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Spacemusic Reviews

Chronotope Project: Ovum

Ovum

Ovum

Chronotope Project: Ovum
Released: 4 August 2017
www.spottedpeccary.com
www.chronotope-project.com

The intention of most Ambient Music is to serve the listener by not calling attention to itself. But Jeffrey Ericson Allen cannot help himself. The opening track of Ovum (50’56”), his excellent album of seven sonic, electro-acoustic journeys, confronts us blithely with the soft command, “Come along with me”. Recording under the name Chronotope Project, he offers a dual musical reality. Ovum engages, as soulful flute, cello and synth melodies enliven the mind and draws our thoughts along soft rows of ordered notes. Yet further in it entices us to chill in plush sonic reverie. But these are not rival systems competing for our attention. The swirling dramatic movement and vivid color of the glad active tracks compliment well the more elemental, simplified and somber pieces. Noting its twists and turns as it progresses forward and at times changes course this album may go wide as well as deep. In simplicity of form we feel a sense of stillness, and an underlying darkness. In a brighter realm, sparkling sequencer chimes echo and ring through a velvet void. Celestial lead lines arise, flutter and touch, only to recede back to the star system from whence they came. For a more gradual sense of discovery we extend down into slow motion dreamscapes of electronic motion and atmospheric textures. From minimal zones within which to find your own reality, to this work’s forthright production and engaging song-craft, we find these two realms are connected by an invisible line. In this arc of safety Ovum is a balm to our brittle substance. As with all good music, it is a portal to your better self.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END21 September 2017

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Hotel Neon: Context

Context

Context

Hotel Neon: Context
Released: 1 May 2017
www.fluidaudio.co.uk
www.hotelneonmusic.com

Hotel Neon advances the liberation of the mind. This trio of dual guitars and one synth comes together to work out the proportions of large harmonic thinking. The title of their album Context (65’51”) provides the poetic backdrop for the introspective, reflective, and somewhat dark-hued tone and character of their work. Its nine brief tracks of slower than slow adagio-like character are the result of a group, part colorist and part constructionist, practicing exacting methods. Every note on Context appears always in the neighborhood of two other notes, in a harmonic function that elicits an arresting notice from anyone within earshot. This taming of the electric guitar is a quieter action, one where the long bowed bolt of sound originates in six vibrating steel strings. The use of various processing and effect devices shapes their raw guitar emanations into a delicate atmosphere. The elegant use of distortion, and other such aberrations normally ground out of a mix, lend a hand-made quality to Context. Metallic organ drones support floating textures of lithe rounded gray chords, as plaintive sliding tones loop and repeat in an echoing somber message. Never arriving anywhere, this Ambient Music restlessly searches for unnamed conclusions. The lighter airier works on Context answer the demand for a music that presents peaceful passages – enriched by pleasures in consonance and tone. In this sustaining dusky sweetness the mind of the listener may rest in repose, or engage in deciphering life’s mysteries. Yet, it is the imagining of threatening forces which gives this work its symphonic current. The very essential part of these realizations is their effect on the audience. There is an intimacy and a rawness to these performances that is riveting. While music which is difficult to comprehend is no longer automatically considered profound or advanced, Hotel Neon still takes the way of the thinker – knowing that some people will listen many levels down, for many minutes long.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END14 September 2017

Javi Canovas: One More Day, One Day Less

One More Day, One Day Less

One More Day, One Day Less

Javi Canovas: One More Day, One Day Less
Released: 19 April 2017
javicanovas.bandcamp.com

What of us carries into the future? Is there anything of it within us right now? Through his music, Javi Canovas searches forward and back, and inward. One More Day, One Day Less (65’01”) conveys the full force of living outside of time – in the enthralling space of the imagination. Penetrating, permeated with psychological intensity, this album draws the listener to the play and shades of their interior. Like a wave of electricity sweeping across the brain, One More Day, One Day Less captures the momentum of a moving storm. Swirling flurries of tones cycle and echo in precise, tightly arranged pulsations. In a painstaking technique of repetition and variation, the lines of synchronized sequencer notes twist and turn, rise and fall, lighten and darken, as they progresses forward, or at times changes course – further deepening the mystery. Yet, all the while these potent realizations remain heading steadily toward their destination. Surrounded by diagonals of darkness, patterns ring out in a light filled space. In this exaggerated scale the spiraling dramatic movement and brilliant electronic colors feel relentless, and exhilarating. The four tracks of One More Day, One Day Less show a capacity for slow and solemn rhythmic development, each climbing to a powerful climax. As one is drawn into a musical experience of larger proportions, we find this favorite form used to great effect. Lustrous chord banks, like towering walls of clouds, emerge to cushion the kaleidoscopic electronic advance. Each piece concludes in simplicity of form, with a sense of stillness, and the decent and deadly imposed order of unconsciousness. It may be that Canovas’ work is just an everyday trace of his pursuit of the now. But, life’s distractions are never permanent – and if everything is already in the past, then that is where most of our lives are. One More Day, One Day Less is an excellent reminder.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 September 2017

Neuronium: Lysergic Dream

Lysergic Dream

Lysergic Dream

Neuronium: Lysergic Dream
Released: 12 May 2017
www.neuronium.com

Michel Huygen continues with vigor across the years on the long arc of a profound sonic adventure. From the questing Electronic Musician of the legendary Neuronium, beautiful forms do flow. The album Lysergic Dream (76’38”) is too gorgeous not to be alluring. In a chemically induced cosmic current, it stills the conflicting energies of the mind – putting something in there to glimmer gold against the gloom. Lysergic Dream gives a good feeling to the ear, when it is not diving down into churning black emptiness. From this momentary dark stillness, the music of the storm lurks in grim recesses. Feeling alone at the edge, towering chords do howl. But the seven tracks on this album mainly present beautiful arrangements of heroic strings and choirs, as well as lonely synthesizer lead lines reassured by soaring solo female vocals. The energy level of Lysergic Dream remains that of an adagio, that is until the sequencer gets switched on – which transports us ahead at great warp. Floating above whatever world he is mapping, Huygen’s lithe fingers yield great treasures from the keyboard. Filled with all the voices of The Universe, low murmuring synthesizers sigh. In sly whisperings of velvet electronic tones a soft strain unfolds. Even in this altered state the mind’s light cannot be dimmed. Melting melodies, so smooth, sweet and silvery weave, wind and wander to break the heartstrings. Chiming spheres go octaves deep, in clear, liquid slow echo and quiver – dissolving into ecstasies as they surge to the silent horizon. In the highest notes appears the measured heart-space, where we should feel laid asleep in flowers. Maybe with this Lysergic Dream, it does not matter who this music is from, but only who it is to. Huygen does have greatness in his soul, but it is we who must embark into the outlying, empty spaces – into which our imaginations venture. We hold in our being the memory of his music, as it was when we first received it. In complete cadences, it tells us that what we know inside is true.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END31 August 2017

[‘ramp]: synchronize or die

synchronize or die

synchronize or die

[‘ramp]: synchronize of die
Released: 29 August 2017
www.parsick.com

With Synchronize of Die (76’21”) Stephen Parsick comes close to the canons of greats that have influenced him. Making music under the name [‘ramp] we find the personal language of a restless mind. The five tracks on Synchronize of Die give steady pleasure, as each piece glitters with its own distinctive electricity. The sound is lean, transparent, surging – like currents journeying through the limitless deep. Haunting, raw, dark and dreamy, we feel the potency of every note. Parsick knows how to raise the listener’s pulse. Electrifying routes run by a battery of sacred sequencer motors produce an enigmatic and emphatic animation. Calmly hypnotic, this music’s electrono throbbing aligns the conflicting energies of the mind, within the overlapping geometries of circling spirals of echoing notes. Sullen tones, deployed for their sinister, estranging effect, send darkness through us. Producing a live, unpredictable energy Synchronize of Die gives a good feeling to the ear – too gorgeous not to be alluring. Measured Mellotron lead lines respond to slight synth melodies, as ghostly smudges of sound emerge and recede – all rising above the heady boil of potent pumping bass notes. This album provides a sense of drift, of negative and positive shift – as we listeners contemplate narratives beyond what is played. A vigor greater than that of the Earth is present in this music. Once awoken to it, it would be hard for anyone to go back to sleep. This work comes from out of the same place as do dreams and myths – from realizations about existence that must find expression in symbolic form. For Parsick, the murmur of the synthesizer is this expression. Music is the canvas upon which he projects onto – and when we hear it, we find that which is inside of us, our unnamed feelings and beliefs, to be utterly true.-

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END24 August 2017

Chuck van Zyl: Celestial Mechanics

celestialmechanics2017Chuck van Zyl: Celestial Mechanics
Released: 2 June 2017
www.industryeight.com

The outward appearance of Celestial Mechanics is that of a CD album, but its true origin extends back to the era of tape. The 1980s found Chuck van Zyl (and his many compatriots) recording Spacemusic and releasing it on audio cassette. During this span, Synkronos Music put out a trove of cassette releases, including The Moment of Totality (1990) and Callisto (1989) by Chuck van Zyl. Each held two side-long pieces of music, and established a series of releases by van Zyl representing his enthusiasm for Astronomy and the Cosmos. So Celestial Mechanics may be viewed as compiling these early works onto a CD, and getting them out before the public – and that is exactly what Centaur Discs Ltd of Scotland did in 1993 – thus presenting Chuck van Zyl to the world beyond his small mail order following.

That original CD edition has been out of print for some time now. But thanks to the Philadelphia based label industry8, Celestial Mechanics is back, re-mastered and treated to modern audio enhancements, and a vastly improved fidelity. Housed in a limited edition, four panel digipak, and adorned with vivid NASA probe images, it offers those interested listeners and collectors the opportunity to encounter the significant backstory to one of our community’s most unique affiliates.

Inspired by space, the physical universe, and all of its intricacies, as well as by classic Kosmische Musik works from out of the 1970s Berlin-School, van Zyl realized the four pieces found on Celestial Mechanics as personal electronic odes – to the four Galilean moons of Jupiter, and the astral motions of the solar system.

Clearly influenced by Crystal Lake and Rubycon, as well as by the direct mentoring of The Nightcrawlers (the NJ Space trio with which he was so closely associated), van Zyl found himself finally making music that, not only properly portrayed his cosmic yearning, but was representative of the restless, creative spirit which had inhabited him for so long.

As we listen to Celestial Mechanics, we can feel this world of discovery still living on. The repeating music box sequencer intro of the title track immediately turns our thoughts to the virtues of The Universe as a place of possibility and wonder. Sounds build out, and additional lines of rhythm are introduced. A magic machine pulse provides a distinctive energy, one more of the mind than of the air. Confirming synth lines surface – reassuring the lost, and arousing the adventurous – and dramatic chord changes help us ascend further still. As we pass through eerie amorphous interludes of drones, metallic tones, and wondrously modulated aural accents, the mounting tension resolves.

The emergence of an ever repeating pattern of echoing bass notes supports the lilting melody of a soft synthesizer lead. Minimalist sequencer runs motor on, then gradually brighten. Individual notes are transposed and repeated, minutely altering the pattern and quickening the music’s pulse. After a few variations in momentum, the music slows, and expends its previously built mass in thoughtful repose. Transitioning out of this energetic phase the magical beauty of its closing section solemnly brings Celestial Mechanics to its conclusion.

While Celestial Mechanics includes all of the texture and atmosphere the Spacemusic genre is known for, its biggest success is in its entertainment of a most unusual idea – of traveling while being still. New musical territory can only be discovered once. Chuck van Zyl has built profoundly upon all of his. They are but reference points – in a field that is inexhaustible.

STAR’S END2 June 2017

High Plains: Cinderland

Cinderland

Cinderland

High Plains: Cinderland
Released: 10 March 2017
www.kranky.net

High Plains, the duo of Scott Morgan and Mark Bridges, sends out music from several opposing angles. Their collaboration Cinderland (36’19”) goes down byways you may not have expected. With Morgan providing keyboards and a range of electronic textures, pulses and swells, we hear Bridges’ cello effortlessly holding center stage. Our ears reach out to this enchanted realm, as we give ourselves over to each distinctive spell across this album’s nine brief tracks. From the restorative and consonant pieces the listener will feel at ease, while further in Cinderland‘s creeping premonitions become so chilling that the cold will seep into your bones, and set there. While the nature of these troubled pieces may be difficult to reason through, the dissonance repays all the attention – in showing a pathway to the center of your self. As we listeners, once no longer tied to the fate of the world, or the course of the planets, tend to be drawn to the territories inside. Roiling synthesizer sounds are used to define mass and volume, with rhythm being something reassuring to occasionally hold onto. Organized in understated compositional principles, Bridge’s cello plays out its slow melodies atop, through and according to Morgan’s various constructions of atmosphere. The audience will encounter each progressive work as a discovery. Some will feel consoling, while others harsh, which is just the point of Cinderland. As we hear these works, and allow them to open inside of us, we experience fully the grip of melodic and harmonic ideas, and another amazing journey through the imaginary space of music.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 10 August 2017