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Spacemusic Reviews

Chuck van Zyl: Celestial Mechanics

celestialmechanics2017Chuck van Zyl: Celestial Mechanics
Released: 2 June 2017
www.industryeight.com

The outward appearance of Celestial Mechanics is that of a CD album, but its true origin extends back to the era of tape. The 1980s found Chuck van Zyl (and his many compatriots) recording Spacemusic and releasing it on audio cassette. During this span, Synkronos Music put out a trove of cassette releases, including The Moment of Totality (1990) and Callisto (1989) by Chuck van Zyl. Each held two side-long pieces of music, and established a series of releases by van Zyl representing his enthusiasm for Astronomy and the Cosmos. So Celestial Mechanics may be viewed as compiling these early works onto a CD, and getting them out before the public – and that is exactly what Centaur Discs Ltd of Scotland did in 1993 – thus presenting Chuck van Zyl to the world beyond his small mail order following.

That original CD edition has been out of print for some time now. But thanks to the Philadelphia based label industry8, Celestial Mechanics is back, re-mastered and treated to modern audio enhancements, and a vastly improved fidelity. Housed in a limited edition, four panel digipak, and adorned with vivid NASA probe images, it offers those interested listeners and collectors the opportunity to encounter the significant backstory to one of our community’s most unique affiliates.

Inspired by space, the physical universe, and all of its intricacies, as well as by classic Kosmische Musik works from out of the 1970s Berlin-School, van Zyl realized the four pieces found on Celestial Mechanics as personal electronic odes – to the four Galilean moons of Jupiter, and the astral motions of the solar system.

Clearly influenced by Crystal Lake and Rubycon, as well as by the direct mentoring of The Nightcrawlers (the NJ Space trio with which he was so closely associated), van Zyl found himself finally making music that, not only properly portrayed his cosmic yearning, but was representative of the restless, creative spirit which had inhabited him for so long.

As we listen to Celestial Mechanics, we can feel this world of discovery still living on. The repeating music box sequencer intro of the title track immediately turns our thoughts to the virtues of The Universe as a place of possibility and wonder. Sounds build out, and additional lines of rhythm are introduced. A magic machine pulse provides a distinctive energy, one more of the mind than of the air. Confirming synth lines surface – reassuring the lost, and arousing the adventurous – and dramatic chord changes help us ascend further still. As we pass through eerie amorphous interludes of drones, metallic tones, and wondrously modulated aural accents, the mounting tension resolves.

The emergence of an ever repeating pattern of echoing bass notes supports the lilting melody of a soft synthesizer lead. Minimalist sequencer runs motor on, then gradually brighten. Individual notes are transposed and repeated, minutely altering the pattern and quickening the music’s pulse. After a few variations in momentum, the music slows, and expends its previously built mass in thoughtful repose. Transitioning out of this energetic phase the magical beauty of its closing section solemnly brings Celestial Mechanics to its conclusion.

While Celestial Mechanics includes all of the texture and atmosphere the Spacemusic genre is known for, its biggest success is in its entertainment of a most unusual idea – of traveling while being still. New musical territory can only be discovered once. Chuck van Zyl has built profoundly upon all of his. They are but reference points – in a field that is inexhaustible.

STAR’S END2 June 2017

High Plains: Cinderland

Cinderland

Cinderland

High Plains: Cinderland
Released: 10 March 2017
www.kranky.net

High Plains, the duo of Scott Morgan and Mark Bridges, sends out music from several opposing angles. Their collaboration Cinderland (36’19”) goes down byways you may not have expected. With Morgan providing keyboards and a range of electronic textures, pulses and swells, we hear Bridges’ cello effortlessly holding center stage. Our ears reach out to this enchanted realm, as we give ourselves over to each distinctive spell across this album’s nine brief tracks. From the restorative and consonant pieces the listener will feel at ease, while further in Cinderland‘s creeping premonitions become so chilling that the cold will seep into your bones, and set there. While the nature of these troubled pieces may be difficult to reason through, the dissonance repays all the attention – in showing a pathway to the center of your self. As we listeners, once no longer tied to the fate of the world, or the course of the planets, tend to be drawn to the territories inside. Roiling synthesizer sounds are used to define mass and volume, with rhythm being something reassuring to occasionally hold onto. Organized in understated compositional principles, Bridge’s cello plays out its slow melodies atop, through and according to Morgan’s various constructions of atmosphere. The audience will encounter each progressive work as a discovery. Some will feel consoling, while others harsh, which is just the point of Cinderland. As we hear these works, and allow them to open inside of us, we experience fully the grip of melodic and harmonic ideas, and another amazing journey through the imaginary space of music.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 10 August 2017

Hammock: Mysterium

Mysterium

Mysterium

Hammock: Mysterium
Released: 25 August 2017
www.hammockmusic.com

Mysterium (58’07”) conjures a twilight, slow-motion realm. Hammock, the duo of Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson, here produce 11 tracks worth of shadowy blue nocturnes. While this work is an act of pure expression and atmosphere, it is concisely formed and executed to the standards of the Ambient Chamber Music style. Their lush instrumentation of strings, piano, horns, choir, and so many variations of electric guitar tones, sends us a soul-deep sonic portrait from a symbolic plane. With a poet’s flair for valorizing, their songs of withdrawn melancholy send the listener on a gorgeous journey into the elegiac. Organized with understated compositional principles, chords and melodic fragments float along, their sonorities given plenty of time to reverberate inside the mind of the listener. From its nearly stationary landscapes to structured, goal-oriented harmonic narratives, Mysterium is textured, precise and alive. Its arrangements of gentle gravity gains shape in recurring motives and portentous contrasts. Mysterium has been derived from expressive shades of sound. Long unhurried melodies emerge out of a soft aura of harmony, to cling to the ears and whisper in the heart – speaking to a place where words are unnecessary, as sound tells the story best. Quietists at heart, Byrd and Thompson make music for souls in transit. Mysterium reaches for serious moments. It is the product of years of purposeful effort – and an invitation to step inside the musician’s mind. Their personal realities are a special place to occupy. Meant for self-reflection, Hammock has released a transformational, lovestruck album – a beautifully colored collage of memories and daydreams, in which the players (and listeners) may become fortified in the aftermath of loss.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END3 August 2017

Fhloston Paradigm: After…

After...

After…

Fhloston Paradigm: After…
Released: 16 June 2017
www.kingbritt.com

Notify the STAR’S END universe, a new star is here. Renowned Philadelphian and internationally acclaimed Producer/DJ/Musician King Britt presents After… (57’07”), the current output by his Fhloston Paradigm music project. To intrepid travelers along the deep and dark spaceways, this album will show an edge-to-edge magic – as these ten sonic encounters will put a hum in your ear drum. With a gentle precision the music on After… generates reassuring atmospheres of electrical synthesizer tones and digital textures – all rolling out beneath a cast of beautiful women’s wordless voices. Each guest vocalist brings a distinctive expression, perspective and talent. From a pervasive sense of calm to a most potent magic, as we journey through After… we may feel the strong tug of some unseen charm – and wonder what strange, wonderful spell has been cast? Progressing through these wondrous thought-zones, we find ourselves on an excursion where every track is a mind trip. Some notes are so deep your DNA will vibrate, while further in they are as light as cosmic cotton candy. We can tell from the somatic positioning of each piece, that Britt owns every sound, on every layer – including the absence of drums. By leaving out this most conventional feature, After… provides a thoroughly new and innovative vibe – somewhere between the countenance of the female spirit, the voicings of the ethereal, and the human encounter with the world. After… confirms that blending technology and music at this level can produce touching works, music as intimate as our own blood cells, with the structure and strength of just discovered alloys. Writing music for other people is just nuts and bolts. After… was made for all of creation. Wrapped in the luminous glow of human consciousness, it is full of electronic poetry – as, with its focus on the electro-sonic, it contemplates new narratives of existence. King Britt is now setting the beat for the thinking and feeling set. He proves himself to be a true thinker, amidst gearheads who tinker – in acts that prove, if you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much space.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END27 July 2017

Cosmic Ground: Cosmic Ground Live

Cosmic Ground Live

Cosmic Ground Live

Cosmic Ground: Cosmic Ground Live
Released: 17 June 2017
www.sunhair-music.de
www.cosmicground.de

Pondering galaxy-sized questions, Cosmic Ground entered the concert hall. Compiling performances from two 2016 events (E-Live & The 9th Psychedelic Network Festivals), Dirk Jan Müller and Horst Porkert have realized the album Cosmic Ground Live (77’49”). The four tracks where made in the heat of the moment, as these conditions are known for revealing the creative spark, and finds both musicians and their listeners experiencing the music together in the act of being made. The trick is for neither to become too lost in the process. Cosmic Ground Live begins broodingly downbeat, with dark forms rising from out of dark corners of the mind. Bass laden drones try to swallow a melodious Mellotron flute solo, which lilts blessedly above a maelstrom of writhing timbres. Wrapped in a luminous halo of reverberation a string section rises from the deep dense rumbling electronic tempest, before the introduction of Müller’s signature breathless tone patterns – which mount, repeat and seem to echo out across eternity. A demon behind the sequencer, he occasionally observes the audience – who will always tell you which way to go. Each new ascent presents the classic sound of one or another vintage synthesizer, and a shivery reverence that defies explanation. Weeping choirs and full-throated waveforms endow this release with greater passion. The compression that comes from these reprieves of stillness intensifies feelings found in the passages of acceleration. With each set, our Spacemusic mystics manage to conjure a stimulating atmosphere of mystery, adventure and motion. Once inside this expansive zone, we may travel to the place where lives our dearest hopes and dreams. Cosmic Ground Live glows with mystery and possibility, pushing through the outer limits of mainstream constraints. This is the music we may turn to whenever we need proof that further possibilities for representing innovation, mystery and drama in music still lie out there; in an ever-receding possible elsewhere. These kinds of live concerts are a spectacle of wires, electricity and wits – something that trusts all who hear it to think.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 July 2017

Bernd Kistenmacher: Disintegration

Disintegration

Disintegration

Bernd Kistenmacher: Disintegration
Released: 1 March 2017
mirecords.blogspot.com
www.berndkistenmacher.com

Knowledge alone is flat and lifeless, but may become meaningful through the accumulation of experience over time. Bernd Kistenmacher will tell you that this path to knowing is long, and permits no shortcuts. His album Disintegration (62’46”) offers eight electronic listening studies, informed by his decades long involvement in Spacemusic. Each piece exhibits a distinctive mood and atmosphere which keeps us well within a chilled space throughout this journey. Rhythms and slow beats do emerge in a few places, but the overall feel of Disintegration is that of contemplation. Beneath changeless constellations synthesizer strings build out and hold, as bass laden drones bulge with portent. Then later, like a spark in the open air, glittering modulations spray and dapple their sonic particles in echoing trails. The wheels are stilled, leaving room for the rushing of metal drones and slowed adagio synths. The ambiance softens, as the delicate lilt of an ascending voice reaches us from out of a diffuse celestial realm. Bernd Kistenmacher has learned how to reprogram his own mind. He forges together the vocabularies of technology and art, memory and music, literature and mathematics, electronics and emotion in his search for the perfect language – a cognitive language in which he can truly think. A language that is more expressive than anything we have before encountered. Waiting for a sign in the sky, or a word from the stars, Kistenmacher has taken the way of the thinker – and never loses sight of the cosmic wonders he is trying to capture, or of the nebulous mysteries his audience is trying to fathom. Disintegration can be as warm as the sun on the skin, or just as easily become like the dark light holding grinding galaxies. An exploration of sound mass, where the collective textures of instruments are treated as one single entity, his music breaks out with forlorn voltage.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 July 2017

Steve Roach: Spiral Revelation

Spiral Revelation

Spiral Revelation

Steve Roach: Spiral Revelation
Released: 20 January 2017
www.projekt.com
www.steveroach.com

At every outing, the task of artists like Steve Roach is to craft a new realm entirely out of sound. His album Spiral Revelation (63’00”) offers six electronic realizations of such discovery – meant to stimulate the imagination as well as hurry the interior current within. From the simmer of pulsing synthesized bleeps and soft echoing percussive patter, to chilling angular abstractions of sustained musical thought, Spiral Revelation deepens quietly through hinterlands that call out to be explored. With minimalist sequencer grooves giving rhythm to the surface of sound, patterns echo out across vividly imagined distances. This world seems in a constant state of motion. With everything moving, everything centered, the air seems to ring like a cold struck bell. Conjuring a thick atmosphere as if from a hushed spell, deeply breathing chords stack up and sustain. Shifts in emotional temperature result out of Roach’s exploration of sound mass, as the kaleidoscopic cross link of repeating motifs propel the listener along a helix of syncopated tones. The energy arcing through this work is an appeal to the imagination – where we may ponder the mysteries of the universe within and without. Traveling in place is the promise of all Spacemusic – and this Spiral Revelation aspires to permeate the illimited distance of both our interior and exterior space.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 6 July 2017