Spacemusic Reviews

Hollan Holmes: Emerald Waters

Emerald WatersHollan Holmes

Hollan Holmes: Emerald Waters
14 January 2022

Hollan Holmes adds aural energy to the transferral of ideas. His album Emerald Waters (74:35) is an enthralling space of the imagination, and draws one to the play and shades of their own interior. Across 11 tracks the dance of tones up, down and through their scales maintains a unique buoyancy. In striding calibration the lines of synchronized sequencer pulse twist and turn, rise and fall, lighten and darken. Though it progresses firmly forward, then may suddenly change course, Emerald Waters is always heading assuredly toward its destination. In the kaleidoscopic electronic advance of lustrous chord banks harmony resolves in vibrant wisps of sound. Echoing runs ring out into a light filled space, but then the sonic setting shifts. In the headlong drive of spiraling, gliding notes the motor-motion follows a curving arc of restless invention. The spinning energized masses build larger cycles from smaller ones – further deepening the mysterious mood. Yet, while engine-room patterns may thicken and lighten, each charged, twinkling arrangement faithfully greets us brightly. The current Holmes is drifting with provides plenty of opportunities for exploration. Call it “dream fuel” or “head music”, his works are dependably listenable, and aspire to move the listening mind in the best way possible.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 January 2022

Panic Girl: Washed Ashore

Washed AshoreMartha Bahr

Panic Girl: Washed Ashore
Released: 14 November 2021

On Washed Ashore (40:46) Panic Girl (the Electronic Musician Martha Bahr) invites us into a spacey, colorful dream world. Her showcase mindspace is carefully alien, as it devises secret, unseen realms for the bright, receptive listener. Across four harmonious abstractions Bahr transmits the tingle of gradual upward motion. While imaginative expressions intertwine, bracing fields of synthesized sound slip between rhythm and atmosphere. As voltage controlled considerations interlock in the logic of notes in repeated series, the layered patterns congeal into a kind of undulating texture. The advancing star showers modulate into blissed out ambience, with each track seeming to wonder and wander its own energy field. Embracing density and a kind of perpetual musical motion, Washed Ashore provides many meditative moments. These gently moving forms arise from Bahr’s pleasant performance passages. Her dedicated calm labor live sings the song of the synth. Both dreamer and builder, she conceives an expression, then sparks it into being – showing us that, if electricity is considered the source of all EM, then it is as much the kind from the wall socket as from the currents of the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 January 2022

Ian Boddy: Modulations II

Modulations IIIan Boddy

Ian Boddy: Modulations II
Released: 5 November 2021

To reimagine a poetical, electrical experimentation for the modern era, Ian Boddy configures his modular synthesizer system to produce an artful interplay of raw and refined tones. A counterpoint to his more melodious work, albums like Modulations II (91:44) are meant for those in an experimental frame of mind. Moving stealthily through his music, Boddy instantly brings the listener in – fascinating us with a spectacle of sound, and leaving us to wonder what will be sprung upon us next. In six tracks of world building Boddy crafts his own sounds, and tells his own story. Close listening will be rewarded as this technique is so meticulous, and approach and perspective so unique, that a full and distinct abstract expression is achieved. Discharging audio from electricity, tenebrous particles swim in space. In this voltaic realm, where dragons growl low and ghost chants ring in the air above, hidden hierarchies do crackle. Whenever Modulations II beams with sunlight harmonies, soon follows a blurry mass of roiling questions and charged sparks. Long builds of a portentous timbre resolve and release in the darkness – groping toward a muted fissure in reality. The pulse and rhythm of the machine harnesses a circularity of notes – radiating with each tight turn of the wheel into widening arcs of mechanized regularity. The sequencer lines echo and motor strength, traveling this collection of tones and textures between sonic storm and soothing sigh. The tricky backdrop sputters, winds out, then whispers a song of circuits dreaming. The wonderment of music and modulations – which may be realized from a properly patched up system of warm wires, transistors and knobs – may arrive during Modulations II, but lasts only briefly… because once he gets where he is going, Ian Boddy quickly keeps moving – further out.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END6 January 2022

Transponder: Terminae Space & Astral Expanse

Terminae Space Astral Expanse

Transponder: Terminae Space
Released: 20 July 2021
Transponder: Astral Expanse
Released: 16 November 2021

Don C Tyler & Steve Pierce make the kind of music that buries itself in your subconscious. As Transponder they envision a Space-laced, ethereal doorway into mind and mood. The two releases from 2021 obey an electronic logic. Both Terminae Space (62:25) and Astral Expanse (63:58) speak directly to modern listeners, while fully honoring their source. Referencing the synth dominated textures and motoring patterns of the Berlin-School, this duo etches details in their work without sacrificing shadows. Flickering like starlight, synths float, bloom and collapse in cosmic yearning. As each piece progresses, the complexity rises, and more details are revealed. Where the restless motion slows, generous stretches of charged synthetic zones are allowed. Each track is short enough for us to remember it whole: the sequencer spiral, the moving melody, the control chords – as well as the recollection of where we were and how we felt when we first heard it. The tone and atmosphere of these albums recruit neural regions, while fighting psychological decay – and so we do not need a secret code to enjoy Terminae Space or Astral Expanse. They aspire to play a role in our lives. It is safe to dream big, especially while on the shared wavelength of these two colleagues. In incremental revelations Transponder realizes music as vibrant as The Universe their recordings celebrate.

STAR’S END/Chuck van Zyl – 30 December 2021

Forrest Fang: Forever Cascades

Forever CascadesForrest Fang

Forrest Fang: Forever Cascades
Released: 10 December 2021

The music of Forrest Fang refuses summation and invites contemplation. No one possesses or inhabits sound the way as this man does. A product of thinking in pure meanings his Forever Cascades (67:12) stimulates a category of thought that occurs without words, images or symbols of any kind – and yet can converse perfectly with the inner workings of every listener. Fang the multi-instrumentalist has here produced ten tracks that imagine a realm just beyond that of the everyday. These detailed aural surroundings are rousing to the informed, and inviting to the uninitiated. Yet, we should give up on finding ourselves represented anywhere in the complexity of this music, and rather just focus on how it makes us feel. As diverse as all the tones, textures, atmospheres and energy settings are, it should be obvious that these ten compositions, while all on different routes, are headed for the same destination. Where one composition moves like a swift silvery ghost, the next will be as still as a whisper. Passing through subdued tones the expressive arc of Forever Cascades rises to a brighter register, or just as easily it may roll over us like a storm. Continually awakening, absorbing and moving inward, this album also lights out in expressive fanciful flights. Whether pushing the outer boundaries of Ambient Music, or summoning a lost world of the New Age, this work excites the ears as much as it mends the mind. If the art of music is about transporting the audience, then Forrest Fang is an unrivaled guide. His talents elevate Forever Cascades to a level distinctly above common Contemporary Instrumental Music – as its humbling force aspires to transform the distances between people into an intimacy with the whole world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 December 2021

Paul Ellis: Panoramas 2

Panoramas 2Paul Ellis

Paul Ellis: Panoramas 2
Released: 21 September 2021

Paul Ellis‘ journey of self-realization continues on Panoramas 2 (65:11). The second album of this trilogy delivers the most empyreal moments thus far. Throughout his free-form excursion into sound and atmosphere, Ellis is perfectly sure of what notes to hit. With his robust interior world moving ever outward, this release does not unfold before the listener so much as it enfolds us into its quest for meaning. In the more abstract passages Panoramas 2 bypasses the conscious sensibilities for a direct connection to that which is beyond words. With no signposts or mile markers, we become lost among the neural regions. In gorgeous swirls and upward scales the music portrays a spirit of becoming, while further in shivering chill currents pass netherward – past the control of known forces. In sustaining synth chords and ardent melodies Ellis stirs up an expression of elemental strength. His Panoramas 2 lends sonic energy to the language of ideas in a remarkable flow of sensation and reflection. Arousing a category of thought that occurs without words, images or symbols of any kind, we are left to find meaning in the sounds we hear and the textures we feel emanating from these resonant dimensions.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END16 December 2021

Chuck van Zyl: Votive


Chuck van Zyl: Votive
Released: 4 December 2021

Throughout Votive (70:10), the long-awaited studio album by Chuck van Zyl, he is heard continuously connecting with a profound love of sound. Across its three diverse tracks he realizes an exquisitely detailed Electronic Spacemusic. Each movement comes at you in a trek of tone, a hunt of harmony, a torrent of timbre. Yet, informed listeners will hear unity in the arrangement and the meaningful message it means to convey.

Votive ignites with the track The Western Gate (24:30). Building monumental musical structures from layers of mechanized motifs, this star synth-smith signals feelings of certainty, possibility and potential. In the headlong drive of spiraling sequencer runs ratcheting patterns ascend in a striding motor-motion of echoing notes. Settling into a subtle Berlin-School clockwork, questing melodic lines bestow a heightened sensitivity to the promises of life.

The composition Vigil (22:50) could not be more different. In a slowly unfolding ambient elsewhere each atonal shape shudders, then falls into place. In stirring sparks and charged currents this extended abstract wandering maintains a pristine musical surface. Negotiating a delicate balance between the questioning and the consoling, a secret sonic life is explored. Resounding in the resonance of memory, here the psychological terrain of the musician may be most truly felt.

Where the Woodbine Twineth (22:50) leads us into a soft cosmos. Spare, but expressively pointed, a substantial atmosphere hovers. Progressing into stretches of luxurious chords and spacey, shimmering accents we encounter a tranquil zone for drifting and thinking. The poetry of its sustaining themes and expressive shades of sound sanction a magical release of thought. With a firm grasp of tonal organization and musical structure, craft, artistry and hidden cognitions are revealed.

Reveling in what he has made, Chuck van Zyl remains sensitive to the promises of the Kosmische Musik genre – and shines brightly within his music. A work such as Votive asks the genre to go further, and is an enormous gift to the discipline. Navigating the trackless void of space as thoroughly as it does the inner realm, Votive explores ideas of proportion and scale. As creative energy moves from the artist’s interior to that of the audience, in this action both spheres may find their peace, beauty and meaning.

from the Press Release – 4 December 2021

Louigi Verone: Solar Cycle

Solar CycleLouigi Verona

Louigi Verona: Solar Cycle
Released: 11 November 2021

The seven tracks that comprise Solar Cycle (43:59) all seem in their own separate state of motion. With everything moving, everything centered Louigi Verona (aka Kirill Alferov) builds layer upon layer of serial steadily winding weight – realizing a new fidelity as his music flies. Synchronized sequencers pump out intricate rhythms and echoing tones. The lines run out, in, up and down intervals and scales – shifting vaguely – to hurry the current within. Echoing and recoiling through the soundspace broken chords interweave in machine meter, as spiraling electric patterns blend perfectly beneath vivid atmospheres. In a helix of syncopation energy arcs through this work, irradiating rather than occupying the scene. These pulsing, crowded moments hold the listener, so that Solar Cycle may find its order within your mind. While each individual pulsing band interacts with its neighboring row, an interweaved structure comes forth – and makes for a mesmerizing, ever-evolving texture. As the converging swells join forces to produce a peak, a dramatic momentum emerges. The rushing, breathless arrangements transcend the motor metrical, landing with poetic precision. Circling and cycling at the speed of thought, Solar Cycle dances and whirls along currents of creativity. Its bright velocity sparks the imagination – in a remarkable flow of bracing, swiftly moving sensation.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 November 2021

Serena Gabriel (feat. Steve Roach): Seeing Inside

Seeing InsideSerena Gabriel

Serena Gabriel (feat. Steve Roach): Seeing Inside
Released: 22 October 2021

Exploring relationships between the electronic and the acoustic, Serena Gabriel works again with producer and collaborator Steve Roach on Seeing Inside (72:12), their creation of atmosphere and constant sonic motion. In rolling synthetic waves and tender ethereal textures they conjure a beautiful inward space. Softer sounds prevail, as emanations of world instruments, vocals and keyboards are pushed into ever more thoughtful realms. With its slow procession of rising and receding tones, mingling with a most ethereal voice, Seeing Inside seems more a ceremony of sacred sounds than a conventionally composed body of music. From the deliberate pacing, and a sense of consonance over the churning electronic wash, to the issue of warm rounded timbres, these distinct characteristics resolve into an experience so captivating. Classic synthesizer sounds are layered among swelling drones and shimmering accents. In a swirling mist of ever-changing tonality, we progress from areas of darkness to light. These reflective zones are meant to provide a state within which secret webs of knowledge may be revealed. Yet, in moving from one mood to the next, Seeing Inside never loses its sense of direction. In her vocalize style of wordless, emotionally charged expressions Gabriel directs listeners through idyllic nocturnes and compassionate laments. Her voice soars fluently above haunting synth arrangements and rumbling bass notes. Moving effortlessly across registers, she glides from exaltation to soft benediction, and on to that of something seemingly beyond human extent. Swirling amidst sources such as harmonium, lyre, wooden flutes, frame drum, and the earth tones of the didgeridoo, Seeing Inside unifies in a distinct condition best attended to with eyes closed. In such a state the transportive qualities of this work may be fully felt – and its truth heard.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END11 November 2021

Steve Roach/Michael Stearns: Beyond Earth & Sky

Beyond Earth and SkySteve Roach/Michael Stearns

Steve Roach/Michael Stearns: Beyond Earth & Sky
Released: 5 November 2021

Exploring ingenuities of form and mysterious pressures of feeling, Steve Roach and Michael Stearns each inhabit a distinctive zone of their own. Their joint effort Beyond Earth & Sky (71:20) is a release of discovery, for the musicians and their audience alike. A meditation on enchantment, it strives for timelessness, ascending to a rare spiritual intensity. The seven tracks focus their creativity under the regime of collaboration, and take us places we cannot get to with anyone else. From moonlit soft chords and floating synthesizer atmospheres, to dramatic tonal transitions and gradually darkening visions, the music skillfully twists and shifts in imaginative ways – leaving listeners lost in the thoughts, memories and passions of two extraordinary talents. Sounds ebb, flow and glow as each tingling detail stimulates the imagination. Vast in their proportions every musical phrase is shaped by the color of fantasy. Impressed by the enigmatic, swirling current of textures and tones – including the famed towering steel stringed instrument “The Beam” – we find Beyond Earth & Sky leveling itself, and waiting for the world to follow. The album is beautiful, full of commanding synth-borne harmonies, animating electro-ethno grooves, and the echo of ethereal rituals throughout. While Beyond Earth & Sky may seem not of this earth, after repeated listenings we hear that its beauty is completely of our world, and undeniably explicit. Whether meant as a travel soundtrack to accompany us to some distant planet, or within to the warmth of our own inner realm, as a work of human imagination the journey Roach and Stearns provide is retraceable – so long as we are open to the possibilities of their adventure.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END 4 November 2021