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Spacemusic Reviews

Fourth Dimension: The Core

The Core

The Core

Fourth Dimension: The Core
Released: 4 October 2016
www.synphera.com

At the beginning of this sonic emanation, a sound breathes in open space. Aural details come in and out of focus. Shape and texture coalesce in measured coolness. Vividly imagined, The Core (55’19”) avoids bombastic beats to support complex electronic textures and articulate grooves – and may even invite a few from the mainstream in for a warm chill. When falling on eager ears, the efforts of Fourth Dimension aligns the mind with higher thoughts. Maximum attention to this music brings glad understanding. The Core is a work of weightless flight by Strahinja Maletica, who (throughout eight tracks) manages to keep the listener’s intellect searching his subject matter. Luxuriously sweeping pads, full-throated melodic strokes and modulation-laden effects issue through this album – on the genius of subtlety. As three musical lines move in the same direction, rhythms discharge within vaporous reverb and twilight ambience. With soft percussives advancing our thoughts, pulsing patterns, and low-end throbs roll out beneath glimmering synthesizer tones – issuing an air of mystery into The Core‘s nocturnal realm. Technique never keeps us outside the narrative of its dreamy and steamy zones. We are the targets of this work, and our minds are requested to participate. The Core is a finely wrought album of subtle satisfactions. Fourth Dimension is capable of transmitting a substantial amount of expressive, arcane, and even philosophical information to us, provided that our antennas are up and receptive.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END19 January 2017

Steve Hauschildt: Strands

Strands

Strands

Steve Hauschildt: Strands
Released: 28 October 2016
www.kranky.net

Strands (42’40”) by Steve Hauschildt may trigger cognitive processes. It is a sonic passageway to thoughts and ideas… to a place where there is no there. In this quietly enigmatic interaction stark tones and strong textures depict a minimally defined landscape. As repeating untroubled chords invite a sensorial and contemplative engagement, we feel the energizing brightness of this music. Where the softer pieces touch the border of the New Age, an Escherian lattice of echoing sequencer patterns soon propels Strands from the rare quiet into a syncopated dream machine realm. With each passing track, Hauschildt offers us a different inspiration. Through these eight electronic works we move mechanically charged, then curiously nervous – harmonically assured, soon after in darkness brooding – on a pad of synthetic tones, to rest among reverberant piano notes. Strands is an array of pleasing forces. Hauschildt is heady in a way most other musicians of his generation do not dare to be. With Strands he has developed a work that transfers the listener from physical reality to an imaginary realm of open, luminous space – under the timeless transporting spell of Spacemusic.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 January 2017

Graham Getty & Stephan Whitlan: Even Higher Green

Even Higher Green

Even Higher Green

Graham Getty & Stephan Whitlan: Even Higher Green
Released: 7 March 2016
grahamgetty.bandcamp.com

While most modern musicians of the Berlin-School plead with critics not to peg them as mere mimics of vintage Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze – Graham Getty & Stephan Whitlan most candidly profess to avidly trying to copy the classics. The album Even Higher Green (99’34”) offers four tracks (plus two bonus tracks) that are a direct response to the excitement they felt at first discovering TD’s Ricochet (1975) and Encore (1977). Even Higher Green, the follow-up to their equally derivative Higher Green Session (2014), is a pure and honest effort to have some wondrous fun with the sounds, synths, atmosphere and form from Spacemusic’s classic era. Yet, even with this admission, Getty & Whitlan manage to include their own original ideas and innovations into the music – and so this work is a few degrees more refined than the original. For one thing, this album sounds cleaner than the old ones do. Also, unlike their predecessors, all the instruments manage to stay in tune throughout the duration of each piece. Getty & Whitlan may be more proficient players too. As impressive keyboard leads unwind over stumbling and tumbling ratcheting sequencer patterns, heavenly chords hold and confirm this duo’s interstellar message. While droning electronics provide foundational texture, glittering effects open up space above. One sonic image blends into the next, as expectations rise, and are met. For a work inspired by such a cerebral medium, Even Higher Green feels full of passionate intensity. This duo conveys a wide range of expression, indicating the musician’s restraint, vigor, or willful abandon – but we know this music is an end unto itself. It may be that in the qualities of simplicity, directness and raw energy, Getty & Whitlan have discovered a machine-age outlet for the imagination – the most powerful force for human freedom.

-Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END5 January 2017

Paul Ellis: Ancient Light Having Reached Us

Ancient Light Having Reached Us

Ancient Light Having Reached Us

Paul Ellis: Ancient Light Having Reached Us
Released: 4 February 2016
paulellisspacemusic.bandcamp.com

In the beginning, usually no one knows it is the beginning. At the outset of Ancient Light Having Reached Us (68’57”) synthesist Paul Ellis must have pondered this thought… as he began tracing an arched void. If this album prompts the listener to probe for meaning, then it has done its job. Providing spectacular twists, spatial distortions and a heroic resistance to convention, Ellis appreciates the qualities of simplicity, directness and raw energy. Stark tones and strong atmospheres provide stability, but not structure. An energizing brightness, followed by tumultuous, tortured, towering masses of tone, find sounds shifting out of their proper place and scale. We can hear individual notes, and the disparate pockets of space that they occupy. A procession of foreboding strings plays an electronic elegy, against swelling, trembling effects. A penetrating bass underscores a dancing arpeggio down from the upper register. Sustaining fields expand and recede beneath surreal modulations. These are not random events. The use of off-kilter arrangements and subtle contrasts of tone and texture show Ellis to be quite meticulous and precise. The four tracks contained on this album take the way of the thinker, for someone seeking a quieter action. It may seem like Paul Ellis is playing with ambiguity, but it could also be that Ancient Light Having Reached Us is a true and proper expression – given by the precise organization of forms and symbols. This music is of a higher and more creative order, one meant to explore expressive possibilities, and the regeneration of the person.

– Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END   22 December 2016

Robert Rich: Vestiges

Vestiges

Vestiges

Robert Rich: Vestiges
Released: 17 November 2016
www.robertrich.com

The language we learn determines how we think, how we perceive reality. Robert Rich uses a language based in symbols – communicating his values and beliefs through non-verbal means… which begs us to contemplate the man and the mind behind such unique music. His album Vestiges (62’31”) may be thought of as made up of seven conventions for abstract thought. Its sonic range, with an extraordinary spectrum of tonal gradations, conveys a sense of infinitude. In this playground where listeners may exercise their imaginations, this album represents Rich at the intersection of what he knows, what he does, and who he is. Vestiges has a wondrous chaotic beauty. In a demonstration of sheer musical and intellectual mastery he moves easily between moods eerie and anxious, then sober and cerebral. Moving always in measured coolness, at one moment Vestiges may produce unsettling portraits of fragility, then easily transcend into a structure that could swallow you whole. Grave, gorgeous steel guitar snakes between notes, amidst a seductive whispering piano. The use of field recordings provides subtlety, which augments this work’s surreal gentility. Some sonic forms move nervously through Vestiges, as Rich makes negative space (often thought of as the absence of content) into a rhetorical device. The release of atmosphere into a movement in which space is tightly compressed is evocative of macrocosmic genesis, while further along our journey forward we notice the laser-like focus and urgent force of a more primitive utterance. Diffuse drones draw their breath beneath reverberant flute tones, as some sections display Rich’s tendency to infest every moment with such intense detail that the work cannot be appreciated as a whole. His soft poetic power gives rise to an unusually rich listening experience. Robert Rich seems to know that the world contains many hidden, magical geographies – as he has spent a lifetime mapping them. With Vestiges he realizes a realm for one, in which to ponder the many beautiful, generative things happening in the world – all the while peering deeply and intently into the places where a person is most vulnerable.

– Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END 15 December 2016

Ian Boddy: As Above So Below

As Above So Below

As Above So Below

Ian Boddy: As Above So Below
Released: 18 November 2016
www.din.org.uk
www.ianboddy.com

After the absorption of so many modern minimal musical explorations, where works are realized or discovered rather than composed and produced, it comes as something of a relief to listen to an album made with expressive intent. Heading towards the poetic world of memory and imagination Ian Boddy harnesses the power of his synthesizers, and ably delivers As Above So Below (39’08”). Its six tracks feel organic, never schematic – flawlessly flowing across a fascinating range of textures and moods. In possession of an electrified core (enchanting on its own terms), with this economical release Boddy manages to fuse a stylistically progressive arrangement and cosmic music atmosphere. Spirit and mood synchronize in a harmony of plaintive electronics and machine beauty. Energy levels build, then take unexpected turns. Abstract forms coalesce into meaningful melodies… all the while, the thematic density of each piece engages and sustains the listener. Whenever As Above So Below takes dark turns, we feel confident. Passages for grand piano and reverb feel elegant and elated, in some contrast to elsewhere-present impressionistic washes of ethereal choir and roiling drones. While his darkness shimmers on the surface, Boddy builds towards big ideas. The pacing is methodical, the narrative captivating, and the production substantial. Spinning like different sized wheels running at different rates, electronic rhythms and synthesized patterns momentarily take their place in front, then move back in support – all together outputting a most wonderful clockwork music. Letting it overheat, off-kilter drumbeats mix with spacey modulated tones – to frame rising synth leads and evocative string chords. Whatever has been left out is meant for the listener to fill in. Yet, this work is meant to be enjoyed, not solved. His music is a fundamental source of Ian Boddy’s identity. As Above So Below is a work of surprising effect. Active listening will elevate the mind and deepen the spirit, this from an established star still determined to grow.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END24 November 2016

loscil: Monument Builders

Monument Builders

Monument Builders

loscil: Monument Builders
Released: 11 November 2016
www.kranky.net
www.loscil.ca

There is no school for contemporary Electronic Music. One can master the technology, listen to what has gone before, and then make their own contribution to the field. This is why so much EM sounds so original, and imbued with a sense of freedom and possibility. Recording under the name loscil, Scott Morgan is perhaps the finest example of this idea. The album Monument Builders (37’45”) is more than just another collection of electronic mood music. From the far corners of his ample imagination, he consistently delivers innovative albums of synthetic textures and cerebral grooves. Still determined to grow, Morgan manages to come up with something new, yet remains entirely himself with every release. Monument Builders strays into some tender territory. Its gently fluttering voice fragments extend this album into lighter, heart touching realms. Textures blend in an aural wash, as a sustaining restless energy emits the crackle of electricity. As blips and glitches synchronize in a harmony of portentous electronics, a methodical pacing builds towards big ideas. Its dark and most interesting turns sound an undercurrent of ominous warning, then yields to optimism. In minimalist style a throbbing bass pattern meshes with pulsing sandy gears beneath waves of French Horn notes – its engine motoring on like a minor key powerhouse. Quietly sensational, the seven stories told in sound shimmer in a heraldic light, then recede into the firmament of night – advancing the sonic language of loscil into higher and lower emotional peaks and valleys. Monument Builders may be his most refined work, showing Scott Morgan to be a creature of the vast open sonic plane in which he inhabits.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END17 November 2016