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Spacemusic Reviews

Howard Givens & Craig Padilla: The Bodhi Mantra

The Bodhi Mantra

The Bodhi Mantra

Howard Givens & Craig Padilla: The Bodhi Mantra
Released: 26 June 2020
www.spottedpeccary.com

Howard Givens and Craig Padilla embrace a third collaboration with their The Bodhi Mantra (41’21”), a keenly spirited, heart-seizing work of celestial textures and higher atmospheres. At its core is the earnest emotion of two lovers of sound and space, which may stir our better angels if given a chance. Within their perfect electronic realm this duo conjure three thought zones through which to drift, contemplate possibilities, and imagine the better world this work wishes to call forth. Layers of warm notes slowly gather, build, sustain, and recede in the dreaming tones and lulling harmonies only the best Spacemusic may offer. Rounded tones of a sonorous timbre fluctuate in varying layers of charged synthesizer consonance. The underpinning chords brighten, climb and wane – then turn dark, swelling into a steadily sweeping soft mass. Out of the slow motion of cosmic ideas a roomy sequencer pattern emerges. Star chasing synths react. The accord of notes, so pleasing to the ear, answers to something permanent in our way of being. The Universe is made up mostly of space, how nice to find here some form. The Bodhi Mantra provides conditions in which to consider ideas as deep as the prospect of meaning in a fathomless void, or as vague as finding the infinite moment that this music proposes. What is life but to dream and do? Givens and Padilla summon the creative nerve, amid the gloom of dusk, to venture a passage through to dawn. The listener should use the light of this quiet glow to see better all the good that is around them, as well as the path ahead, and to peace.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 July 2020

Scanner: An Ascent

An Ascent

An Ascent

Scanner: An Ascent
Released: 17 July 2020
www.din.org.uk
www.scannerdot.com

Sleeping too close to an electrical outlet may cause one to dream about the music of Scanner, Robin Rimbaud‘s long-lived project of ambitious sonic messaging. His An Ascent (49’37”) is a mood album, although what exact mood has yet to be determined. From out of some distant district its low-key intensity lingers in our bloodstream, forcing a reassessment of the familiar. Using established EM technology he reveals a music both strange and new. Producing an alternating variety of grainy, cloudy, synthesized and digital sounds Rimbaud has no trouble in manufacturing the vividly breathing and softly pulsing notes that inhabit this release. It is the excellent assembly of these elements into semi-abstract, fuzzy edged forms that so distinguishes him. Giving voice to silenced states of mind An Ascent combines an economy of form and smart surface calculations, and exerts such control over color so as to bare the fullness of a truly eccentric imagination. This collection of varied, curious pieces moves between tightly bound frozen gestures and a slow burning contained emptiness, to the coiled strength and mutable texture of fractured waveforms and dense clouds of sounds. Samples, fragments and loops produce a restless energy – wired from the raw voltage of the imagination. At times his synths show their teeth, as timbre proceeds inexorably from hush to maelstrom – yet, as daunting as this may read, not one of us will hesitate to step inside Rimbaud’s story. From the placid lull of beating oscillators to a stark exposure and dissipation, these nine tracks each have an epic span that belies the few minutes of their duration. As landscapes and machines materialize in our minds this unvarnished minimalism slides into abstraction, then gently recedes into the firmament of night. The result is an album of Ambient Music – but only just. An individualist who finds his place in so many musical situations, Scanner is a creature of the vast aural plane in which he plays. His electronic agency allows him to address the human condition in a way that no other musician can. Probing the quiet recesses of where we dwell, An Ascent captures the spirit of our era. So long as ideas persist in his head, Rimbaud will keep exploring – and continue to give us much to listen to and think about.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 July 2020

Steve Roach: A Soul Ascends

A Soul Ascends

A Soul Ascends

Steve Roach: A Soul Ascends
Released: 10 July 2020
www.projekt.com
www.steveroach.com

With fluctuating designs and feelings Steve Roach tenderly explores questions of connection and loss. His A Soul Ascends (73’57”) follows traditional Spacemusic markers first laid down on Structures From Silence, and achieves even more expressiveness and soul searching than his 1984 classic. In this chilled slow spark Roach finds his way to the serene center – going deep down dark, then into otherworldly calm. The long melodic lines of A Soul Ascends extends the sound-field with beautiful synthesizer tones and a slowly building ethereal energy. Inside arrangements of circulating electronic forms and rightly crafted timbres, unforced tones exert their own meaning. Shimmering sounds combine into a sweeping resonant unity, then fade out – replaced by an equally rare airy tone zone. As the music becomes dense we sense the emergence of a slow sequencer pattern. The interplay of staggered notes and breathing synthesizers reinforce the air of discovery. But this building ethereal energy provides a setting for contemplation – which we must make our own way to. While a chorus of oscillators swell from a sombre murmur to pealing resolve, we find colliding chords can coexist – as this work is dissolving and becoming all at once. At times luxurious and silvery, then turbulent and moody, the three gently shifting ambient realizations open up space and fill it with sound. Listeners will need to align with these sonic pleasures before finding a reassuring calm. In its succession of colors, atmosphere and feelings we may feel the past, trembling in the present – and should not worry about some unreachable spiritual world, we are already in our own. Above a gently broken silence A Soul Ascends.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END16 July 2020

Noveller: Arrow

Arrow

Arrow

Noveller: Arrow
Released: 12 June 2020
www.badabingrecords.com
www.sarahlipstate.com

The late solo sets by Noveller have been before amped up crowds waiting for St Vincent or Iggy Pop to take the stage. Producing music in a register much different from that of the more contemporary main acts, her performances effectively had those assembled abandon their inner sense of chaos and surrender to engulfment. Rallying and renewing this live work mixed sonic invention with an air of familiarity – so that the audience’s interior world would, for a time, slow, still and supplant the reality outside of it. On her studio album Arrow (40’30”) Noveller (Sarah Lipstate) embodies the stern principles of the rock guitarist as immediately as she does the innovative spirit of Spacemusic. The combination of steel strings, slides, picks, pedals and miscellaneous boxes and gizmos blossoms into euphoric arrangements of glowing ghostly ambience and withdrawn textural states. Asking the imagination to enlarge, so as to approach the scale of Arrow, its breathing atmospheres and otherworldly vistas reflect on this musician’s creative force. To realize these eight sonic vignettes the music required an intensity of concentration, and yielded no wasted space. With more neurons firing in the brain, more ideas will rise in the mind – storms quiet, centuries blur, an undertow tugs. Loaded with lush looped and layered guitar orchestrations this release possesses an endless energy. Lamentation and rage resolve into consolation and redemption – artfully refracted by Lipstate’s shivery strumming, and the delicate wash of rounded metallic timbres and murmuring drones. While Ambient Music is only abstractly a genre, Arrow proceeds with all the weight of a symphonic statement. In shades of slow melodic gestures and recurring chords we hear the beauty of our fading future. But her music resists oblivion and conveys resonant questions – as certainly as sound in the air can be an expression of the soul. Lipstate is fixing a broken world …one soundscape at a time.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 July 2020

Ian Boddy: Modulations

Modulations

Modulations

Ian Boddy: Modulations
Released: 19 June 2020
www.din.org.uk

Throughout Modulations (132’02”) Ian Boddy throws off some sparks. A musician who explores freely in spite of the risk this clutch of live tracks transpires in a kind of continuous arrival. Managing a select system of instruments these concert pieces reveal an aural landscape of unearthly radiance, yet also offers advanced listeners strange stretches of confining emptiness. Across six composed and passionate performances Boddy’s technique is exact and clear. Wherever delicately dancing tones and swirling textures take hold, elsewhere the spare procession of an isolated harmony, and distorting darkness, descends into the murky dimensions of an unpeopled realm. Sonic eddies assemble to realize a refuge of unearthly beauty, yet further into Modulations we may too be confronted with the starkness of the world as it is. At once adrift and alive to shifts in momentum and direction these improvised musical works emphasize the interior space. In the non-space of the mind pearly high tones and rounded ringing whirls herald the release of perfect sequencer cascades. These spring-loaded grooves unwind and recoil in a crisp, easy buoyancy on the upbeat tracks. In a carefree air they fuse and flow through coarse attacks and engaging note patterning. But for every ceaselessly alluring sound-space there is another frozen in some bleak waste. Exchanging its manic intensity for a more measured focus Modulations slows from its majestic roar, down to a subterranean murmur. In shadowy and semi-abstract expressions of timbre and atmosphere we chill and thrill to a range of unexpected gestures and signals. This masterful maneuvering lends the work a prevailing sense of certitude, as well as the occasional unexpected bite. There are those who wonder… where will we find the frontier of Electronic Music? And there are those who know… it is anywhere Ian Boddy can plug in his synthesizers. While lost in the electronic wilderness he is far from our modern conditions of anxiety and desire. The intentional blankness of this state of dis-connectivity offers a surprising tenderness – a soft declaration from a zone that refuses to be utterly lost.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END2 July 2020

Robert Rich: Offering to the Morning Fog

Offering to the Morning Fog

Offering to the Morning Fog

Robert Rich: Offering to the Morning Fog
Released: 24 May 2020
www.robertrich.com

Propelled by a striking new inspiration Robert Rich heads for the dreamlands. Sailing in the direction of dawn he realizes an Offering to the Morning Fog (67’52”). Content are those who tour this realm. A lavish aural voyage this album unfolds at a right roaming pace. Progressing along a slow-moving arc it builds a sense of tonal otherness that is enticing, inviting and subtle. As this release has been composed within an alternate system of tuning, one might expect the effect to be disquieting. To his credit, here Rich uses this unique technique to conjure six works of wonder – sometimes curious and questioning, but always meant to ease, not challenge his advanced listeners. Offering to the Morning Fog invites us to dream. With breathing drones and undulating tones the ebb and flow of Rich’s slow flute lines circulate through cavernous reverb. The measured use of glissando guitar adds a sinuous shimmering shine wherever it arises. But beneath this lightening plain electronic sound sources materialize in a lingering portent. It is these brief heartless voids and unsettled regions that so fix and fascinate Rich. Declaring a twilight sound space he summons a daybreak where infinity is nothingness and the unknown impels his craft. Offering to the Morning Fog is the perfect balm for an age that demands art and music penetrate surfaces and depict a more complex truth. So although your heart and mind will be unfolding in a thousand different directions, please do not forget to look for yourself inside this beautiful landscape. And please know that, as the long night passes with the cleansing sunrise always comes the promise of a new and better day – at which time there is no better moment to concede that it is the contrast of light and dark that give each other their meaning.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END25 June 2020

Miles Richmond& Peter Grenadr w/Steve Roach

POV2

POV2

Miles Richmond & Peter Grenader w/Steve Roach: POV2
Released: 19 June 2020
www.pov-music.com

When the accumulated trauma of modern life gets to be too much, there is POV2 (51’14”). The absorbing take-me-away release so many of us need right now, its effect is dreamy and disorienting in the best way possible. The true force behind this project is the chemistry between Miles Richmond (guitars) and Peter Grenader (various electronics). This duo directs the talents of sonic identities Thighpaulsandra (piano), Theo Travis (alto flute), Martin Shellard (guitar) and Steve Roach (synthesizers) to realize another sonically shapely inventive album. Atmospheric, bracing and effortlessly cool POV2 maintains an impressive focus and momentum through its five tracks. Gently swirling outward the playing is fluent and gorgeous. The designs of the compositions are elegant and gripping – moving as easily through the air as they do into your heart and your mind. Here and there we can make out a reverberant piano, an acoustic guitar, or a chord played on a synthesizer. But these works are so exquisitely balanced in their manipulation of the sound space that one scarcely notices their separate elements. Inside even its lowest midnight is a sincere interiority. Primary structures of minimalism become vivid, then darken into a quiet suspense. Where tensile electric guitar solos reoccur in ever strengthening cycles, rolling ambient loops and washes flow slow in the infinite permutations of theme associated with this approach to music. Characterized by the reiteration of extended phrases and extended sound generation, fragments of flute melodies travel on currents of shimmering steel strings, while reverb laden notes softly emerge and recede. Aligning with the values of good Spacemusic POV2 enables a mental state that runs counter to that of the domain outside of the self. The promise of escape from the sad, the bad and the ordinary is central to the restorative concepts of this manner of music. Lovers of this style know well that Ambient musicians are world-builders of the mind. But just imagine that their principles were also used by the builders of the physical world. With movement being made towards the betterment of humankind, all of us could feel content in the thought that what was possible might still be done.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 June 2020

Hèléne Vogelsinger: Contemplation

Contemplation

Contemplation

Hèléne Vogelsinger: Contemplation
Released: 12 June 2020
www.modularfield.io

Although it seems that most musicians spend their time in the pursuit of being heard, Hèléne Vogelsinger seems to have taken some preliminary steps in pursuit of hearing her audience. Expressing herself in a way aficionados will appreciate, Contemplation (42’09”) is a release perfect for our time. Providing seven nimble synthesizer escapades, as well as a rival vision of what Electronic Music should sound like, this album lights up the dark space in a winsome way. Finding ongoing inspiration from her instrument the pieces on this album come about in the act of playing them. Vogelsinger takes notice of the sound output of her modular synthesizer system and shapes it into a captivating poem of electricity. Conjuring kinetic joy sequencer patterns echo, expand, and gently recoil through the sound space. As the warm circuits of technology emit layers of easy harmony, the tones of a clarinet or human voice stabilize consonance along a sensitive musical arc. While most resolving notes land softly, some are left marooned in the ether – floating lost in reverberation, eventually fading into velvet night. Each of the many parts of this innovative machine music interweave and meld into the fully and effectively imagined realizations found throughout Contemplation. Vogelsinger’s sonic identity deals with the ideas of light and dark, hard and soft, vastness and intimacy, all balanced by a musical intent touched by a profound cosmic yearning. Electronic Musicians do not write their music, they live it… and so Vogelsinger gets it right… and gets it right on behalf of the listener too. Her music gives us an experience of certainty, a structure we trust, a way things should go – and brings us to a realm outside of everything else. This facility is such a very powerful thing in a world where most of us do not have the tools to express the fullness of who we are. With her Contemplation, Vogelsinger shows us her self, and gives us the world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END11 June 2020

Jarguna &Henrik Meierkord: Tapestry Flow

Tapestry Flow

Tapestry Flow

Jarguna/Henrik Meierkord: Tapestry Flow
Released: 29 May 2020
www.projekt.com
www.jarguna.com
www.soundbread.se

Whenever you are feeling homesick for the faraway, play Tapestry Flow (74’58”). This elegant collaboration between jarguna (multi-instrumentalist Marco Billi) and (contemporary cellist) Henrik Meierkord provides a journey well-worth joining. Rich and sometimes heaving with detail this album embraces a great spirit of openness, energy and exploration. Within its evocative and dark sound space minor-key melodies moan from Meierkord‘s strings – while, marooned in the ether, Billi‘s textures float in a bracing and effortlessly cool atmosphere. Made up of eight separate tracks, each its own unique expression, Tapestry Flow grows slower and more meditative as it slips ever deeper into dreaming. Lulling in a calm kindness this carefully arranged experience coaxes us along in a lovely current of languid cello leads and blooming synthetic flora. In a wild tide of sound full of vastness and intimacies the listener is constantly being invited inside. Utterly absorbed by its facility to transport we take well to these searching aural adventures on a darkening plain. But, being meditative does not mean Tapestry Flow has to be vague. With its easy cosmic intimations and renewing thought zones it guides the psyche to stillness. Yet, this duo still manages to imbue their work with enough drama to satisfy more experienced listeners. From its textures of desolation and still chill zones, to a charged musical charm, Tapestry Flow offers many profound musical moments; moments to strain against the pull of larger forces, and stand and reflect on our strength and solidarity. This truthful music, tinged by emotion and a beautiful yearning in its playing, seems to emanate from some other world. That it comes from somewhere in our present provides a much needed flicker of hope.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 4 June 2020

Various Artists: Portals: A Kosmiche Journey through Outer Worlds and Inner Space

Portals

Portals

Various Artists: Portals: A Kosmische Journey through Outer Worlds and Inner Space
Released: 2 June 2020
www.behindtheskymusic.com

Portals: A Kosmische Journey through Outer Worlds and Inner Space (77’41”) presents 13 tracks by a range of potent artists in electronic sound. With each generating its own hot-wired intensity these works originate at the wall outlet, but play out in the head. Charging the hidden activity of our minds with a dreamy forward motion each musician provides a wonderful jaunt across a kinetic synthetic terrain. Maybe a good place to begin this review is with the extensive inventory of gear, which is listed within the 70s retro album art and graphic design. Flaunting Mellotrons, modern and vintage synths, all manner of modular synthesizer systems (either custom built or store bought), and other powered tools – this inquiry will surely invite endless analysis and debate. So it should suffice to say that the true electricity running this music is flowing fast through the veins and brains of the musicians involved. Portals presents realizations by dreamers and builders like Ian Boddy, James Bernard and Steve Roach, right alongside the beat machine energy of Listening Center, Pleasure Corporation and Nigel Mullaney. When the searching sequencer meditations of Tungsten Mountain, Steve Moore and Lisa Bella Donna motor up, coiling surges nest inside long unwinding passages – where we can feel the light and heat of the creative current. In drifting moods at cosmic heights In the Branches + Bluetech and Polypores feel as immense as the heavens, while d’Voxx and Johnny Woods hold forth in the sonic schoolyard with a grounded questing optimism. Portals will certainly fulfill the audience’s appetite for energetic Spacemusic, as we will eagerly be seeking out the next installment in this well-done anthology series. Yet, let us consider also that a good compilation album will indeed present good music, but can function on a higher level as a statement beyond the genre – proclaiming that the power of this music is greater than that of the individual maker. The subject is connection, both electrical and human – which may mean that even in this dark world of ours there is still salvation to be found in each other.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END28 May 2020