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Spacemusic Reviews

Robert Rich: Live at The Gatherings 2015

Live at The Gatherings 2015

Live at The Gatherings 2015

Robert Rich: Live at The Gatherings 2015
Released: 2 June 2017
www.robertrich.com
www.industryeight.com

Robert Rich is about more than just exhibiting himself on the stage. His many concert appearances are understood as substantial, yet ephemeral experiences in sound. Among the most notable are Rich’s numerous appearances in Philadelphia as part of The Gatherings Concert Series. This is a safe place for innovative musicians to explore creativity, and discover what lies inside – the listener and player alike. We now have a permanent treasure to add to the memory of one such concert. The double CD Live at The Gatherings 2015 presents Robert Rich’s 11 April 2015 performance, an album that will touch your mind, and may even invade your dreams. While Rich focuses on the brainy, metaphysical aspects of his live work, he is always solidly attentive to the more practical issues. Through contour, pacing and tone, he makes buying admission to one of his live events a ticket to a foreign land. In coolly assured advances, forthright flute solos ascend through reverberant chambers, then brood over their own worth. Thrusting percussive rhythms rumble beneath swooning steel guitar solos. Snapping with a seductive skill, drums invigorate the mood, but we find the foreground is commanded by a writhing fuzz lead line – moaning through electrical circuits. Remote synth strings project both fragility and flashes of brilliance. Further down below we encounter tectonically imagined realms of biomorphic abstractions meant to beckon and boggle. Here Rich seems to reach into silence – bringing back something which may glow warmly, or just as easily, feel cold and damp. A mist to the brittle spirit, Robert Rich in concert is an event which celebrates the complexity of the human mind. The transit between quiet cerebral musings and propulsive visceral thrills seems to generate this album’s own energy. Like Rich himself, and the music he realizes live, Live at The Gatherings 2015 is authentic. It both belongs to our era, and transcends it. We are the meaning-seeking animals, and Rich, at some great height, is constantly searching within himself for something deeper to express. Passion… is it the friction between the world and the soul? If so, then Robert Rich’s concert space is about passion, as well as pleasure. It also acts as an outlet for intellect – and a bit of musical virtuosity. So, while each audience member is entitled to their own personal interpretations, the common connection here is the ability of this experience to connected us to that which is humane, gentle and life-giving – a function which we see slowly receding from the modern life.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 25 May 2017

Robert Rich/Markus Reuter: Lift a Feather to the Flood

Lift a Feather to the Flood

Lift a Feather to the Flood

Robert Rich/Markus Reuter: Lift a Feather to the Flood
Released: 12 April 2017
www.robertrich.com
www.markusreuter.com

Robert Rich & Markus Reuter are well-known for their many musical journeys – from the back of beyond to the brink of the mainstream. On Lift a Feather to the Flood (66’00”) they mainly explore tonality, and many of its subtle shades and moods. With Rich at the grand, and Reuter breathing out atmospheres and textures from his touch guitar and synth, this duo realizes eight subtle thought zones meant for pondering and questioning – more so than assurance and confirmation. On Lift a Feather to the Flood we do find the dignified, stately procession of reverberant piano notes walking thoughtfully through a cloudy haze of digital mist. But the most potent pieces are made with an ear for light, motion and surface – compositions that we must reason our way through. It is in these deepest moments that we may feel this album’s personal tone. As they work in this unique frequency, using melody and harmony likes signs and symbols, Rich & Reuter lean into the Avant-Garde. Locating tone is their mission, and the production of these rarefied ambient zones touches a distinctive, inquiring energy, and maybe even a bit of our fear of the unknown. This work does seem to be searching, just for the stimulation of it – with Rich & Reuter sharing their deep wondering about music, humanity and life. This duo knows about this music’s secret mind, and in their dreamy, drifting, lulling, pulling sonics, we approach something like the actual flow of consciousness.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 18 May 2017

Free System Projekt: Five Suns

Five Suns

Five Suns

Free System Projekt: Five Suns
Released: 29 April 2017
www.freesystemprojekt.nl

Space needs explorers, and with their album Five Suns, Free System Projekt is back leading the way! The duo of Marcel Engels and Ruud Heij return from a years long hiatus, to make their way through five galaxy opening electronic experiences across a two CD album set. In its own way, Five Suns moves perfectly. Guided by some central and unyielding design and energy, the music dominates our internal landscape – crowding out other thoughts, blocking our view of life on Earth. Supernaturally charged, the music’s engine pulse seems to slide, to move and surge in the lean precision of a motor throbbing with a quiet and reduced power. Five Suns drifts smoothly through the great chambers of night. Admittedly susceptible to the sensory aspects of sound, Engels and Heij deploy massive Mellotron strings and choirs, yet leave room for an undercurrent of delicate flutes and soft synths. As melodies writhe here and seem motionless there, this work manages to ignore the immutable voice of time. In a massive motion of infinitely complex, echoing notes, we encounter a strange machine beauty. Yet, within zones of atonality, we find an intentional imagination taking place. Conjuring isolated open spaces, activating different parts of the brain, these chilling spaces seek to be explained – or else haunt us later in dreams. Understanding that something singular can spark multiple variations, that sound can always be re-worked, revised and re-crafted, Free System Projekt pursues and modifies key themes across generations – to remain connected to their Electronic ancestors. Innovative musicians are rightly thought of as out on the frontier. Free System Projekt, and others of their standing, are further away – in a place where mastery of music is found, not through virtuosity, but through spiritual means.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END11 May 2017

Tom Eaton: Indesterren

Indesterren

Indesterren

Tom Eaton: Indesterren
Released: 26 September 2017
www.riverwiderecords.com
www.abendromen.com

Indesterren (77’20”) may be an unconscious evolution into space. Tom Eaton‘s album of eight tracks is for both the questing and resting mind – somehow traveling naturally to its many destinations through different degrees of starlight. With Indesterren, Eaton has taken a style everyone knows and brought out enough drama and meanings in it to make it newly compelling. While grand piano is central to each of the compositions, Eaton fills them out and fattens them up with interesting combinations of horn, synthesizer, accordion, bass, electric guitar and percussion – in such imaginative ways so as to leave the listener flooded with the brilliant light of his imagination. The piano notes sound out slow and strong into pristine reverberation – their engaging melody cinematic in its storytelling. Contrasting delicacy and breadth through quiet synth pads and effects, we find throughout Indesterren a sense of ease and elegance, but amazing control. From the dark blurred atmospherics of a brooding never-never land, to cold constellations of stars set against the velvet black of the night sky, we ride along with the motions of the planets, never waiting for the music’s poetry to make itself known. Although subdued in tone, and based on light and dark values, Indesterren is self-conscious and designed – a fully realized irresistible wonderland. Here, Eaton brings such great authority that it would seem that his listeners would follow him anywhere – into meditations on beauty, or on our own meaning.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END4 May 2017

Howard Givens & Madhavi Devi: Source of Compassion

Source of Compassion

Source of Compassion

Howard Givens & Madhavi Devi: Source of Compassion
Released: 2 September 2016
www.spottedpeccary.com
www.howardgivens.com
www.madhavidevi.com

A marvelous Earth current flows through Source of Compassion (66’47”). A productive collaboration between Howard Givens and Cheryl Gallagher (known here as Madhavi Devi), this duo takes the way of the thinker – in an experience that burns slow, but burns clean. Source of Compassion sounds out in six passages of blessed delectation. An economical use of rhythm and melody leaves it to harmony and texture to commend their ideas and feelings to the listener. Warm rounded synthesizer tones roll out and sustain beneath cavernous reverberation. As keys change, contrast is gently administered, and an interesting tension detected. Repeating notes gradually emerge, providing propulsion through mist shrouded dream zones. The pulsing of soft stepping percussion moves through a message found in an atmosphere of floating thoughts. Try as we might, the deliberate, building organization of Source of Compassion escapes us – as each track mysteriously relaxes our minds, while magically working our thoughts. This album is an irresistible wonderland. Implicit in its existence is a conviction that people are reachable, that music is capable of enlarging us. The quietly enigmatic interaction between Givens & Gallagher and their audience is enlivening. Their relationship finds its form in the sonic – and what they encounter turns out to be far greater than what they sought. Givens & Gallahgher have completed a journey that few have made, one that has advanced their craft, and given finer meaning to their hearts.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END27 April 2017

Robert Davies: Afterlight

Afterlight

Afterlight

Robert Davies: Afterlight
Released: 26 October 2016
www.dataObscura.com

With a deliberate simplicity Robert Davies produces music that welcomes the listener’s thinking. His album Afterlight (62’20”) is a work that transports us from the perception of our physical reality to an imaginary realm of open, luminous, harmonious space. For the ten minute duration of each soundway, we are in Robert Davies’ world. His six delicately shaded sonic studies explore stable terrain. With no linear configuration, stark tones and strong textures present a featureless plain stretching in all directions – the perfect nowhere, beyond the literal directions of music. But once we align our thoughts to the stillness of its slowed down thought zones, we find Afterlight to be quite active. Sustaining organ tones present as naturally as the summer field insects gently buzzing nearby. Softly breathing drones hold deep support for the slow notes of a muted electric piano, and the gradual motion of electronic ornamentation through upper regions. As sonic values gradually progress in slow spiral recessions, a low churning draws our attention to something making its way on to our plane. Another interesting feature, Afterlight easily assimilates the sounds of outside the listening space. The rain drops on the roof, the rumbling delivery truck out front, the kids next door, the dog across the street; in a true Ambient Music sense this music accepts and incorporates whatever is happening around us. Within its timbral modeling of contours and volumes Davies’ has found this area to be unmapped, and open for exploration. Should one listen to his minimal music? Is it even possible? We should encounter Afterlight as we do the beautiful sounds of crickets on a solo night walk in the woods, or the surf at the edge of the ocean at sunrise. Afterlight conveys depth, volumes and contours within the sphere of a consciousness – as a respite from the cacophony of the modern world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 April 2017

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani: Sunergy

Sunergy

Sunergy

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani: Sunergy
Released 16 September 2016
www.igetrvng.com
www.kaitlynaureliasmith.com
www.sevwave.com

The main feature of Sunergy (53’57”), the collaboration between Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani, is its proximity to electricity. After just a few minor transitions, the current that pours out of a common wall socket is sent out upon the air as sound. A duo uniquely suited for this task, Smith and Ciani both hear the melody of engineering, and the harmony of technology. Perceiving how their music systems works, as a whole, as an entity, in deep jam sessions they drop back into their music, like it is their own place. As serene as they appear in this activity, some smoke may be detected rising above their heads – the smoldering yield from happily firing synapses; as the three tracks on Sunergy perfectly capture the transportive pleasure of a creative pursuit. Exhibiting improvisational confidence and control these players listen to and follow each other through delicately shaded studies of expanding and contracting planes of sound. Ever adjusted modulated timbres provide motion and expression throughout a fluctuating field. Charged with vagueness, oscillators become blocks of sound, and repeating patterns of notes provide a constant stimulus to the imagination. Growing like an organism, sets of notes steadily repeat while others rush and flourish, and the mind of the listener stretches to every dimension this work occupies. Sustaining tones writhe beneath sweeping processes in a suggestion of synthetic refinement. In reciprocating imagined zones, a saturating electric dust evokes the delight of abstraction. Yet, with its consonant tone and winsome nature, this work is simply very easy to listen to – gently opening up the mind to new insights. Both Smith and Ciani believe that their electrical devices were meant to be performed on in real time, realizing singular musical works out of such sessions. They follow a play of emotional expression that cannot with any completeness or exactitude be defined. But, of more significance than what they are doing with their instruments is whatever it is they are triggering in our minds. In our modern digital age, we find Electronic Music has emerged as the most unrestricted genre in the history of music. It is the music of ideas – and electronic instruments are machines perfectly suited to make their users think. Its possibilities are far broader than was ever imagined. Lesser music asks you to think big, then gives you nothing big to think about. With these textured, imagined sonic worlds, we try to find how close music may bring us to the truth, and the feel and force of life. With Sunergy, Smith and Ciani attempt to find out, and the world is undeniably richer for their work.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 April 2017