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Spacemusic Reviews

Jeffrey Koepper: MantraSequent

MantraSequent

MantraSequent

Jeffrey Koepper: MantraSequent
Released: 16 June 2017
www.projekt.com
www.jeffreykoepper.com

Do machines have a soul? Synthesizers do, as our beloved Robert Moog tried to explain in his 2004 documentary. The circuit boards and overall design of the devices he conceived are infused with just as much of his spirit as is imagined a violin crafted by Stradivarius. Another commonality between these two kinds of instruments is that they both need a human being to animate them – a process that usually reveals more about the player than the builder. Music realized by the Electronic Musician Jeffrey Koepper always carries a unique psychological charge, along with a distinctive personal truth. Few among his ranks possess his technical acumen, which certainly stimulates and informs Koepper’s many substantial releases. On MantraSequent (67’18”) sound is handled like an object. Shaving off frequencies, joining tones, sculpting textures, compressing atmospheres, and ordering notes into repeating trails of echoes this album is the result of the set of choices made by Koepper – which he hopes will turn abstractions into sonic moods and feelings. Once we fall under the spell of MantraSequent, it becomes easy to forget the impressive list of vintage gear which was used to make it. Capturing the cosmic mystery associated with this genre, Koepper deploys pulsing sequencers, sustaining synth-string chords and spiraling spacey effects in an expressive soundtrack for interplanetary leaps. In a swirl of held harmonies the listener is pulled toward a hard chill, and offered an absorbing space of repose – while further along, deeper pieces generate the mystery-machine character of the Berlin-School. Others may struggle to understand what it was like back then (the 1970s), but the powerful grip of the past has always aided Koepper well in the present. The Now, which is always racing ahead of us, through this music, can be caught. In silence we may feel the tick of the clock, but the moments found within each of the nine tracks on MantraSequent carry an opportunity to honor the maelstrom of the mind – and all its dimensional potential.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END15 June 2017

Lorenzo Montana: Phase IX

Phase IX

Phase IX

Lorenzo Montana: Phase IX
Released: 17 March 2017
www.projekt.com

On Phase IX (62’25”), Lorenzo Montana plumbs his psyche for a new revelation… and out has come something that will challenge the definitions of what constitutes Ambient Music. A man of some sonic intelligence, Montana performs the nine tracks on Phase IX with passionate focus. The value of his compositions is not in the time that they last, but in the intensity with which they occur. Charged with Earthen energy, his softly tumbling backdrops support a shimmering solemnity. In a loose but urgent rhythmic rapport, the more energized works on this album present a hurting onrushing quality. As a bustling assemblage of entho-electro percussion and electronic textures struggle to lock into a conventional groove, we enter a slow burning meditation on the vital spirit. A storm system rolls in a softly rumbling backdrop, and the music’s effect slows the motion of the world – so that we may notice that which surrounds us. Gently descending, Montana seems even more interesting when he explores the darkness. Thick drones engulf metallic rubbing and digital crackle, as a grand piano slowly and certainly plays out a somber nocturne. Chords billow bright, then darken, with a throbbing bass pushing sparkling arpeggio chords through echo and reverb. Technology matters, but musicality matters more. This musician has a gift, perhaps even a genius, for translating thought and emotion into sonic form. Each piece feels infused with a measure of mystery and secrecy. Taken together, everything on Phase IX tallies the outlook of the musician. We should celebrate real thinking where ever we find it, and ponder the future in the way this album does, while we still can.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END6 June 2017

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