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Spacemusic Reviews

Ian Boddy: Altair

Altair

Altair

Ian Boddy: Altair
Released: 17 May 2019
www.din.org.uk

Following his 2018 visit to Philadelphia, we find that there is still plenty of fight left in Ian Boddy. Altair presents concert music from this trip. Dazzling and engaging, the first disc of this double album unfolds in the fast-moving, unerring style Boddy has become known for at The Gatherings Concert Series. Providing a comfortable feel, amidst neat beats and pulsing sequencer patterns, Altair veers between fearsome acceleration and a breathtaking stillness. Boddy’s talent for harmonizing aural pleasure and vanguard ideas is in full play here. The rapturous strings, expressive solos and machine tone patterns ask us to feel something, while atonal clusters and metallic rumblings challenge the listener to ponder deeper mysteries. Synth leads edged in platinum bring melodies played with poetic sincerity, and pleasure the ear with caressing phrases. Riding above an insistent bassline, interlocking sonic structures wind around each other in fragile synchronization. The potent effect of the seven tracks on the audience (and the musician) was intensified within the reverential performance space, and may be felt again at each listening session. The second disc in this two-CD set matches the celestial scale of the STAR’S END radio program – where it was recorded. An elaborate musicalized dreamland the five tracks of this volume finds consonance retreating into a separate territory – as modulated effects wear down harmonies with deliberate pressure and howling electronics bellow through cavernous reverberation. These portentous soundscapes, rendered in dark gauzy layers, are offset by passages of focused energy and a sense of rocketing between star systems. This fifth such transmission by Boddy creatively uses well the dynamic range available to artists invited to these sessions. Sonic fragments were mixed and matched and layered one upon another. A glassy calm begets a serene interiority, until an enchanting discord clouds our heads. Whenever a scalding, raspy roar wails in caustic disquiet, the negative space enlarges – straight on to nowhere. Boddy, like all other Electronic Musicians, makes music out of electricity – but his true material is time and space. Altair exists so that others outside the moments of these recitals may hear the truth of his work, and know the magic of traveling in place.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 May 2019

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Sven Laux & Daniela Orvin: The Writings

The Writings

The Writings

Sven Laux and Daniela Orvin: The Writings
Released: 12 April 2019
www.dronarivm.com
www.svenlaux.com
www.danielaorvin.com

The gentle presence of Sven Laux and Daniela Orvin may be felt every time we spin The Writings (49’16”). Either in collaboration, or on their own, their nine somber compositions will be the perfect companion for those occasions where we would rather be alone. Organized with understated design principles this work is meant to still our brainwave activity – as it creates a slow space for us to drift through. It is in the clouds just below consciousness that The Writings will be truly known. Harmonies play and progress, but sometimes become lost – floating to the forefront over and over again. Long unhurried chords emerge out of a soft aura of reverberation, as the music is performed in measured motion – a limitation that does not prevent Laux and Orvin from capturing many moods. In their brief spell, compositions reveal a withdrawn melancholy. While some pieces drag themselves down to a near standstill, others float along surrounded by thick silence – their sonorities given time to reverberate within the listener. Inside its nearly stationary atmosphere this album unfolds. The texture of chamber instruments usually comes through, as does a piano emanating soothing notes – in a room down the hall, or a synthesizer drone – somewhere in the house electric wiring. Brooding and luminous, as well as accomplished and satisfying The Writings contemplates an encounter for the mind – as it conveys a balm for the spirit. In their beautifully bleak arrangements, Laux and Orvin easily inhabit the gentle gravity of Ambient Chamber Music. Here these dependable quietists have realized a gorgeous journey into the elegiac – leaving us composed, cool and collected after the event. From what idyllic age must this study have come?

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 June 2019

Beyond Berlin: Totem

Totem

Totem

Beyond Berlin: Totem
Released: 6 April 2019
www.groove.nl

For many of today’s Spacemusicians, their inspiration comes directly from the Electronic Berlin-School of 1970s Germany. Almost 50 years ago this highly independent group built an entirely original genre based on their own new principles. Along with the use of new music technology, one of the main features of this so-called Kosmische Musik is its idea of de-limitation. The synthesizer ensemble Beyond Berlin (Rene de Bakker, Martin Peters and Oscar van den Wijngaard) is making its mark by exploring this ideal. Their CD Totem presents five studio tracks which, while based on the work of their heroes, are not mere mindless replications. Balancing a technological precision with personalized artistic expression, this trio references the order and harmony of the contemporary mainstream – all the while leading their listeners into a new sonic realm. As gravity bends light, so Totem bends time. In a clockwork clarity of layer upon layer of building ostinato figures, each piece plays out in a pleasantly melodic dreaminess. With its skipping sequencer strategies and animated chord progressions, the overall mood of the album is embracing – as warm as an analogue synth, yet as cool as digital space. The patterns blend, displace and divide in a warping coil of echoing notes. Totem has been designed with care, and carefully carried out as an exploration of expression. In anticipation of a better tomorrow Beyond Berlin realizes a dynamic and mesmerizing sound. With thought leaders telling us that nothing ages as fast as the future, it is good to find each successive generation of artists reaching far into it – in blatant disregard of the doubts of today.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 June 2019

TJ Porter: Darkness

Darkness

Darkness

TJ Porter: Darkness
Released: 18 April 2019
tjporter.bandcamp.com

TJ Porter professes a profound influence from the Berlin-School of Kosmische Musik, and proves it throughout every one of his album releases. His Darkness (41’56”) is loaded with throbbing sequencer patterns, and winding motor notes – echoing through space in synchronized machine precision. In lines of dancing tones, each row reinforces the next – while heroic chord progressions pluck both heartstrings and gray matter in equal measure. A vital energy courses through Darkness. In a brilliant adventure into an electronic wonderland of seven carefully conceived works Porter embraces the ideals that framed his music’s founding. The melodic content unfurls above and below the pulsing foundation. Wide open synth lead lines energize and brighten the air, and shift mood pleasantly – only to slow dramatically within a bubbling, undulating pace. There are also thought zones where the feel becomes more settled, locating a less energetic and more reverential atmosphere. With darkness on the horizon, the mind of this musician can still imagine events beyond cynicism and mistrust. Let us hope that Porter’s Darkness is what we experience just before the dawn.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END6 June 2019

Jon Durant: Alternate Landscapes

Alternate Landscapes

Alternate Landscapes

Jon Durant: Alternate Landscapes
Released: 3 May 2019
www.alchemyrecords.com

Along with all the usual effects boxes and digital processors guitarists use nowadays, Jon Durant arrives to the recording studio with a great number of solid ideas – good ones, the kind that must track across a sweep of beautiful moments and sonic states in order to become fully realized. His album Alternate Landscapes (58’36”) takes its time in getting its point across. The four pieces are mysteriously affecting, and brilliantly inhabit a musical realm richer and stranger than the standard fare. Alternate Landscapes will take some getting used to, as Durant’s inventiveness will engage unsuspected capacities of our ears and minds. He is not merely sending sounds into space, he seems to be making music whose motion induces space. Vistas may open behind this music – not as settings, but more like the airy or plunging ambiences found in dreams. With gracefully unfurling, caressing phrases, Durant extends his poetic ambitions. Loaded with lush layered guitar orchestrations this album seems of an endless energy. A complexity of sounds merge and separate, leaving the listener with the impression of an aural terrain in motion. As mild yet mysterious discord causes tension and anomalous melodies distend across an illimitable distance, each composition retreats into it own unique territory. Durant travels deeper and further with a resolute sense of discovery. He is also not afraid to veer off into unknown realms – exploring whatever sonics and phonics his improvisations may lead to. As an artistic statement, Alternate Landscapes has nothing to struggle against – other than the dullness of modern minds.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 May 2019

Thom Brennan: Imaginary Conquests

Imaginary Conquests

Imaginary Conquests

Thom Brennan: Imaginary Conquests
Released: 1 May 2019
www.thombrennan.com

With his musical compositions realized from a reverence for the natural world, Thom Brennan hopes to help restore the habitat of human thought. His CD Imaginary Conquests (70’59”) is perfectly in tune with itself and its maker. Luxuriating in the contours of harmony, Brennan finds a form of life in contemporary electronic textures. Each of the four tracks seem like a singular flowing thought – each asking us to tune into a unique, quieter frequency. Electric ribbons of sound sing of a synthetic landscape in sustaining chords, interlocking tone patterns and ethereal effects. With layer upon layer of arpeggio triads and tetrads, the entrances and introductions of subdivided rhythms settle the listener into a lulling reverie. Ringing melodies and rounded notes unfurl steadily, sweeping us away in an enveloping sense of magic. A spirited energy of consonant complexion and spiraling spacey effects imbue this music with a cerebral energy, while pulsing lines of echoing sequencer scales run parallel to one another in increasing levels of intricacy. In constant transition, these patterns seem just like the world in which we live. Simple in its construction, but endlessly complex in effect, Imaginary Conquests manages to sustain our imagination over a prolonged span. From its silvery and warm tones to a humming, gently charged atmosphere, Brennan’s synthesizer expressions draw us into his realm completely. So often do we humans look to music and art – and also to nature – for that which we are not able to find within ourselves. Imaginary Conquests is a deep musical environment meant as much for contemplating such mysteries as it is for guiding those merely adrift.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 May 2019

r beny: Echo’s Verse

Echo's Verse

Echo’s Verse

r beny: Echo’s Verse
Released: 15 May 2019
dauw.bandcamp.com

Smart people should surround themselves with beautiful symbols. Filling the habitat of human thought with the tones of peace and quiet the music of r beny (a.k.a. Austin Cairns) stokes our brighter instincts. His album Echo’s Verse (38’17”) provides an influx of mental stillness. Instead of exploiting our psychological vulnerabilities, this music hopes to enlarge us, to make us more than what we were prior to hearing it. Echo’s Verse brings back to Electronic Music all the values that the modular synthesizer movement sought to disassemble. While in some quarters pushing a patch to its ultimate expression (no matter how dissonant) is still designated a superior pursuit, behind this work a human consonance may be discerned. If you can afford to pay a different kind of attention to these six tracks, then you should, as this act may lead to a mental state conducive to independence. Drifting into your cognitive landscape placeless nodes of sonorous tonality fill a dull, neutral blankness with earnest wonder. Notes in the upper register tremble over sudden thaws and strange, imaginative fluctuations. Recurring melodies surface, to reassure the lost and arouse the adventurous – landing us in a comfort of blissful harmony. Where we find gently vibrating chords sweeping into extended moments of hope, further in we may just as easily be left abandoned and drawn down and into a dark, vague resolve. The proud topic of Echo’s Verse is sound – and it certainly did begin in the workshop, but it is meant less for tinkerers than it is for listeners. The music of r beny is designed according to the principles it elaborates – and is destined for the parts of our selves that are most alive.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END2 May 2019