Spacemusic Reviews

Various Artists: Integers and Quotients

Integers and Quotients

Various Artists: Integers and Quotients
Released: 14 May 2021

Although it may at first seem risky to buy a CD featuring weird music by nine obscure musicians, consumers may rest assured that the DiN Records Tone Science sub-label series in question is expertly curated with your listening interests in mind. Across five volumes (thus far) it has forged a distinct identity. Integers and Quotients (62:11) presents examples of Electronic Music made using instruments with an open-ended programability. Brimming with mischief and menace, tenderness and abstraction, drama and dreams, the listener comes close enough to this music to feel its electric charge.

Presenting another nine musicians who display capabilities just beyond that of the mainstream, Integers and Quotients opens with Incantation by Helene Vogelsinger. As her branching sequencer structures cycle in clockwork precision, our thoughts extend to a higher plane… Next, Raffael Seyfried‘s Iterations is marked by a sense of longing – with recurring reverberant piano notes resolving mysteriously among arpeggio stepped synth tones… Stephan Whitlan builds his Waving and Drowning from an intricately imagined starkness, which expends its strength and intensity in fascinating cosmic turbulence… Johnny Woods navigates the dexterous rhythms and lush backdrops of his Cuckoo with an unhurried ease. Tumbling together, the patterns convey a live-wire unity… The Polypores piece Clocks, Unravelling cascades through broken chords in skipping pulse time and oscillating machine timbre. The result is as psychologically probing as it is aesthetically pleasing… Lisa Bella Donna‘s de-centering Electronic Study #26 questions the listener. An atonal collage of electronic textures, we must find our own meaning – while negotiating an abstract aural plane… Integers and Quotients climaxes in the sonic heft of Delusion by Matths. Pushing the beat into new terrain, this work rises into frenzied fantasy, before collapsing into an abyss of its own making… and even the author of this review (Chuck van Zyl) has a fervid tale to tell; in The Zanti Misfits strobing power electronics crescendo, then settle into a subtle Berlin-School sequencer dance – resounding in a dreamy and reflective glow… To conclude the experience, Philippe Petit reveals a cold charisma with Delicate Elementum, his endeavor into the materiality of sound. A startling balance between freedom and structure, gorgeous torrents of charged emanations build and recede, revealing a quietly radical passion and purpose of expression… which reminds us that all of this music belongs as much to the musician as it does to their instrument.

The ambition of the Tone Science series remains exciting – its initial spark still felt deeply throughout the fifth volume Integers and Quotients. This music asks us to imagine beyond the limitations of conventional thinking, and our present dark day, to catch a glimpse of an enchanted cosmos and all that it has to offer – because we need not feel trapped in the present, when we can hear such clear, wonderful sounds coming from the future.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 May 2021

Helene Vogelsinger: Reminiscence

ReminiscenceHelene Vogelsinger

Helene Vogelsinger: Reminiscence (48:08)
Released: 7 May 2021

Even in a field where there are so many different people to hear and works to consider, and so much competing for our attention, it is hard to miss Helene Vogelsinger. Her second release Reminiscence (48’08”) is a continuation of a broad commitment to free thought and expression – an effort which has been strengthened by an audience that supports the efforts of talented artists and thinkers. The six tracks on Reminiscence each deliver their own private sense of wonder. This music’s sudden swerves and diverse electronic and acoustic palette will inspire enthralling psychological shifts, while still insisting that we are listening closely always. In obedient pulsing potency branching sequencer structures cycle subtly through light and dark designs. Pulling us into submerged levels of the mind, the blending of sounds and repeating patterns bestow a dream-like effect. With reality now so difficult to pinpoint, in its palpable sense of propulsion Vogelsinger’s sonic energy extends our thoughts to a higher plane. From the buzzy and sublime, to the taut, soaring clockwork pattern precision of restless exploration, each work seems more urgent than the next. Relentlessly this artist moves to the rhythm of her imagination, at the pace of her human heart. Vogelsinger has ascended for the right reasons. The freedom to experiment, ample talent and ability, and an eager audience combine to nurture a true flowering. Throughout Reminiscence we find an intelligence extending beyond the cold logic of machines – as well as a strong contribution to a most intriguing field. Her work evokes the highest ideals of creativity, which should spur others to such heights.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 6 May 2021

Tsone: Escape Velocity

Escape VelocityTony Obr

Tony Obr: Escape Velocity
Released: 2 April 2021

Tony Obr is one of many imaginative practitioners of Modular Synthesis, yet his work possesses an unmistakable individuality. Resounding with the glowing intensity of purpose, Obr’s music unfolds with deliberateness in a slow dance of the mind. The album Escape Velocity (46’32”) features three tracks under the name Tsone, plus the recording of Obr’s epic live set for SoundQuest Fest 2021. The pleasure of this production comes from his ability to concentrate, and transcend a system of instruments. Creating a mighty sound out of high tension stillness Obr is at the service of the excitable circuits of the mind. Realizing a tight-nerved, tightly controlled performance requires a ferocious absorption. We hear it throughout the nearly 30 minute opener. Obr is trying to get somewhere, and he is taking us with him. Notes enter, tones resound, texture shifts, an atmosphere builds. This slowly winding, starkly beautiful concert piece progresses with intricate continuities. The spacious wash of the low-energy phase moves forward into a questing sequencer pattern. The air feels animated in pulsing machine precision. As musician and audience rise together we feel the power only great art can achieve. In a complex play upon the senses and the psyche, close timbres echo and reflect about the room. Grasping at ghostly chords electronic emanations circulate freely – engulfing the consciousness. The remaining shorter studio compositions on Escape Velocity each provide a pleasant variation of mood. Obr forsakes conventional narrative clarity, and plays with an ear for color and motion. One sonic figment triggers the next, as the relationship between known and unknowns projects into the future. Throughout Escape Velocity we find the musician telling his story. Obr’s care in producing something so solidly constructed feels reassuring – proof of an organized world, and its higher truth.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END29 April 2021

Arjen Schat: Manifolds


Arjen Schat: Manifolds
Released: 23 February 2021

The work of Arjen Schat exerts an emotional pull rarely found in sequencer music. His Manifolds (76:10) threads a wired energy into a fine weave of swirling modulations, roiling drones and broken chords. Each of its three tracks are neatly arced, and speak to the great ideas within all of us. These lengthy propulsive sequencer workouts make wonderful things happen inside the mind of the listener. Along its electric edge Manifolds climbs with deliberation into the clockwork pace of a free-wheeling sonic structure. While patterns of notes echo and bound outward, Schat’s warm synth lead lines hold us to the human longings behind them. With increasing levels of intricacy this album builds in volume and density. These exquisite details draw us into Schat’s world completely. His progressive musical ascent is informed by passion, and conditioned by experience. Through the stability of consonance we find a characterization of this musician’s inner world. In the closing moments of each piece a note of resolution is struck – a flickering of hope as Schat reaches quietly for a different realm.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 April 2021

Ian Boddy & Markus Reuter: Outland

OutlandMarkus Reuter & Ian Boddy

Ian Boddy & Markus Reuter: Outland
Released: 16 April 2021

On their Outland (40:38) Ian Boddy & Markus Reuter offer another celebration of the imagination, as no two other musicians can. Both stars prove marvelous to listen to through this Spacemusic LP adventure. In episodic tumult we make our way across the three tracks per side – delivering us deftly to the destination of all great albums. A blending of two minds, talents and vision this release is executed with gripping precision. From the desolate and starkly beautiful opening, the energy rises in building sequencer runs. Above this propulsive and exciting scene we become riveted by Reuter’s liquid lead lines. Channeling his rock roots into uninhibited runs of incandescent notes, he haunts our hearts – as only a tale told in sound can. Still smoldering, Reuter’s limber lead lines resolve into a zone of tenderness, as clean plucked steel strings announce a more subtle, intimate zone. In a display of laid-back, self-possessed coolness, Boddy meets the guitar with the conviction of his gliding euphonic narratives. Baring his heart in exquisite expressions a sliding sonic story reaches out along a glissando ribbon – until the swell of synthesizers again washes over us. A roiling drone flows in a chilled engine-room undercurrent, beneath the gauzy glow of reverberant ringing tones. Through this duo’s rare melodic dexterity we learn their secrets. Consistently able to make works in a style that is personal to themselves, while delivering an enjoyable sonic impact to their audience, Outland provides an exceptionally satisfying experience. As this brilliant journey closes, we seem to be left forever wandering between the winds – a zone where the dreams are poetic artifacts of minds fully lit up by music.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END15 April 2021

K Leimer: Found Objects

Found Objects

K Leimer: Found Objects
Released: 2 April 2021

Technology is at the service of K Leimer‘s unique imagination. Ideas and impulses are amplified into albums of ambient disposition, as his realizations reason their way through the air and to our ears. His Found Objects (63:51) feels as though we are entering a dream. With its 14 vividly realized reverberant reflections, these elaborate studio concoctions offer a range of thoughts and atmospheres of a character well beyond mere pretty piano music. Well inside, Leimer’s hazy harmonic language sinks deeply into laid-back coolness, and connotes a slow-winding, spellbinding Ambient Music. From desolate, darkly, starkly beautiful tracks, to strange vibrational rituals, Found Objects evokes a sense of space – while suggesting a light just beyond the horizon. Moving restlessly between smooth, serene keyboard melodies and dark-inspired experiments in mood, the success of Leimer’s many textural experiments does not preclude the occasional foray into the realm of the monumental. When the suspense of haunted memories gives way to something more regal, a mellow fanfare signals a noble stance, and the listener moves into sunlight. Defying the mess of drones rumbling beneath his glowing textures, Leimer shoves notes through grainy digital processing. At first chilly in their blankness, they resolve into vivid states of wordless quietude. Yet, a bit of instinctive brooding cannot hide the sparks within these inventions. Found Objects offers its blissful, uncertain intensity – in the belief that we may carry some of these conclusions into our everyday life.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END8 April 2021

Cartas de Japon: Sequence at the End of the World

Sequence at the End of the WorldCartas de Japon

Cartas de Japon: Sequence at the End of the World
Released: 19 March 2021

It will be hard to pick a favorite moment from Sequence at the End of the World (38’12”). Under the name Cartas de Japon sound seekers Lucas Tripaldi, Pablo Bilbao and Esteban Menash realize an exquisitely detailed Electronic Music. Building monumental musical structures from layers of mechanized patterns these elegantly virtuosic sequencer-smiths bring out feelings of certainty, possibility and potential in their listeners. While warmly singing synths poised above cleanly articulated bass notes may represent the mechanics of the mind, this album’s questing melodic lines bestow a heightened sensitivity to the promises of life. The intense expressiveness this trio exhibits throughout Sequence at the End of the World shows that they are not afraid to think big thoughts and make big statements, all while leisurely pondering the cosmos. As the rising and falling rhythmic chug of broken chords ring through space, we follow a smoothly curving arc of restless ever-shifting keys and moods. An ethereal Mellotron flute floats by lithely, and is met by full-bodied keyboard leads amidst steadily pulsing iambic rhythm – the charged twinkling arrangements greeting us brightly in their winning arrangement and vision. In the headlong drive of spiraling, electric glides ratcheting notes accent the striding motor-motion of ardent echoing tones. Resounding a range of resonances the seven tracks dance through time. Sequence at the End of the World lends sonic energy to the language of ideas, which leads the players and their audience to find a special fortitude in this work. Its hopefulness can be traced back to the beginnings of the Spacemusic genre, which remains a music for a future that never arrived. Every effort to invent the future reveals something about who we are today. While we cannot know what our tomorrow will be, someplace in this enchanted release is the idea that will change everything – if we could but hear it.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 April 2021

Steve Roach: Into the Majestic

Into the Majestic

Steve Roach: Into the Majestic
Released: 1 January 2021

Some people do not listen to Electronic Music, they merely think about it. Imagining what kinds of gear is being used and how it is all inter-connected into systems seems of greater interest to these types than negotiating the sonic depths and heavenly heights that good, spacey EM offers. Fans of synthesist Steve Roach have come to know the benefits of giving his work their attention. Leading us into a soft cosmos we find that, within any space that is given Roach’s musical presence, the normal physics of mass and gravity do not apply. The remarkable studio exploration he made during the 24 October 2020 livestream event will provide some focus for our lately wandering minds, as it tries to ease the tension between what is in the world and what is in us. Into the Majestic (73:59) presents the recording of this virtual happening, and is a welcome relief to sensibilities deadened by a year of scant encounters with concert music. Retreating into a world that he can control Roach opens with an expression of quiet hopefulness. Spectral synth strings overlap at variable distances. Freezing action at the height of its drama the forward march of echoing sequencer patterns transform the three dimensions into sound. The lines of ordered notes, ducking in and out of the shadows cast by soundfield textures, provide an aural energy for the language of Roach’s ideas. In variations of tone and chroma he explores the secret life of timbres – forming sounds that seem startled to find themselves conjoined. Into the Majestic realizes a zone that can be readily felt, but never physically touched. Attuned to dreams, spirits, starlight and moonbeams as much as it is technology, in the spare immediacy of the closing moments Into the Majestic approaches a resolution – ever churning in quiet reverie. This past year has found many of us navigating an unpredictable journey – and taking our blessings where we may find them. As creative energy moves from the artist’s interior to the audience, this album simulates the energizing in-person interaction of the concert setting – and adds another advancement to the flow of sensation and reflection that constitutes Steve Roach’s life in music.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END25 March 2021

Nemesis & Juha-Matti Rautiainen: Off the Map

Off the MapNemesisJuha-Matti Rautiainen

Nemesis & Juha-Matti Rautiainen: Off the Map
Released: 22 January 2021

The internal realm should not be a foreign country. Quite suitably, Off the Map by Nemesis & Juha-Matti Rautiainen provides the potential for exploration and discovery – as you will not be able to locate this troupe’s languid, woozy elsewhere of the mind using any known chart or guidebook. Culled from vast sessions of improvised collaboration the resulting work manages to feel meticulous and intentional, yet it only provides its travelers with provisional routes. Whatever navigational methods this outfit has used to guide its inventions, they have proved to be very effective – as the resulting release, in just the first few moments of each piece, defines its regions and plots its direction with great accuracy. Soft searching synth sweeps, moving at the pace of an elusive dream, progress with an air of deliberation. With rich details floating at the center, and sedate washes signaling from the edges, our journey Off the Map hopes to induce a heightened state of mind and heart. As restless waves of harmony search for their resolution, into the most dim distant quarters this music sheds light. Out of the dark armature of the Berlin-School rolls a mechanized sequencer pattern – the memories, aspirations and longings of this era present a captivating detour. From gently unfurling bright tones and shapeless thought zones, down to the rumble and rasp of rushing electronic emanations, Off the Map emphasizes the extensive span of its territory. Ultimately, across these ten tracks of lawless dissolution and sedate equilibrium the concept of boundaries and borders becomes meaningless. Satisfyingly spacey and forward-thinking this album takes its place in the endless, purposeful reinvention this genre calls forth. Attracting us with its interactive nature – in that the artist provides an atmosphere which the listener shapes into meaning – we emigrate from the known world to a world of our own. The best Ambient Music provides a buffer, a consistent in-between time within which to reflect, reset and conceive. On a planet where we all yearn to find the future more informed listeners will use this sonic map, not to find places and things in the world, but to invent them.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 March 2021

Jeff Greinke: Other Weather

Other WeatherJeff Greinke

Jeff Greinke: Other Weather
Released: 26 February 2021

Through music Jeff Greinke pursues an elusive sublimity. Summoning the gentle gravity of the Ambient Chamber Music style his Other Weather (59:06) is performed in a measured motion. Played on conventional ensemble instruments (piano, cello, viola, violin, French horn, clarinets, flutes, percussion) the 11 tracks combine a range of colors and textures, harmonies and melodies, moods and spirits. From shapeless Ambient zones to somewhere more incisive and emotionally rapt, his gently unfurling works bloom over time – each benefiting greatly from patient listening. Its emphasis on interiority offers, to those who will hear, personal truths. As soon as one clarifies, another is born. In becalmed poetic brevity each perfectly paced piece generates a unique idyll of uncommon sensitivity. Reverberant piano notes hover at the center of some compositions, while, further in, through Greinke’s elegant arrangements, his troupe together rises – playing slowly and dreaming freely. Inducing a heightened state of mind and heart the musical form resonates with the music’s message. So how then does Other Weather make such a remarkable impression? How does it achieve its rare quality? Perhaps because Greinke’s years of experience experimenting endows it with a reach denied to other musicians. The deeper spatial impressions Ambient Music affords and the furtiveness it encourages bestows a sedate equilibrium – known especially well to this artist. His beautiful music is for more than just taking refuge. It offers time to recalibrate your mental ordering of the Universe, and your place in it. The flowering of such thoughts will show the designs of Other Weather – which aims for the heart, by way of the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 11 March 2021