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Spacemusic Reviews

Robert Davies: Afterlight

Afterlight

Afterlight

Robert Davies: Afterlight
Released: 26 October 2016
www.dataObscura.com

With a deliberate simplicity Robert Davies produces music that welcomes the listener’s thinking. His album Afterlight (62’20”) is a work that transports us from the perception of our physical reality to an imaginary realm of open, luminous, harmonious space. For the ten minute duration of each soundway, we are in Robert Davies’ world. His six delicately shaded sonic studies explore stable terrain. With no linear configuration, stark tones and strong textures present a featureless plain stretching in all directions – the perfect nowhere, beyond the literal directions of music. But once we align our thoughts to the stillness of its slowed down thought zones, we find Afterlight to be quite active. Sustaining organ tones present as naturally as the summer field insects gently buzzing nearby. Softly breathing drones hold deep support for the slow notes of a muted electric piano, and the gradual motion of electronic ornamentation through upper regions. As sonic values gradually progress in slow spiral recessions, a low churning draws our attention to something making its way on to our plane. Another interesting feature, Afterlight easily assimilates the sounds of outside the listening space. The rain drops on the roof, the rumbling delivery truck out front, the kids next door, the dog across the street; in a true Ambient Music sense this music accepts and incorporates whatever is happening around us. Within its timbral modeling of contours and volumes Davies’ has found this area to be unmapped, and open for exploration. Should one listen to his minimal music? Is it even possible? We should encounter Afterlight as we do the beautiful sounds of crickets on a solo night walk in the woods, or the surf at the edge of the ocean at sunrise. Afterlight conveys depth, volumes and contours within the sphere of a consciousness – as a respite from the cacophony of the modern world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 April 2017

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani: Sunergy

Sunergy

Sunergy

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani: Sunergy
Released 16 September 2016
www.igetrvng.com
www.kaitlynaureliasmith.com
www.sevwave.com

The main feature of Sunergy (53’57”), the collaboration between Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani, is its proximity to electricity. After just a few minor transitions, the current that pours out of a common wall socket is sent out upon the air as sound. A duo uniquely suited for this task, Smith and Ciani both hear the melody of engineering, and the harmony of technology. Perceiving how their music systems works, as a whole, as an entity, in deep jam sessions they drop back into their music, like it is their own place. As serene as they appear in this activity, some smoke may be detected rising above their heads – the smoldering yield from happily firing synapses; as the three tracks on Sunergy perfectly capture the transportive pleasure of a creative pursuit. Exhibiting improvisational confidence and control these players listen to and follow each other through delicately shaded studies of expanding and contracting planes of sound. Ever adjusted modulated timbres provide motion and expression throughout a fluctuating field. Charged with vagueness, oscillators become blocks of sound, and repeating patterns of notes provide a constant stimulus to the imagination. Growing like an organism, sets of notes steadily repeat while others rush and flourish, and the mind of the listener stretches to every dimension this work occupies. Sustaining tones writhe beneath sweeping processes in a suggestion of synthetic refinement. In reciprocating imagined zones, a saturating electric dust evokes the delight of abstraction. Yet, with its consonant tone and winsome nature, this work is simply very easy to listen to – gently opening up the mind to new insights. Both Smith and Ciani believe that their electrical devices were meant to be performed on in real time, realizing singular musical works out of such sessions. They follow a play of emotional expression that cannot with any completeness or exactitude be defined. But, of more significance than what they are doing with their instruments is whatever it is they are triggering in our minds. In our modern digital age, we find Electronic Music has emerged as the most unrestricted genre in the history of music. It is the music of ideas – and electronic instruments are machines perfectly suited to make their users think. Its possibilities are far broader than was ever imagined. Lesser music asks you to think big, then gives you nothing big to think about. With these textured, imagined sonic worlds, we try to find how close music may bring us to the truth, and the feel and force of life. With Sunergy, Smith and Ciani attempt to find out, and the world is undeniably richer for their work.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 April 2017

David Parsons: Puja

Puja

Puja

David Parsons: Puja
Released: 15 March 2017
gterma.blogspot.com

For decades, David Parsons has been a traveler of admirable character. A silent, restless witness to humanity, his movements are directed by curiosity, which, in an Artist, is always outweighed by fear. The seven slow-burning compositions on Puja (73’35”) seem to originate in specific parts of the world, and move beyond the boundaries of any Western construct of time. Better than the perfect nowhere of lesser Ambient works, up close listening reveals the sound elements to be beautiful; worn, rough and resonant in ways that invite contemplative scrutiny. There may be dark stories from out of these places Parsons likes to visit, making Puja somewhat unsettling in its eerie calm. His sound worlds cover the listener, coercing you down – to some forgotten, primitive stage of thought, and an exquisite haunting. We may not enjoy every track, as one may not find it enjoyable to feel these works seeping into early parts of the psyche, which have never been accessed before. Low, gritty drones bedevil ethereal choirs above, as the unknowability of The Universe comes to us in a warm whisper. A subtle work, this album touches nuanced notes of reverence and ceremony that are rarely known in innovative music. While synthesizers seem to rub up against cold stone, further in notes please – as would the afternoon air redolent with bruised flowers. Exhibiting an understated melancholy, Puja offers field recordings of ceremonial ringing, people in prayer, and an environment teeming with nature. From a specific cool 4AM black, to hot, hazy afternoon gardens, this music feels authentic – proving Parsons’ willpower to be the strongest force on Puja. It is difficult to tell people of the digital age that there is more wisdom in the ancient world than in the computer. This requires an act of imagination almost completely missing from the present day. Usually Spacemusic takes us out of the mortal realm, providing respite from troubles round the globe. Puja is music from the world, and shows us just how wondrous a place it is – if we would only just see its landscapes, breath in its air, bask in its sun, and know its people. This music takes us beyond the limits of technology. It senses the wonder of the past, while ignoring the disappointment of the future.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END6 April 2017

Weingarten – Charlton

Where There Is Light

Where There Is Light

Weingarten-Charlton: Where There Is Light
Released: 9 December 2016
www.spottedpeccary.com

There have been a great number of instrumental albums featuring piano and guitar, but none feel as heartfelt and well-executed as Where There Is Light (42’44”). The duo of electric guitarist Carl Weingarten and pianist Catherine Marie Charlton present the world with music meant to fill the air with more than mere sonic perfume. While lesser musicians tend to oversimplify their subject, Where There Is Light provides eight open, thoughtful, honest, wandering explorations of harmony and melody – rendered ever so fragile by metal strings and wooden keys. The drama and shifts in tone are firmly in the control of the musicians. Listening to this album, as each track opens, breathes and develops, the listener will feel as though they are being confided in by Weingarten and Charlton – with some intimacy meant just for us. Their stirring rhapsody of notes, and pauses, sustaining tones, and slow snaking leads, tells, better than any string of words, of blue feelings and emotional states. Weingarten plucks, holds, strums and loops his electrical timbres in perfect placement around Charlton’s elegant piano touches, dabs and strokes. While the clean, clear sounds of the grand resound into reverberant space, subtly driven swells emerge to augment the expression of the passage – yet just as easily, these emanations will draw us away from the recognizable, and into brief dark ideas. At times forceful and dynamic, somehow Where There Is Light never descends into exaggeration. Each beautiful composition feels as though it is an extension of some aspect of the musician’s inner life, meant for us to examine and feel their mood, and to perhaps better understand our own. Sometimes, the most powerful works are those sent to us in a whisper.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 March 2017

Rudy Adrian: Coastlines

Coastlines

Coastlines

Rudy Adrian: Coastlines
Released: 7 October 2016
www.spottedpeccary.com

Rudy Adrian makes Spacemusic for The Earth. With Coastlines (57’55) he evokes the heart-felt and gentle atmosphere of terrestrial textural fantasy. This album means to move the listener out of everyday life, with all of its dissonance and discord, and into a bewitching thought zone of telluric beauty. The ten silvery tracks on Coastlines are quieting to the mind – each an electronic expression of our beloved blue planet, and the connection we as humans feel toward the natural world. Envisioning a consonant and inviting nature, Rudy Adrian employs a number of musical methods in depicting and conveying his convictions; including breathy native flute, oceanic field recordings, ringing keyboard melodies, rounded synthesizer tones, and his own vocals, all proceeding slowly through cavernous reverberation. The grandeur of Coastlines‘ sonorous harmonies is earthened by imaginative electronic modulations – just beneath a misty aura which surrounds the sounds. Each work, a singular flowing thought, asks us to tune into the quieter frequencies. But being meditative does not mean Coastlines has to be vague. The peculiar pull of its hidden depths seems to draw equally on a current of thunder underground – while twilight swaths of color hover above, blending to mask the armed sparks of the air. With its easy cosmic intimations, Coastlines guides your psyche to stillness through the reveries of stasis. The result is beautifully drifting and transporting music, restful to the intellect and comforting to the spirit. Rudy Adrian has been at this for a long time. He continues sharing his music because it soothes him, and he hopes to bring people along with him to this special space.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 March 2017

Magnetron: Impulse Response

Impulse Response

Impulse Response

Magnetron: Impulse Response
Released: 3 June 2016
magnetron.bandcamp.com

Magnetron seems to be on a long voyage in a dark country. The duo of Steven Humphries and Xan Alexander bring out the strengths of one another’s distinctive voices – and transcend the four walls of today. On Impulse Response (72’46”) they marshal synthetic forces to convert electricity into colors you cannot see. Each composition builds in depth and complexity without becoming unduly tangled, creating a mood of nostalgia in a futuristic story. In its four track linear delivery of power, Impulse Response stretches and contracts the musical landscape in a simmering emotional temperature. The distant soaring ranges of chords ascend to great heights – with the power of life just below. Animated by the patter of repeating and expanding sequencer lines, each work echoes and advances, building out amidst Mellotron flutes, strings and brass. The experience becomes more detailed as synth leads speak to the heart and sonorous chords try to tally the soul. From the secret whispering of the world, and zones of frail vacancy, to musical forms storming across a machine-made minimalism, Humphries and Alexander get the proportions just right – and pull the listener into the drama that they are living. The critical establishment never understood this kind of music, they never caught up to it, never even tried. Without the restraining view of the mainstream, we continue to fearlessly break new ground. While contemporary musicians are searching for their voice, Electronic Musicians are searching through their consciousness. They are thinkers, not just craftsmen or engineers. Our music is probably too big for the world, yet it is always fully alive to it.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END16 March 2017

Eyes Cast Down: Souls Adrift, in Disrepair

Souls Adrift in Disrepair

Souls Adrift in Disrepair

Eyes Cast Down: Souls Adrift, in Disrepair
Released: 12 July 2016
www.eyescastdown.com

A soundtrack from out of the middle distance, Souls Adrift, in Disrepair (73’52”) uses stillness to superb effect. Eyes Cast Down (multi-instrumentalist Greg Moorcroft) asks that you give his delicately layered performance your patience. Once we adjust our ears to the minimalist arrangements, what emerges is a slow steady tempest of sound. The five stark compositions found on Souls Adrift, in Disrepair evoke different questions from the ones we are used to. We are asked to look within, and think about what feelings and sensations we experience while listening to this album’s sustaining drones, breathing chords, and dense forms – things large enough to swallow you whole. Whatever drama does arise on Souls Adrift, in Disrepair, does not come from harmonic displacement, melodic invention, nor counterpoint, but from contrasts in the sounds themselves. Stripped of almost everything, but for the subtlest shifts in atmosphere and light, this work opens up a space for one. Moorcroft relies on a myriad of electronic processing devices to transform his guitar playing into the textural masses found on this album… and a learned musicianship to direct this technology. Beautifully restrained moments, borne in improvisation, extend in slowly decaying ripples beneath gradually undulating contours. Aural details come in and out of focus, in shades of twilight and sepulchral frost. As each tone breathes into our listening space, we feel a slow force of momentum. Near album’s end, a reverberant piano enters, repeating its question again and again. When shadows pull together, ethereal voices add to an enfolding darkness. The reason this album seems so quiet is because there are so few other people saying these things. The unadorned beauty of Souls Adrift, in Disrepair relates to human fragility. The dark alliance of unmodulated sounds imparts a haunting force. As ideas and emotions cross borders, the outside world remains an abstraction – possibly a parallel present to the loftier firmaments of the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 March 2017