Spacemusic Reviews

Ian Boddy: Nevermore

NevermoreIan Boddy

Ian Boddy: Nevermore
Released: 15 October 2021

The beginning of this album sounds like the end of the world. Nevermore (60:27), the live release from Ian Boddy, sets out hovering just beyond the edge of tonality. Stark, inscrutable, his mental circuitry on full display, Boddy thus pulls us in and carries us along his hour long session from SoundQuest Fest (streamed on 27 March 2021). As the raw, resonant core of the bolder sonic palette recedes, the new zone he builds is lush, complicated, immersive, and alive. Avoiding cog-in-a-machine sequencer operation, the music awakens in walking bass steps, and palpitating percussion – and soon takes flight in echoing tone patterns and electronic grooves. Here some intimate drama may be felt in Boddy’s passionate synth leads. Gliding between notes his dexterous playing visits areas barely imagined beyond conventional synthesizers. Prominent against the backdrop of inter-layered rhythms these passages feel enveloping and fully imagined. Managing to wring big moments from his live rig we find Boddy glowing even in moments of darkness – as might electrical fireflies sparking slow against the velvet black of space. Residing in the upper registers, above a rich middle, synth leads rise on a thermal of melody. Making use of this form’s proven excitements, well-crafted tones burn through the clouds. Boddy knows how to hold an audience’s attention, and even at this height, when the instrumentation finally contracts, knows just where to land. The exploration of a bolder sonic palette, the inflected wonder of his concert, and this musician’s uncommon aliveness, are an indication that modular synthesis is propelling a new era of music innovation. While these instruments may seem made of something other than inert metals and plastics, the sound moving beneath these kinds of concerts is the experience of truth. While we are away, traveling through this rich aural universe, no non-negotiable realities interfere with our dream. It is upon our return from the Nevermore journey that we may have a clearer look at what is left of our realm.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END14 October 2021

Arjen Schat: The Extragalactic Sessions Part 1

The Extra Galactic Sessions Pt 1Arjen Schat

Arjen Schat: The Extragalactic Sessions Part 1
Released: 1 October 2021

Most people are busy thinking about where they are going. The Spacemusic of Arjen Schat will have you reflecting on where you are. The first in a series, The Extragalactic Sessions Part 1 (67:05) maps the trackless void of space as thoroughly as it does the psychological terrain of the listener. It sounds like a thing the mind already knows, but the journey along its cycling sequencer structures and echoing tone patterns is nonetheless endlessly rousing and inspiring. Full of stirring sparks and charged currents this album imparts a wondrous sense of things much bigger than and far outside of one’s own self. An accord of cultivated synthesizer tones provide celestial accompaniment above the mysterious motoring meter of echoing notes. Giving rise to a palpable sense of propulsion the aesthetic of the Berlin-School is certainly felt in this monument to the imagination. Slow lead lines enter, resounding in a luxurious synthetic zone. The charged performances light out in expressive fanciful flights. Cycling away in space, then reverberating into a cool calm, this ride explores ideas of proportion and scale. Entirely enjoyable and fully felt, and possibly connected to technology in a spiritual way, The Extragalactic Sessions Part 1 takes us to a place that never ends. Its grand ideas, quiet drama and dark imaginings suggest a universe as large as the one within this artist. The voices he hears are those of his synthesizers. They talk in his head, combine, then divide, and in this way Schat’s sonic story comes together. An intelligence extending beyond the cold logic of machines, it is through our listening to these four substantial tracks that the pull of the cosmos commences. The emergence of an electronic musician such as Arjen Schat, one who asks the genre to go further, is an enormous gift to the discipline. His work is a communion with something that will be with us forever. It is about finding peace, beauty and meaning, the positive effect of which should be considered part of everyday human experience – and not merely the random rare chance encounter.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 October 2021

AES Dana: (a) period.

(a) period.AES Dana

AES Dana: (a) period.
Released: 7 July 2021

(a) period. (71:33) offers ten tracks to fire the imagination. Deeply felt, with absolutely no threat of overheating, AES Dana delivers the listener to that rare real thing; a sweet spot balance of the sonic and the psychic. An uncanny talent for interiority, Vincent Villuis‘ cool music accommodates equally well a steady heart and a moving mind. Reaching for transcendence, these realizations expand or contract based on the imaginative capacities within each individual listener. Rising out of the engulfing sense of depth, here and there we encounter soft beats. These slow pulsing grooves add an occasional propulsive direction to the drifting nature of (a) period.. Further in, the sense of atmosphere is palpable, and keeps us searching. Smooth and untethered, piano notes ascend through reverb. Among the venting synth pads and sustaining harmonies clouds of chords escape into the air, dissipating into deepening, questioning drones. While roiling electronics and slow melodic rolls provide vague signposts of the distance we have traveled, it may be difficult for some to determine their whereabouts along this album’s gradual arc. From a place of dispossession and alien thought, to self-sustaining, deliberately designed structures, (a) period. portrays the artists emphasis on the more ephemeral states. With its occasional swerves into the surreal this enticing music feels like a response to the future. By inviting us into its spacey colorful dream realm, the creeping dread of modern existence may be stilled – in this work’s response to an impatient world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 September 2021

Various Artists: Gemstones 2

Gemstones II

Various Artists: Gemstones II
Released: 17 September 2021

When you have reached the limits of what listening to Spacemusic offers, one must then make their own. The 12 synth sharps of Gemstones II (85:16) have studied the greats – not to imitate them, but to advance their beliefs. Extending the impressive anthology series from Cyclical Dream, the Ambient and Berlin-School themes and forms this second installment explores should be embraced by even the most casual listener. Each mindscape is a realm of its own, individually distinct and unrestrainedly imaginative. Few other electronic artists can conjure up such complete other worlds with such clarity, depth and beauty as these do. Setting forth from the here and now, these works forge forward under their own momentum. Each submission works off the energy of the one before it, and draws us into the next, showing connections and amplifying the value of all – illustrating that the meaning of this music is much greater than that of the individual maker.

Presenting an even dozen skilled electronic musicians, possessing abilities and backgrounds unique to each, Gemstones II opens with Gradient 12 by Robert Rich. Building a captivating sequencer backdrop, he lets lead lines freely flow to snake and drift about in the foreground… Expose by Erik Wollo follows in a glimmering beauty and striking sonic drama… In a tightly worked sequencer command Spacers by Martin Sturtzer enters rhythmic realms somewhere past ours… and even the author of this review (Chuck van Zyl) submits a personal expression; in The Child of Night light lilting melodic patterns settle into a Berlin-School sequencer ride… It’s Taken by Sam Prekop brims with an uncommon aliveness as energy and heat are exchanged… The trio Cartas de Japon hears their identities in the striding motor-motion of Estepa… Traveling through the void of space, Merging Into the Night by Max Corbacho descends into darkness… On Much Too Late the duo Perge spin out of orbit on rousing anthems atop ardent echoing tones… Then, with Still Untold Sophos rules the night… In what furnace did this dream of Fritz Mayr forge? Energized by a striding mechanized pulse his From the Ashes crosses an unimaginable gulf to reach us… Suggesting new dimensions Michael Bruckner & Rebekkah Hilgraves ask that we Love One Another, a restless and imaginative piece of beguiling sonic charm… Fondness by Filter-Kaffee begins as a portrait of desolation, infiltrates our minds with cycling arpeggio notes and ethereal harmonies, and concludes with questions posed at the edge of doom…

Inside this collection we find a universe in flux, where space flows like time and time stretches out like space. The music will live up to what we believe in it, what we believe it to be. For those robbed of their optimism, listening to Gemstones II should restore your faith in the future – because after all, that seems to be where all this great music is emanating from.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 September 2021

Lyonel Bauchet: The Diver

The DiverLyonel Bauchet

Lyonel Bauchet: The Diver
Released: 17 September 2021

Lyonel Bauchet‘s collection of electronic implements seem to carry the weight of ceremonial objects, that is until he starts operating them. Working off the energy of his imagination, he delves into a singular sonic cosmos of relentlessly synthetic sound. His The Diver (52:38) teems with weightless sonorities and blended timbres. Issuing from a well-managed system of modular synthesizer components and keyboards we might guess that this work belongs as much to the musician as it does to his instruments. But while this studiously constructed album exalts the modulation possibilities of the studio equipment, Bauchet’s music delivers a substantial revealing experience. From intense droning depths to lighter harmonic progressions, the five tracks on The Diver are continually contracting and expanding. Drifting in a cool blackness, then rising into orbit, the sound field shifts shape and scale – swinging gently between contemplation and dynamism. Further in rhythms rise in sonic celebration. A space motor spins out its sequence of notes. Echoing in unguarded patterns the aural energy expands, as we revel in how beautifully electricity may be rendered into music. Part of a genre with no limiting principles the wordless structures found here provide many inviting and reassuring textures – countered well by moments of experimental introversion and metaphysical mood. On this journey into the materiality of sound we may certainly notice the connection of imagination and creativity to technique and technology, but the most thrilling moment in listening to The Diver comes finally when we listeners claim what we are hearing as our own.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END16 September 2021

Paul Ellis: Panoramas 1

Panoramas 1Paul Ellis

Paul Ellis: Panoramas 1
Released: 10 July 2021

Paul Ellis has never confined his work to one medium or one space. With his Panoramas 1 (62:33) he returns to the genre of Electronic Music and its quest to penetrate the cosmic darkness. In a direct connection to the most elemental part of the listener this work generates drama through sheer sound. Like a comet heading for a distant star Panoramas 1 spends most of its energy searching. The deeply felt interior resonances of its two long tracks were, not really composed, but rather they seem discovered. As a thousand dreams gently burn, chill currents suggest a scene, and create a mood. Passing the limits of known forces we fall through space. Tones collide and combine. Even when chords move in contrary motion Ellis soon somehow finds accord. The timbre of his expressions are fascinating – of such shades lush and tender their beauty feels electric. Each section comes at us in a ramble of cello, a pursuit of melody, a duress of atmosphere. The musical language is lulling and languid, but as the disc nears its conclusion Panoramas 1 moves into a more energetic zone in an arcane, wandering way unique to this artist. Even as Ellis navigates a vista of sequencer patterns and keyboard leads, we become even more anchored to the intensity of this singular synthetic voice. Serving as an entry point, such elliptical exploration is just the beginning of a three part CD set. The music on this introductory, wide-ranging album delivers a treasury of moods and atmospheres. Both faint and muted, then inspiring and uplifting in scope, we wait for unity, and then meaning in the message it will convey.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 September 2021

Daniel & Booth: Circle of Phenomenon

Circle of Phenomenon

Daniel & Booth: Circle of Phenomenon
Released: 29 August 2021

Circle of Phenomenon (75:49) is another step forward on the restless journey of Michael Daniel and Phil Booth. Their music is not really about tomorrow, that is just where it sounds like it comes from. Aspiring to the past, present and future all at once, this is a work to get inside of, not just listen to. Unfolding beneath the yawn of the night sky the four tracks form a constellation constantly melting into and out of being. In a remarkable consistency of mood Circle of Phenomenon achieves a sustained atmosphere – away from the familiar climax and release of conventional content. In arrangements of gentle gravity, which take shape in recurring motives and portentous contrasts, expressive gestures register and resonate across time. From textures of desolation, and still chill zones, to a charged musical charm, Daniel & Booth embrace a great spirit of openness, energy and exploration. Never far from the scenes of Encore and Ricochet this EM release is not a mere compilation of sonic data – here an enigma is being circled. Swirling strings land in dark restless drones, leading minds to roam as much as the sequencers do. Where electric guitar solos rise in liquid leads, an energy strengthens below, is made continuous, and attains direction. A yearning Mellotron surges with vitality, and is soon displaced by dreamy synth lead lines. Hovering above the pulse of echoing patterns melodies race ahead, only to recede into a shadowy spiral. With an open-endedness true to the spirit of the Berlin-School, Circle of Phenomenon means to expand the genre. Heading out upon the deep Daniel & Booth shelter in their dream. Yet, as introspective as it is, this album is constantly reaching out – transporting the listener in ways they could never imagined.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END2 September 2021

Chronotope Project: Gnosis

GnosisJeffrey Ericson Allen

Chronotope Project: Gnosis
Released: 20 August 2021

Chronotope Project has released yet another striking work. All warmth and rounded edges Gnosis (52:18) is Jeffrey Ericson Allen‘s ninth album (his fifth for Spotted Peccary) and truly honors his complexity as a creator. Achieving an impressive declarative power he realizes a splendid work somewhere between the sybaritism of New Age and the sonic explorations of Spacemusic. Utilizing the expressive potential of this style, the shape of each piece offers a slightly different arc upon which the listener travels. From darkly resonant to dreamy and light, fine textures sooth – while further in tenebrous timbres question. Ethereal synth strings thicken the atmosphere – unfolding easily in the dreamy brilliance of shifting chord progressions. Yet with motorik vigor and formal control the tightly patterned pulses that traverse Gnosis induce distances of thought. Building tension with a subtle heightening of tone and darkening of mood, these six tracks occasionally acknowledge desolation, but overall the sonic spirit remains quite optimistic. With an intense intimacy confessional scenes expand into quiet softness. Animated by the power of melody the well-crafted tones found throughout Gnosis devour immovable static durations. It is in the generation of these bewitching melodies that we get a sense of both moment and motion. As this music approaches the future, and whatever is just beyond the limits, listeners conclude their experience nourished by this musician’s vision and hope, in a beautiful echoing of the essence of the artist.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END25 August 2021

Lisa Bella Donna: Moogmentum

MoogmentumLisa Bella Donna

Lisa Bella Donna: Moogmentum
Released: 21 August 2021

Oh were it true that our times moved with musicians like Lisa Bella Donna. This unremitting expressive force has for decades been delivering substantial, forward-thinking work to our ears – for the betterment of the world. Moogmentum (42:19) presents yet another success in expressive power. Sounding fully invested in making its own kind of magic in its own time this album brings motivic vigor and formal control to an eclectic vision. Across 42 minutes of sonic expression this album remains so engaging, so pure in belief, that we cannot help but follow along on this irresistible electronic journey. A direct and unforced, thoughtful work Moogmentum feels like this performer has no limit – employing various playing styles and devices right up to the edge of the mainstream realm. Extroverted with prominent rhythms and melodic hooks, and occasional inklings of Prog-Rock and Jazz acuity, Moogmentum comes off sounding perfect and effortless. Tones float and contend for the front row. Numinous and changeable as clouds, night-blooming notes execute serpentine solos in vacant space. Building tension through the subtle heightening of texture the tightly patterned compositions burn with halogen-bright synth chords – a harmonic exposition at electrical speeds. From the densely composed and brilliantly colored to something more quietly ecstatic the 12 tracks are rendered with intense intimacy. Please listen closely, because there is a great deal of life contained within each.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END19 August 2021

Brendan Pollard: Phrases and Protocols

Phrases and ProtocolsBrendan Pollard

Brendan Pollard: Phrases and Protocols
Released: 6 August 2021

Although of the Kosmische Musik category releases by Brendan Pollard are very much of the air-breathing land world. More than a reckoning with ghosts, his Phrases and Protocols (63:25) captures well the raw edge and interstellar mood of the Rubycon era. These three tracks do sound like lost discoveries from 1975 – dug up on Mars – and prove that, like the Universe itself, this territory is still well worth exploring. Its electrical atmosphere is just as strange and absorbing as the original, as is its rare emotional pull. In breathtaking passages of sequencer dexterity and Mellotron command Phrases and Protocols suggests that renewal is always possible. Tempestuous and dramatic, this album expresses itself methodically through weight, momentum and repetition. Where low doom-laden drones pervade, high untamed gestures oppose and reach for new heights. Gleaming tones, floating like secrets in the air, gets moving the gears of our imagination – while the motor machine precision of echoing notes sweeps in a wired energy. The scene created is so chill that in working out with his massive modular synth Pollard seems to barely break a sweat. Phrases and Protocols makes a strong case for this movement of innovation’s ongoing relevance. As our modern minds search for peace, it is good to find that all this Spacemusic is asking of us is to align with our inner mysteries. Success in this genre means reaching a different realm, and Pollard’s music certainly has an immediate effect on how you feel within your reality. In this masterwork of grand-scale intimacy we find all the charged bliss points of the Berlin-School, and a tender respect – as we continue to look for what lies just beyond the limits.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 August 2021