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Spacemusic Reviews

Nils Frahm: Music for Animals

Music for Animals Nils Frahm

Nils Frahm: Music for Animals
Released: 23 September 2022
www.leiter-verlag.com
www.nilsfrahm.com

Works by Nils Frahm always feel more from the heart than from the wall outlet. In a transformative encounter with electricity his three CD/four LP set Music for Animals (186:43) presents ten remarkable tracks of Ambient Spacemusic. Building wonder and suspense within an atmospheric system of minimalism, the air of this release is serious, but not dispiriting. Below its subdued sense, punctuated by passages of radiance and light, the meaning behind Music for Animals steals into the audience through the sides of the head. Subtly propulsive, then still, beautiful and strange, in translating electronic currents into sonic textures Frahm’s chords move from deep-toned to light and radiant – melting an experimental mood under a sudden gravity. Underpowered sequencer lines hold space and reduce the mechanical-motor pulse into something more secret, lean and potent. Above the rounded machine patterns floats an ethereal glow of quietly yearning synths. Transported from another purer realm these arrangements counter the shallowness of the mainstream – and pose that life is nothing if not electrical. Every zone is mood chilling, yet heart warming. Such is the beauty of Frahm’s music that each moment is an enigmatic delight. The tone that comes so naturally to him floats somewhere between dreams, memories and the fragments of a time yet to come. Music for Animals does everything we ask of great music: it enlarges our world, expands our attention outward, and opens up our hearts and minds. For musicians like Nils Frahm EM is about mobility, mobility of expression. In its many meetings in recognition, along dimensions that cannot be articulated with mere words, the realizations illuminate an inner reality, but long for real life.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END17 November 2022

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Forrest Fang: The Lost Seasons of Amorphia

The Lost Seasons of Amorphia

Forrest Fang: The Lost Seasons of Amorphia
Released: 4 November 2022
www.projekt.com

Forrest Fang treats the mind as an area of activation – a dense meaning-space where each of us experiences subjective reality. Exceptionally rendered, his The Lost Seasons of Amorphia (68:48) offers an encounter with some superior realm of the psyche. Intricately balanced, invariably surprising, in a density of detail Fang plays the music of the world he knows. From lulling dreamscapes and somnambulant bliss to the vigorous whorl of sharply conceived moments his studio and its implements provide plenty of room for inventiveness. Each of the seven tracks seem like a drama unto itself. In an abundance of color and presence the sounds and notes tell us something about the space they are resounding through. Sensuously swollen shapes recede into a soft-focus mood under points of starlight clustering in vastness. Measured and finely modulated, scene after scene are calculated to colonize the listening mind. Some will hear melodies in the dancing, pulsing rhythms – as seductive percussion runs shift the shape of the palpitating drive – while others will be more attracted to the explorations of fabric and form, structure and tonality, timbre and pacing. In a unique intermingling of acoustic instruments and those more overtly electronic, patterned compositions float along an arc of lustrous synth tones and gently resounding gu-zheng, gongs and gamelan. Pushing through a dreamy, verdant realm we recognize this album’s sheen, unanimity and teeming complexities. So where does this music really come from? Is it from a region to our North, South, East or West? Is it from another world? …or from the future? The Lost Seasons of Amorphia is alternately dark and intense, dense and impenetrable, gentle and delicate, and ultimately conjures an atmosphere under which the truth of the composer is briefly known – as Forrest Fang continues to beautifully reveal himself to us one album at a time.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END10 November 2022

subtractiveLAD: Minor Deities

Minor DeitiesStephen Hummel

subtractiveLAD: Minor Deities
Released: 7 October 2022
www.subtractiveLAD.com

Culminating the passions of a mind in motion subtractiveLAD (aka Stephen Hummel) commends to the world 11 pieces – 11 transporting fantasies from his Minor Deities (76:02). Stepping inside (where we will not contemplate the life of this artist, but rather the ideas that drive it) this release makes audible an internal frequency of truth. In a track by track breakdown we find that each one seems different in makeup. Yet something indescribable joins them together into a weave of complexly connected stories. Utilizing mesmerizing colors, patterns and textures Hummel conjures an electro-rush immediacy with craftsman-like proficiency and attention to detail. Charting a course of subtle emotions Minor Deities delivers a strange mix of sensations: apprehension, fixation, wonder, gratitude – slowed down into a fantasy of coiled up power. Dark and measured, borne by its own momentum, further in the unstable material rises in reckless motion. Ethereal choirs and strings offer certainty while elsewhere sinister chords swell in gentle sonic turbulence. From synth jams and whispering ambience to surreal stillness and tender melodic engagement, this album captures a range of beautiful, elusive moods. In one corner a rising sequencer run leads us to space, then disperses into stardust heavens. Another zone produces a fragile twilight atmosphere of fragility and repose. Taking flight in various imaginative manipulations of sound, lilting piano notes and heavenly vocalize enchant the dreamy drama – easing these electronic scenes in a remarkable chill. Music of this quality can move us toward something higher at the best of times, or at the very least exist as a reminder of our collective human potential, creativity, and spirituality. Minor Deities deserves that the act of listening be an act of intelligence – with the listener truly attending and adoring what they are hearing.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END27 October 2021

Desensitized: Chaos in Premonition

Chaos in Premonition Desensitized

Desensitized: Chaos In Premonition
Released: 21 October 2022
www.spottedpeccary.com

Dean De Benedictis and Deborah Martin are artists who look inside themselves deeply to create work which aspires to inspire higher thoughts in others. As the duo Desensitized their Chaos in Premonition (63:20) succeeds in this enterprise, but may take some getting used to. Deepening the relationship first founded on Hemispherica Portalis (2020) their second collaboration finds De Benedictis & Martin back together building nine additional original transportive fantasies of strange proportions and primeval ambience. The all-embracing sense of beauty and fragility remains, yet somehow this succeeding effort comes across more tenebrous. While one track will challenge with its vast weirdness, others will shock with their perfection. These highly self-styled soundscapes feature mesmerizing figures, forms and color – plenty of wonderful welcome details to grant you entry. Restless meditations shape sound into textures – the atmosphere combining and dividing in fascinating ways. As low drones roll out beneath faint synth chords a sustaining mood arises – resolving soon in an ambient sigh. Time seems suspended. Even under a ticking clock or sacramental drums there is very little in the way to mark rhythm or measure tempo, no landmarks or signposts to indicate direction, or certain tonal center to steady us – leaving the listener to find only themselves within this swirling sonic sphere. For some the effect is surreal, stretching the boundaries of the world while zooming in on the details that matter most, while for others Chaos in Premonition will offer a beautifully unanswered question – a realization which refuses to provide a definitive interpretation, but which we are fully equipped to comprehend. Anyone struck by the intrigue found while driven along paths darker than they foresaw will enjoy this release. Chaos in Premonition is a statement album from musicians with something distinct to say. Yet their work is never finished, only on hold, waiting to take flight again in their next creative session.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 October 2022

Ian Boddy: Coil

Coil

Ian Boddy: Coil
Released: 14 October 2022
www.din.org.uk

Contemporary EM is rife with the rapid and the vapid. The work of Ian Boddy has always risen above such wreckage by taking on poignant extra dimensions. The studio release Coil (39:19) is a partnership of ear, mind and hand – of listening, conception and touch – qualities that distinguishes all of his work. An album of six electrical episodes, a hexad of dreamy brain games, it ventures along interior frontiers in an involved tangle of instrumental polyphony. Adorned with grace notes of murderous intent as well as tender timbres of splendor the listener bears the paradox of mutability. Yet further in, supple tracks cool this flame and help harmonize the systems-based rigor of minimalism with the impulsive beauty of sonic invention. In the reflections and refractions of sound this stylistically restless release exudes both technical prowess and artistic vision. Eruptive and exacting, then spare and starry-eyed, Coil holds us in a particular awed fascination. On a few compositions Boddy seems more interested in the heat of the beat than in its meaning. These passages rumble and rattle their way forward beneath echoing pulse patterns. Sonics gradually rise in intensity before discharging in a deluge of dancing arpeggios. Sweeping, swelling, pumping bass and synth themes wind out in the deep dark of blackening space. Shifting sequencer patterns escalate the mood through a series of heroic progressions. Jumping from one key to another the pace careens and beckons the listener to follow the reeling transfers. As night falls the music wanes in transparency. Shadows hold their breath. In a display of tones, textures and skills Boddy’s effort here becomes a mirror – as Coil revels in the flawed, fleeting beauty of the present moment. Remembering yesterday, while writing the story of tomorrow, this interweaving of atmosphere, texture, mood and feeling has been overseen by a rouge spirit – heard glowing and growing within his superb gift to the world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 October 2022

Caterina Barbieri: Spirit Exit

Spirit Exit Caterina Barbieri

Caterina Barbieri: Spirit Exit
Released: 8 July 2022
www.l-years.com
www.caterinabarbieri.com

Electronic Musicians are as different from each other as they are from the dominant styles of their day. In keeping with this belief on Spirit Exit (55:53) synthesist Caterina Barbieri locates the action in her synthesizers and brings to bear an unmistakable and true personal voice. Unfolding in an atmosphere of charged equilibrium its eight tracks prowl each their own musically distinctive surround. As one idea takes off in an unpredictable, unstoppable play of innovation, the next fuses into a seamless, dreamlike texture of ingenuity. Disciplined, machine-like galloping notes wind outward, emerging in a sprawling upward, downward theme. Extending the rapt mood spacey singsong vocalizations rise in contours shapley and measured. Barbieri intones with force, then finesse – her coolness prophetic of another kind of power. As branching sequencer structures cycle through light and dark designs, intriguing pulsing patterns echo, expand and conspire throughout our sound space. In a soaring clockwork precision of restless exploration Spirit Exit unfolds under Barbieri’s practiced naturalism. Synth chords seethe beneath deliberate changes in meter – the intention of the invention in support of rhythmic energy. With its imaginative sudden swerves and diverse sonic designs, those following closely may behold the sublime character of this work. Here is a musical world brimming with rhythmic complexity and dynamic variability, yet is supple and approachable from every perspective. One could imagine spending years with this album – light years of discovering new meaning and beauty as its maker is continually revealed.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END6 October 2022

Robert Rich/Luca Formentini: For Sundays When It Rains

For Sundays When It Rains

Robert Rich/Luca Formentini: For Sundays When It Rains
Released: 30 September 2022
www.robertrich.com
www.unguitar.com

On For Sundays When It Rains (57:10) Robert Rich & Luca Formentini collaborate to elevate all those who will listen. Within these twelve chilled spaces imaginations grow. Our inner realm feels flooded with warmth and light, while the world around us turns steadily towards tomorrow. Their placid moods breathe dark then light. Speaking in clean chords and lilting melodies, the listener feels an honesty that few musicians are capable of calling forth. This album does not push against limits, but rather roams around easily inside of us – between the mind and the heart. In the interweaving of atmosphere, texture and mood notes of cloudy flute settle above reverberant grand piano. The subtle sweeps of contrast keep you attentive and charmed, yet For Sundays When It Rains is consistently inventive while it wanders through an enlightened field of form and invention. As delicate acoustic guitar rambles amid soft sighs of airy lightness, timeless tones of untold space consume idyllic scenes. Overseen by two rouge spirits, this release reveals a truth about Rich & Formentini. We must admire this duo’s ability to empty our thoughts of everything other than the music itself – as what appears to be just a few spare keys and chords conjures a remarkably detailed interior realm. In a high sonic style they access mysterious influences to form a singular stillness outside the neutrality of basic Ambient Music. Taking the listeners as well as the players into its confidence, this music seems formed over a night of balmy dreams and friendly visitations – as it waits patiently For Sundays When It Rains.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END29 September 2022

Cosmic Ground: Isolate

Isolate

Cosmic Ground: Isolate
Released: 23 September 2022
www.cosmicground.de
www.tonzonen.de

With new technology comes the promise of styles and expressions that we have never heard before. Under the name Cosmic Ground Electric Orange keyboardist Dirk Jan Muller has for over a decade been amassing and deploying synthesizers beneath the beacon first lit over 50 years ago during the Berlin-School era of EM. Supplementing our sense of the possible this style of music, and the gear used to produce it, offers the potential for a remarkable range of revelations. With a strange beauty that borders on the forboding Muller submits his seventh studio album Isolate (73:14). The depth of each of the six electronic journeys is striking – with each realization providing a spellbinding sense of a place in space. In this full-speed ahead trip behind the beautiful forever of Kosmische Musik the listener encounters all that Spacemusic can be. Energizing and invigorating, emotionally piercing yet thrillingly alien, Isolate will exhaust those who cannot surrender to it. In the headlong drive of spiraling sequencer runs patterns of notes ascend in an echoing motor-motion. Settling into a careful clockwork, saturated Mellotron strings bestow a heightened sensitivity to the cosmic covenant. As creative energy moves from the musician’s interior to that of the audience, bold dissonances ring and spark across an outburst of dramatic imagination. From desolate soundscapes of darkening drones and chilled fallout fields, to the brooding sweep of sustaining sci-fi zones, Isolate easily pulls listeners into its specific sonic realm. This genre was, in ages past, all about the future. These days it is about survival. Synthesists dream about tones, and wake up thinking about them – which connects the artist to the story of the sound, and to what their music should be. But among us fans the act of listening is an act of trust. Along the upward arc of such resolute works of perpetual becoming we rely on Cosmic Ground, our keeper of mysteries, to lead us further – and to not displace too many of us during our drifting, dreaming voyage of the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 22 September 2022

Alanis Morissette: the storm before the calm

the storm before the calm Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette: the storm before the calm
Released: 17 June 2022
www.thirtytigers.com
www.alanis.com

In an age where even the space of thought is at risk, where speaking is held over listening, Alanis Morissette submits a bold, beautiful, musical mind-zone of an album. Her release the storm before the calm (106:38) hopes to challenge stories that are false with better stories – stories in which people want to live. These eleven starlit works mean to reach out and touch the night, yet go much further – extending well into the hearts and minds of all those who will lend an ear. Morissette brings to this adventure a background in popular music, which has been switched off to accommodate the more languorous compositional arc and open-ended, multi-instrumental soft jams that populate the storm before the calm. Joined in this project by several other musicians, along with Morissette’s wordless vocals and feeling flute we will notice an intelligent mix of processed guitars, seductive percussion, spacey organs, ambient synths, gentle piano, dreamy vibes, subtle electronics and a host of other exotic instruments – painstakingly combined into a substantial sustaining sphere of sound. Serenely sweet sonics travel so deliberately that our awareness of time seems to stretch. In measured motion each track builds. With long chords emerging out of an aura of reverberation we may imagine a vast expanse. Entrancing abstraction yields to a stream of transformations, with optimism and artistry fully present throughout every moment. While contrasting tones are carefully arranged to direct attention inward, the sections of higher energy attract the front edge of our senses. These expressively played strong moments give way to passages of slow burning brightness, and an argument for the future becomes clear. For those who feel like ghosts wandering a world that has grown alien, the storm before the calm will make sense. We listen to Morissette’s moving music, but hear her message. Lit by tomorrow’s sun, she tells of life under a different light – and an age of calm where every existence knows meaning and truth.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END15 September 2022

Ian Boddy & Erik Wollo: Revolve

Revolve

Ian Boddy & Erik Wollo: Revolve
Released: 16 September 2022
www.din.org.uk

Night occurs while our side of the planet is facing away from the sun. During the darkness it may be easier to view the moon above studying us here on the surface – and receive the potential and possibilities La Luna brings us. Also perfectly happy traveling their own orbits Ian Boddy and Erik Wollo have changed trajectory just long enough to make Revolve (51:38) – a studio set of climactic chords, bewitching themes and richly arrayed wonders of rhythm and pulse. In a compulsively detailed mix of moods and impressions this duo pulls toward a hard chill. Across eight tracks momentum rises and falls in measured motion. Swirling under a circulation of synthetic sound, harmonies play and progress in a concord of affecting chromatic steps. Passing through assorted effects, Wøllo’s lead lines are poignant, ethereal and elegant – conjuring zones and tones known to few of his guitar contemporaries. Supporting the swell and contraction of scale we find Boddy’s passagework underpinning the luxurious lyricism. While shifting sequencer patterns run through a series of imaginative progressions, heart-felt strains and refrains unfurl in a rising ribbon of silvery silk. The direction theses tunes take is ever upward, with each resolution redolent of the future this music promises. Their sonics feel less supplied than turned loose. In one place exuding an ambient melancholy, then further in hitting the listener hard with expertly marshalled beats and grooves, a rapt, expectant air of exuberance vents. As voluptuous melodies become embedded in spacey structures the energy level rises by scalar steps. The back and forth between Boddy and Wollo shows a reflective tenderness. This heart-first doubleton derives meaning from simple forms, vague vibrations, and the unknown energies collaboration may release. Their magnificent album has been so carefully constructed that by the time the concluding notes bring us back to ourselves we are ready and willing to truly listen. Revolve feels from outside our own time. It speaks to an era – an era that has yet to come.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END8 September 2022