Spacemusic Reviews

Robert Rich: The Biode

The Biode

The Biode

Robert Rich: The Biode
Released: 25 February 2018

What will we be thinking about while we listen to The Biode (57’37”) by Robert Rich? Is existence a property? Or a state? How do we measure the modern world? What constitutes the self? A talent on a free course, Rich progresses, not in a straight line, but in alternate divergences from one side of creativity to the other. His work on The Biode re-awakens the discussion of music and the surreal. To the ear accustomed to soothing atmospheres, this album is a risk – as it deviates quite seriously from better known traditions. A great deal of its charm lies in its ability to confound and perplex. An exploration of new aims and tendencies, the ten tracks found on The Biode are each an exploitation of carefully chosen and contrasted tonal qualities. Rich’s harmonic lubrications are subtle, revealing the dim light of mystic musing. Instrumental tone colors are combined, yet each stands clear of the other – asserting a mutual independence. As a gathering of rhythmic threads arise and resolve in unconventional sequencer patterns and percussive structures, tiny snatches of melody pass like vain dreams – heedlessly into some other chord. From sweet, to pungent, to the primordial, a slow progression of pale hues test permitted concords and discords. Throughout this release Rich features his notable research into the qualities of timbre, into the effects of new combinations of tones. These imaginative modulations are highlighted as prominently as the more familiar reverberant flute solos, steel guitar leads and synthesized pads. The result is a wonderful zone of beautiful melodies and sonic grandeur, accented by glurping electronic utterances and an unsettling intonation. However scientific its conception may have been, The Biode proves very expressive. As faithful in detail as any of Rich’s best work, it represents the furthest progress yet in acknowledging the human subconscious, and the emotional and intellectual attitudes of the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 March 2018


Forrest Fang: Scenes From a Ghost Train

Scenes From A Ghost Train

Scenes From A Ghost Train

Forrest Fang: Scenes From a Ghost Train
Released: 30 January 2018

If what you are witnessing in the waking world leaves something to be desired, then why not leave for a while to visit with innovative musician Forrest Fang? His album Scenes From a Ghost Train (69’16”) moves our minds as well as it caresses our ears. Entering a higher sanctuary, an enchanting subtlety carries us into idyll. The vast designs found within Scenes From a Ghost Train imagine a realm where both forces of dark and light exist equally. In an awesome quiet of soothing sounds, trembling tones whisper in the dim hue of a minor key. Plunging into languorous chords, Fang carefully resolves their further course. As the late rush of rhythm breaks out we feel a strange power of motion. A primal force, tumbling in headlong descent, the sounds of percussion measure the expanse – and access the pulse living within us all. Becoming lost in the clouds, or bathed in moonlight, synthesized notes slowly progress – around and through those of acoustic origin. Then, with the onset of an ominous dirge, chilling shadows return. Wherever harmony seeks a lower foundation, a subtle, insinuating dissonance sets in. As a mystic air rises slowly in hollow intervals, within the theatre of the mind chronology becomes hazy. Again locating our place, piano notes resound through cavernous reverberation, only to be consumed by dense metallic clouds. A significant attribute of Fang’s music may be found in its combination and resolution of integral themes. So constant is the derivation of ideas on Scenes From a Ghost Train that we must imagine them all to be related. This master should feel the full worth of what has been achieved. The ultimate goal of the endeavor is not the strikingly new, but rather the eternally true… a musician’s journey that may help you to understand your own.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END15 March 2018

Chuck van Zyl: Recitals 2

Recitals 2

Recitals 2

Chuck van Zyl: Recitals 2
Released: 31 March 2018

Chuck van Zyl has been a man finding his moment, in any live space that will hold him. The double CD Recitals 2 presents music recorded at two late 2017 performances. His shows for The 6th Floor and DIGITAL DREAMS were documented with an ordinary two-track recording device. After months of review, two 60+ minute sonic journeys were produced, and released as Recitals 2.

The possibilities of Electronic Music make it the perfect tool for exploring spontaneous composition. Recitals 2 is an example of two such events – both without a predetermined outcome – where the gathered and the musician experienced the music together. A receptive audience brings out van Zyl’s strengths, while the hushed space receives his work. The heat of this struggle melds into the music and spirit, softening and melting, then hardening and tempering the player. Each of this album’s two concerts moves powerfully and naturally, unsettling the world into which they intercede. A musician of the imagination van Zyl’s seeks the pure delight of providing an epic intimacy in the digital age. Determined to conjure kinetic joy an animating force tickles your mind and tugs on your heart – as agile sequencer antics thrill and the vulnerability of improvisation connects. In ever strengthening whirlpools of thought, rows of echoing tone patterns are deployed. Amidst the lines of echoing, dancing arpeggio notes a racing heart turns, runs and trills in melodic invention. Heroic keyboard leads and Mellotron harmonies peak over a pumping, commanding bassline – only later to be drawn down into shifting shadows of sustaining synthesized textures and a quiet sense of mystery. While cliff-high chords stall the dramatic momentum, an infinity of volumes provides a feeling of elation and abandon – only to descend to a skeletal negative space and a bewitching haze of free form randomness.

Recitals 2 takes each member of its audience on their own personal journey. With its deep space gateways and brilliant, skull crushing sequencer breakdowns, from the heights of its combustible, cut loose, superb heedlessness, on down to its quietly ominous consuming dark fields, this music invites wonder. Beginning with simple electronic devices and ending with the multi-dimensional world known only to the imaginative, Chuck van Zyl harnesses the machinery of night. Unblinking, completely in control, he performs in a cool constraint. It is remarkable that, after so many years, the creative flame still burns bright. His concerts are a probe of the calm facade, of the internal mystery – and reach towards the unseen depths within us all. Recitals 2 tells a powerful story of an exhilarated mind – a mind roaming well beyond the concert stage.

From the Press Release – 8 March 2018

Howard Givens & Craig Padilla: Being of Light

Being of Light

Being of Light

Howard Givens & Craig Padilla: Being of Light
Released: 8 September 2017

While the synthesizer ceremony which begot Being of Light (68’26”) may have begun in a studio, it concludes well out into The Universe. Howard Givens & Craig Padilla have met again in a fellowship of the imagination, and aspire to be their best selves. Building on a musical relationship established on their previous release Life Flows Water (2015), they continue to mine the possibilities of Spacemusic as the perfect tool for exploring the possibilities of the world. As the robust dialogue unfolds in weightless flight, we find it hard to resist a work animated by such free-form randomness. Passing through the night, diffuse emanations rise against a much larger backdrop. As starlight chords shine in a shadowy midnight, waves of rounded electronic figures produce tranquil zones for inward contemplation. Within mesmerizing drones, this album’s momentous moments slip by in a beguiling ease. Yet, thanks to its recurring synth string chord motion, harmony and contrast interplay to great effect. Making a gentle path through the sense of hearing, Being of Light presents four sustained atmospheres for fathoming our own mental mysteries. Issuing cool notes as in a round silvery beam, well-warmed keyboards seem determined to conjure joy. Measure upon measure of slowly changing, undulating chords advance and recede along a musical arc of vague dimensions. The slowly breathing tones summon interesting variations in mood and space. Synthetic pads rush together to form a still subtle layer, as further in the atmosphere charges with a wispy, bewitching haze of restrained, poetic minimalism. Signaling forward motion, the quiet patter of slowly repeating bass notes support well-placed guitar and piano, hovering just within our grasp – offering much-needed points of reference along an expansive aural journey. Givens & Padilla shape the listening experience by stretching and compressing time through the arrangement of sound, its density and timbral elements. In cool constraint, they dwell in restful sonic colors – luxuriant in their stillness. Any work flooded with this level of emotion is worthy of our respect. The refuge of music offers (those open to it) safety from the prevailing contemporary spiritual vacancy. Being of Light brightens, and the darkness seems chased away – which should be quite helpful while charting the inner map of knowing.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 March 2018

The Nightcrawlers: The Biomorphic Boombox Recordings

The Biomorphic Boombox Recordings

The Biomorphic Boombox Recordings

The Nightcrawlers: The Biomorphic Boombox Recordings
Released: 23 February 2018

What better breeding ground for Electronic Music than a detached garage in Merchantville, New Jersey? Both unworldly sonic visionaries and conscienceless musical innovators, decades ago The Nightcrawlers offered a new view across the release of three LPs and 35 homemade audiocassette albums. Most active during the decade of 1980 this group was more than just three isolated figures functioning in a mythic hinterland of technology and expression; underlying the wires, amplifiers, speakers and gear was their tale of a better tomorrow. The Biomorphic Boombox Recordings attempts to chart their larger story with a pure invitation to listen.As studio standards did not matter much to The Nightcrawlers (Peter D Gulch, Tom Gulch and Dave Lunt), their raw, consumer grade, open-mic recordings contained a great number of extraneous sounds from the room (or even the surrounding neighborhood), a lack of fidelity, as well as a healthy helping of tape hiss. Thanks to the careful application of modern audio treatments, the experience of listening to the music selected for inclusion on this anthology has now become a bit more enjoyable.

Fueled by the illusion that an artist’s potential is limitless, The Nightcrawlers perfected live, improvised, real-time composition – the three musicians fully realizing their work in its commission. Possessing a brutish edge, they exerted a serene, secure authority and their numerous jams and live concerts became the learning ground for many emerging artists.

Beginning with a great number of interconnected music machinery, and ending in a vivid sphere of atmosphere, at every outing The Nightcrawlers managed to produce a fantastic netherworld of floating forms, bristling nodes and torrential electronic energies. Their quiet, smooth space interludes were more works of imagination than invention – and relied heavily on the chemistry between the three members, as opposed to conventional virtuosity or song structure. As they wind out in riotous pulsations, each piece gains power and depth. Guided along an arc of energy-devised on-the-fly and in-the-moment, each one of their numerous synthesizer ceremonies gave rise to a realm of eerie beauty. Alternating between sequencer bustle and space-age grandeur, their prolific performance sessions came out different at every new beginning. Through the generation of rich textures and hushed tones, nothing more than our own thoughts now guide these minimal movements. To see the stars we need a dark core, but with warp-drive we may touch them – and most of the tracks on The Biomorphic Boombox Recordings exemplify these kinds of explorations. Energy builds as sequencer patterns deploy, and synth lead lines unfurl – all in service to the kinetic zone through which we are traveling. Granted, this music is a bit unusual, even by Spacemusic standards, and we will benefit from any adjustments made to our expectations. But this music is more than an assembly of minor-key notes and moody timbres. Whether augmented by the presence of a substantial audience, or just the three musicians together feeling their way through uncharted space, each track found on The Biomorphic Boombox Recordings ranks among the most open and honest music ever played live.

While we may be better off not trying to fathom the inner mysteries of The Nightcrawlers, it is undeniable that they were responsible for music that captured moods, expressions and atmospheres in ways that still has us re-thinking our relationship with live performance. Free, unfettered and alive, their vitality, intimacy and courage carry their work on well past the time of its inception.

Listening to The Biomorphic Boombox Recordings we may feel as though we have encountered the collective unconscious of a lost underground movement. The Nightcrawlers were not ever conventionally ambitious, and took an eccentric path through musical expression. A questing trio, they made forward-thinking Spacemusic that commanded our attention, music that asked to be listened to. That was how the future looked to us back then. And now today… we cannot help but wonder – how is it looking now?

– Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 February 2018

Jeffrey Koepper: Transmitter



Jeffrey Koepper: Transmitter
Released: 20 October 2017

A performance of music usually includes many sets of eyes on the musician – who (to do their work) must block them all out. This is not so with those coming in to the WXPN/STAR’S END studio. This select group may do their music before a relaxed, remote audience – but however heavily lidded, the sleepy being transmitted to definitely have their ears intently open. Jeffrey Koepper came into the relative calm of the 18 June 2017 radio broadcast of STAR’S END to draw on the limitless freedom of the Spacemusic genre. Before thousands of distant listeners his music roamed over the airwaves and beyond the studio – to eventually become the album Transmitter (58’18”). The realm of space resists attempts to reduce its music to a sentence or two, so describing this kind of work will be difficult. In a mastery of detail we journey across seven tracks and textures – traveling through realms clotted with stars and pulsing with energy. Activating constellations of brain cells as wondrous as anything imagined by astronomers, we are guided simply by our own lush thoughts. The mood encountered on Transmitter is quite inward. To fall into the rhythms of this trek, one must lose all sense of time. Softened atmospherics provide areas of gently meditative repose, transformed as sequencer loops rise through still tones. While coiled patterns circle burnished synth strings, we find every flash to be offset by a cool, radiant stillness – as its gorgeous dream sequence expands and contracts along an easy arc. Affably energetic, the potent, revved-up sections offer dramatic momentum. Doubled in echo, electronic blips run through the night – eventually tugging the minor-key chords back into the shadows. Eliciting plush, pliant harmony from his synthesizers, Koepper finds the gorgeous hidden universe STAR’S END travels through every week. Spacemusic is the perfect term to use when describing Transmitter – as the scale of this music offers no shortage of possibilities. Drawn into a musical experience of larger proportions the play and shade of our interior becomes an enthralling space of imagination. Most Electronic Musicians use electricity as raw material. Possessing a unique human-synthesizer connection, Jeffrey Koepper may possibly be extracting energy from the same current powering his instruments. Thanks to the commercial release of this CD, we may feel the charge too, and return to this singular wireless emanation whenever we so desire.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END15 February 2017

Hollan Holmes: Prayer to the Energy

Prayer to the Energy

Prayer to the Energy

Hollan Holmes: Prayer to the Energy
Released: 1 February 2018

Beyond mainstream contemporary music we know well that there are worlds both surprising and fascinating – yet it is still quite difficult to get people to visit them. Encountering the music of Hollan Holmes would surely leave the first time traveler wondering what took them so long? Prayer to the Energy is his sixth release. A double CD of high principles, it is yet another opportunity for Holmes to share his excitement for his highly personal style of EM with others. Much more than a collection of mechanical signals, Prayer to the Energy is an interpretation of the self – his and ours. Felt like a spark of warmth through the icy Universe, the astute listener will enjoy the details and geometry in its texture (that is if you are not first lulled into a blissed-out state of repose). Sound waves propagate and exhibit colors, textures and opacities both intricate and alluring. Confident melodic lines lead into near digital black, while further in an Escherian lattice of cycling notes echo out like the furies at work. Here the sequencer patterns act like a force accelerator – as swooning dabs of sound achieve a strong, contrasty, multi-tonal soundfield. Variegated in tone and atmosphere, Prayer to the Energy moves from densely packed benighted soundscape to the brightfield sound of layered analogue synthesizers. Presented with shimmer and gleam, brilliant chords build and haunt. Holmes regards his gear as a rich sphere of aesthetic possibilities – always applying his instruments in an imaginative and individual way. The 14 tracks found on Prayer to the Energy (the two most lengthy works were commissioned for STAR’S END) lead us through a delicate realm. We the people of this community have the unique ability to hear things in a way others cannot. It is important to share this privilege. In realizing his work Holmes has made a journey that few can understand – yet through the simple act of listening, of traveling through this music, it may be fully comprehended… and Holmes always makes this destination worth the trip.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 February 2017