleating, dancing and popping before our ears. In a kind of bladed terrain the musical forms assemble themselves around her, rather than in a pre-figured trajectory. Honed but not overworked Barbieri’s style has found a productive partnership between music and technology. Sounds collide and combine amidst a pervasive air of cool. In a slow precision her perfectly placed transitions produce an expressive urgency. Through a fugue of the continuous she travels the abyss between dreams, to realize the mirage of a coming age. On the black waters of Modular Synthesis Caterina Barbieri casts an ideal shining timbre – the presence of which might still our thinking and allow us to truly sense what we are hearing. Every generation must discover EM for itself, and in her time Barbieri has not only acquired total technical command of her music system, but has also developed an unmistakable voice. Her starry future is fueled by imagining that something wholly unfamiliar might still be encountered somewhere in the distance. But we will always feel like strangers to her, as Barbieri has peered into another realm – and we cannot follow. By listening to her Ecstatic Computation, we encounter an expansive imagination, and take our first steps into a larger world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 August 2019

ST∆ER: Telemetry

Telemetry

Telemetry

ST∆ER: Telemetry (61:54)
Released: 3 September 2019
staer.bandcamp.com

The mind of Ian Staer is ever moving, through regions dark and light. Recording and playing concerts under the name ST∆ER his work communicates interiority, transmitting the composer’s interior landscape to the audience in very effective ways. The release Telemetry (61’54”) features recordings from live performances for WXPN/Star’s End on 12 May 2019 and WPRB/Music with Space on 21 June 2019. By listening to this album, you have taken your first steps onto a larger world – a realm where the human hand and eye has taken over from the computer. Utilizing conventional synthesizer keyboards alongside modular systems, Staer moves our bodies to the pulse of the galaxy while energizing our minds at the speed of sound. To realize the works found on Telemetry Staer set out with a unique organizational framework from which the fabric of his compositions are woven. Influencing the listener’s perception of discord, accord, tension and release, he tells his story – and we make our journey. Something urgent is running beneath the surface of this music. Harmonies breathe with the intricacies of proportion, consonance, dissonance and resonance. Chords rise and fall, then push and pull one another above mechanized sequencer energy. Consisting of live versions of two previously released arrangements, and two new pieces realized especially for the concert setting, the contour of this album traces a dynamic arc. From minimalist patterns meant to arouse the adventurous, and questioning interludes of metallic drones, to dramatic piano themes and wondrously modulated aural accents, the mounting tension resolves into a plane of possibility and wonder. Yet, although analyzing each movement may be an interesting occupation, taken on the whole Telemetry transcends its individual parts. The act of conceiving this music, learning how to play it live, overcoming doubt, then producing this CD has lead to Ian Staer declaring himself – in what will surely be thought of as a substantial milestone once he has traveled further along his path. But now, what sets this musician apart from his contemporaries is an enthusiasm, optimism and ambition found only in the beginner – one who knows that the only limit there is on the future are the doubts of today.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END8 August 2019

Miles Richmond & Peter Grenader w/Steve Roach: POV

POV

POV

Miles Richmand & Peter Grenader w/Steve Roach: POV
Released: 5 July 2019
www.pov-music.com

In a sound voyage through dream lands, electric guitarist Miles Richmond and synth-smith Peter Grenader, along with Spacemusic icon Steve Roach have realized POV (61’01”) – an album of fluent and unified music. At times a casual ramble, while at others a vast soul-searching ascent, this deeply lived work leaves the light of our mind on, but with its engine slowed considerably. In six substantially structured tracks Richmond & Grenader with Roach trace graceful compositional arcs. Their creations initially progress in a prevailing sense of propulsion, but further in they go deep, down, dark – descending into a twilight territory. Synthesizers and processed guitar all figure into the arrangement. Lushly orchestrated, POV moves calm, warm whirlpools of tones through thickening electronic drones. As emotionally charged liquid lead lines snake over rolling ambient loops and washes, the listener will gain a feel for texture, gesture and atmosphere. With darkness resolving into light, this album softens. In trembling, shadowy chords, and guitar quotes drawn from “No Pussyfooting”, it shines with promise. POV seems meant for us to tour the cosmos, while sitting quietly in a small room… to wander past everything, into shadows forth, and heartless voids and immensities. By listening to this release, you have taken your first steps onto a larger, better realm. This work offers the feeling of being welcomed, in a way that the rest of the world simply cannot.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 August 2019

Futuregrapher & Eric ‘the’ Taylor: Effects Of Clouds

Effects of Clouds

Effects of Clouds

Futuregrapher & Eric ‘the’ Taylor: Effects of Clouds
Released: 6 April 2019
www.neotantra.co.uk

Effects of Clouds (64’07”) fits into a category of Ambient Music that is difficult to label. Its eight musical structures caress the ear, and impress us each with their sonic variety and properly cosmic vibe. Demonstrating the many possibilities of their instruments and technology the collaboration between Futuregrapher (aka Árni Grétar Jóhannesson) & Eric ‘the’ Taylor also presents the many possibilities of their collective imagination. Throughout these whirling abstractions of electronic fragility it is unclear where to start listening – with so many fascinating textures and levels the more eager among us may want to hear this work all at once. Effects of Clouds is an easy album to become lost in. Its music is open enough in which to know our own thoughts, yet filled with a force strong enough to transfer the ideas of the musicians effectively to their audience. In a world where only the colossal will suffice, the scale of this work remains at a personal level. Some pieces sound muted, which somehow provides an unexpected intimacy. Some pieces possess an ecstatic richness, and an expressive interweaving of static harmony. And some pieces include spells of dissonance, yet retain an all-embracing spirit. But all of the pieces on this album – as they are so packed with wonder and a lofty emotional pull – will fill our space in a remarkable way. Swaths of electronics inhabit the upper reaches, to calm restless ghosts, as a mist on the verge of freezing into snow swirls in north wind currents. Sounds sit still in the gloom, while a heavy black night blots out stars – and we escape into a sonic mythology realm. Freed of the restraints of conventionally designed music, this duo pursues visions that are dreamy and surreal. Their luminous intricacy recalls New Age/Spacemusic classics of the 1980s, even while gazing toward a time yet to come. Jóhannesson and Taylor make a music that believes there is no shortage of tomorrows. As the Earth spins further forward into the future, and we all rest easily beneath a solitary sky, like rooftop antennae we wait for a strong signal – and for the Effects of Clouds.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END25 July 2019