Spacemusic Reviews

K Leimer: Found Objects

Found Objects

K Leimer: Found Objects
Released: 2 April 2021

Technology is at the service of K Leimer‘s unique imagination. Ideas and impulses are amplified into albums of ambient disposition, as his realizations reason their way through the air and to our ears. His Found Objects (63:51) feels as though we are entering a dream. With its 14 vividly realized reverberant reflections, these elaborate studio concoctions offer a range of thoughts and atmospheres of a character well beyond mere pretty piano music. Well inside, Leimer’s hazy harmonic language sinks deeply into laid-back coolness, and connotes a slow-winding, spellbinding Ambient Music. From desolate, darkly, starkly beautiful tracks, to strange vibrational rituals, Found Objects evokes a sense of space – while suggesting a light just beyond the horizon. Moving restlessly between smooth, serene keyboard melodies and dark-inspired experiments in mood, the success of Leimer’s many textural experiments does not preclude the occasional foray into the realm of the monumental. When the suspense of haunted memories gives way to something more regal, a mellow fanfare signals a noble stance, and the listener moves into sunlight. Defying the mess of drones rumbling beneath his glowing textures, Leimer shoves notes through grainy digital processing. At first chilly in their blankness, they resolve into vivid states of wordless quietude. Yet, a bit of instinctive brooding cannot hide the sparks within these inventions. Found Objects offers its blissful, uncertain intensity – in the belief that we may carry some of these conclusions into our everyday life.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END8 April 2021

Cartas de Japon: Sequence at the End of the World

Sequence at the End of the WorldCartas de Japon

Cartas de Japon: Sequence at the End of the World
Released: 19 March 2021

It will be hard to pick a favorite moment from Sequence at the End of the World (38’12”). Under the name Cartas de Japon sound seekers Lucas Tripaldi, Pablo Bilbao and Esteban Menash realize an exquisitely detailed Electronic Music. Building monumental musical structures from layers of mechanized patterns these elegantly virtuosic sequencer-smiths bring out feelings of certainty, possibility and potential in their listeners. While warmly singing synths poised above cleanly articulated bass notes may represent the mechanics of the mind, this album’s questing melodic lines bestow a heightened sensitivity to the promises of life. The intense expressiveness this trio exhibits throughout Sequence at the End of the World shows that they are not afraid to think big thoughts and make big statements, all while leisurely pondering the cosmos. As the rising and falling rhythmic chug of broken chords ring through space, we follow a smoothly curving arc of restless ever-shifting keys and moods. An ethereal Mellotron flute floats by lithely, and is met by full-bodied keyboard leads amidst steadily pulsing iambic rhythm – the charged twinkling arrangements greeting us brightly in their winning arrangement and vision. In the headlong drive of spiraling, electric glides ratcheting notes accent the striding motor-motion of ardent echoing tones. Resounding a range of resonances the seven tracks dance through time. Sequence at the End of the World lends sonic energy to the language of ideas, which leads the players and their audience to find a special fortitude in this work. Its hopefulness can be traced back to the beginnings of the Spacemusic genre, which remains a music for a future that never arrived. Every effort to invent the future reveals something about who we are today. While we cannot know what our tomorrow will be, someplace in this enchanted release is the idea that will change everything – if we could but hear it.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 April 2021

Steve Roach: Into the Majestic

Into the Majestic

Steve Roach: Into the Majestic
Released: 1 January 2021

Some people do not listen to Electronic Music, they merely think about it. Imagining what kinds of gear is being used and how it is all inter-connected into systems seems of greater interest to these types than negotiating the sonic depths and heavenly heights that good, spacey EM offers. Fans of synthesist Steve Roach have come to know the benefits of giving his work their attention. Leading us into a soft cosmos we find that, within any space that is given Roach’s musical presence, the normal physics of mass and gravity do not apply. The remarkable studio exploration he made during the 24 October 2020 livestream event will provide some focus for our lately wandering minds, as it tries to ease the tension between what is in the world and what is in us. Into the Majestic (73:59) presents the recording of this virtual happening, and is a welcome relief to sensibilities deadened by a year of scant encounters with concert music. Retreating into a world that he can control Roach opens with an expression of quiet hopefulness. Spectral synth strings overlap at variable distances. Freezing action at the height of its drama the forward march of echoing sequencer patterns transform the three dimensions into sound. The lines of ordered notes, ducking in and out of the shadows cast by soundfield textures, provide an aural energy for the language of Roach’s ideas. In variations of tone and chroma he explores the secret life of timbres – forming sounds that seem startled to find themselves conjoined. Into the Majestic realizes a zone that can be readily felt, but never physically touched. Attuned to dreams, spirits, starlight and moonbeams as much as it is technology, in the spare immediacy of the closing moments Into the Majestic approaches a resolution – ever churning in quiet reverie. This past year has found many of us navigating an unpredictable journey – and taking our blessings where we may find them. As creative energy moves from the artist’s interior to the audience, this album simulates the energizing in-person interaction of the concert setting – and adds another advancement to the flow of sensation and reflection that constitutes Steve Roach’s life in music.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END25 March 2021

Nemesis & Juha-Matti Rautiainen: Off the Map

Off the MapNemesisJuha-Matti Rautiainen

Nemesis & Juha-Matti Rautiainen: Off the Map
Released: 22 January 2021

The internal realm should not be a foreign country. Quite suitably, Off the Map by Nemesis & Juha-Matti Rautiainen provides the potential for exploration and discovery – as you will not be able to locate this troupe’s languid, woozy elsewhere of the mind using any known chart or guidebook. Culled from vast sessions of improvised collaboration the resulting work manages to feel meticulous and intentional, yet it only provides its travelers with provisional routes. Whatever navigational methods this outfit has used to guide its inventions, they have proved to be very effective – as the resulting release, in just the first few moments of each piece, defines its regions and plots its direction with great accuracy. Soft searching synth sweeps, moving at the pace of an elusive dream, progress with an air of deliberation. With rich details floating at the center, and sedate washes signaling from the edges, our journey Off the Map hopes to induce a heightened state of mind and heart. As restless waves of harmony search for their resolution, into the most dim distant quarters this music sheds light. Out of the dark armature of the Berlin-School rolls a mechanized sequencer pattern – the memories, aspirations and longings of this era present a captivating detour. From gently unfurling bright tones and shapeless thought zones, down to the rumble and rasp of rushing electronic emanations, Off the Map emphasizes the extensive span of its territory. Ultimately, across these ten tracks of lawless dissolution and sedate equilibrium the concept of boundaries and borders becomes meaningless. Satisfyingly spacey and forward-thinking this album takes its place in the endless, purposeful reinvention this genre calls forth. Attracting us with its interactive nature – in that the artist provides an atmosphere which the listener shapes into meaning – we emigrate from the known world to a world of our own. The best Ambient Music provides a buffer, a consistent in-between time within which to reflect, reset and conceive. On a planet where we all yearn to find the future more informed listeners will use this sonic map, not to find places and things in the world, but to invent them.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 March 2021

Jeff Greinke: Other Weather

Other WeatherJeff Greinke

Jeff Greinke: Other Weather
Released: 26 February 2021

Through music Jeff Greinke pursues an elusive sublimity. Summoning the gentle gravity of the Ambient Chamber Music style his Other Weather (59:06) is performed in a measured motion. Played on conventional ensemble instruments (piano, cello, viola, violin, French horn, clarinets, flutes, percussion) the 11 tracks combine a range of colors and textures, harmonies and melodies, moods and spirits. From shapeless Ambient zones to somewhere more incisive and emotionally rapt, his gently unfurling works bloom over time – each benefiting greatly from patient listening. Its emphasis on interiority offers, to those who will hear, personal truths. As soon as one clarifies, another is born. In becalmed poetic brevity each perfectly paced piece generates a unique idyll of uncommon sensitivity. Reverberant piano notes hover at the center of some compositions, while, further in, through Greinke’s elegant arrangements, his troupe together rises – playing slowly and dreaming freely. Inducing a heightened state of mind and heart the musical form resonates with the music’s message. So how then does Other Weather make such a remarkable impression? How does it achieve its rare quality? Perhaps because Greinke’s years of experience experimenting endows it with a reach denied to other musicians. The deeper spatial impressions Ambient Music affords and the furtiveness it encourages bestows a sedate equilibrium – known especially well to this artist. His beautiful music is for more than just taking refuge. It offers time to recalibrate your mental ordering of the Universe, and your place in it. The flowering of such thoughts will show the designs of Other Weather – which aims for the heart, by way of the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 11 March 2021

Erik Wollo: Recurrence

RecurrenceErik Wollo

Erik Wollo: Recurrence
Released: 22 January 2021

Erik Wollo occupies a special place in the space-time continuum. Realizing music that shifts between contemplation and intimacy, impulse and wonder, he seems to turn each moment of listening into something more vivid than is possible in any earthly spell of time. His Recurrence (64’14”) displays an impressive command of the sound-space. In tightly worked performances of rare focus Wollo draws on an apparent in-born mastery. Mingling rich tones, rhapsodic gestures and silken textures with bristling guitar lines and shimmering synth notes he creates harmonious landscapes – where our mind will find some peace. Wollo’s work always extends in a vast world embracing scope, and Recurrence moves outward amidst his distinctive design. Its eleven tracks (eight on the CD) fluctuate between restless sonic states and the more refined and elegant frequencies. The darkening then brightening of notes and chords repeat, then resist soft sequencer patterns. An alive atmosphere provides an area through which each piece may move. With generous applications of reverb and echo an airy halo seems to surround each note. Synthesizer voices blur one into the other, forming sonorous colors of striking beauty, as Wollo aims for the high horizons of the spirit. From a crisply articulated and confident control of the musical flow, to the singing sadness of electronic choirs and strings, Recurrence offers a wealth of serious, inviting complexity. Spacemusic has no higher aspiration than to rise the listener above their worldly concerns to a place where beauty speaks for itself. Erik Wollo’s advanced magic aims to provide this sense of renewal – as it transforms the knower in the living movement of music.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END4 March 2021

Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen: Strange Gravity

Strange GravityCraig Padilla & Marvin Allen

Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen: Strange Gravity
Released: 15 January 2021

Strange Gravity (64:35) is most remarkable for how it fills space. With both exceptional scope and nuance it is a release of genuine force and shear dramatic intensity. This second collaboration between Craig Padilla and Marvin Allen may have begun as an expression of their friendship, but in the act of making this music the duo takes on a larger creative significance. The album spins in a fine showcase of ingenuity and natural chemistry, and highlights each’s gift for melody, texture and careful emotional balancing. Memorable, confident and deeply considered Strange Gravity is delicate, but steady – progressing like a breeze that builds to a gale when the mood takes it. Down its five tracks Allen’s silvery guitar licks gleam like metal through Padilla’s gauzy shimmer of synthesizers. Where electric steel strings rise in floaty psychedelic grace, the weight and warmth of rounded synthetic tones recasts the sound in a jolt of buzzing energy. In its slowly unfolding ambient elsewhere each guitar riff falls cleanly into place. These extended wanderings maintain a pristine musical surface, as in more energetic zones the pure rush of showy lead lines and synthed-up indulgences motor on toward starlit reaches – discovering new, more vivid corners of the cosmos. Spare, but expressively pointed, an atmosphere of unity hovers above Strange Gravity in a hypnotically lush timbre. Reveling in what they have made Padilla & Allen remain sensitive to the promises of the Spacemusic genre – and shine brightly within their work.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END25 February 2021

Peter Chilvers & Jon Durant: Always Golden Sands + Vista

Always Golden Sands + Vista

Peter Chilvers & Jon Durant:
Always Golden Sands + Vista
Released: 11 December 2020 + 15 January 2021

There is the kind of Ambient Music that you notice as you would notice the wallpaper or the furniture in a room, and then there is the kind that you notice because it is whispering something to you – something intimate, something only you can hear. Venturing into this alluring territory keyboardist Peter Chilvers and guitarist Jon Durant have realized two releases; first on the EP Always Golden Sands (19’14”), followed promptly by the album length Vista (50’44”). Meticulously improvised across separate solo studios the resulting music is tranquil, but never intends to lead the listener into sleep. As it grows dreamier its meaning sets. The ever-changing levels of atmosphere, melody and texture are a gift to the imagination. Vista presents five well-ordered impressions in an opulent tone. Wherever used, Durant’s guitar subtlety explores all of its registers and shadings, with Chilvers’ piano engaging in lovely melodic substance. In a slow-motion churn of harmony the two elicit strikingly beautiful sonorities sensitive to the flux between consonance and something a bit more disconcerting. The soft cosmos of the lengthier concluding track grants a deep interiority. However, this duo does not give over completely to the serene and sedate. Somehow, amidst all the reverb and digital processing on Always Golden Sands, Chilvers & Durant find room for a beat. A simple steady drum pattern enters, leaving room for picks and plucks of clean steel strings, as well as the drones and groans of tremulous synthesizer notes, and even some open space. In a command of gesture and color this duo reveals slowly changing perspectives. Each possesses an exquisite ear for composition. Reacting to the other’s piece of the story so gives their music warmth and a recognizable human character. While some may find these works staid, polished and composed – others will hear how uninhibited both Always Golden Sands and Vista truly are. Yes, Chilvers & Durant do play carefully, so that we may dream freely. Enchantment never tips over into stasis in their expressions of memory’s blur. The past may be dark, but this music soundly wins the future – and flows with the solemn and blissful insistence of life itself.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END11 February 2021

Steve Roach: Tomorrow

Tomorrow Steve Roach

Steve Roach: Tomorrow
Released: 23 October 2020

All through Tomorrow (73:59) Steve Roach exhibits a continuing fascination with the sequential controller – the essential device used to explore his reiterating, pulse-based, minimalist music. Aligning this technology to his creative vision Roach’s expansive work irradiates rather than occupies space. Across Tomorrow‘s five tracks synth voices intertwine in arrangements of gentle gravity, and take shape in portentous contrasts. Echoing and recoiling through the sound space lines of notes interweave in machine precision, as spiraling electric glides and cycling patterns blend perfectly beneath vivid atmospheres. Progressing beyond the aforementioned stretches of luxurious chords and spacey, shimmering accents the listener encounters tranquil zones for drifting and thinking. While we might not give a thought to the hidden cognitions that made these sections possible, the craft and artistry found on Tomorrow does indeed show a firm grasp of tonal organization and musical structure. Its recurring motives and expressive shades of sound gain a magical release for our thoughts – as disused channels of the mental faculty are gradually opened and lit up. When this kind of innovative expression first came into being, its first few listeners described hearing the future. Not the music that would be popular in fifty years, but a sound from somewhere other than the known past, or the fleeting present. It was of a time unknown to us, of somewhere else, of an age yet to come – it was of the nearest possible Tomorrow.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END28 January 2021

Jesper Pedersen: Katydids

KatydidsJesper Pedersen

Jesper Pedersen: Katydids
Released: 5 November 2020

Across the mysterious heavens of the mind machines are singing to us. In another demonstration of how beautifully electricity may be rendered into music Jesper Pedersen has realized the album Katydids (61:23). A masterstroke of pure creativity, musical technology and intent its veering, dissolving planes of sound compel us to contemplate where we are in a given space, and how our sensations alter as space changes shape around us. This music’s weightless sonorities and blended timbres issue from a well-managed system of modular synthesizer components. Over the slow building ascent of each of its five tracks this brilliant follow-up to Three by 15 (2020) exerts a confident magnetic pull. Some sections emphasize energy, while further in Pedersen’s potent forces recede, and are replaced by subdued aural environments. The two moods meld together, and in these fleeting moments we are unable to perceive between light and dark. In vivid tones giving way to paler, starker ones we find a fractured beauty resolving – and ultimately restoring a stable consonance. Thus Pedersen recaptures our attention, even as the listener is drifting into a serene hideaway of thought. In the way the various forms track, swerve, arc and bend, then concentrate and release into the shared space, Pedersen connects with a wider range of minds. Jumping, gliding and dashing through a mystical electronic realm Katydids irradiates rather than occupies the sound field. It is the kind of magic you will feel fortunate to have found and known.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 21 January 2021