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Spacemusic Reviews

Stratosphere: Collaborations I

Collaborations I

Collaborations I

Stratosphere: Collaborations I
Released: 21 April 2018
www.industryeight.com
www.stratosphere.be

In his music project Stratosphere, guitarist Ronald Mariën, creates loop and effect heavy music that drones and burbles, tinkles and undulates, as if acknowledging the fragility of the state it offers. With his album Collaborations I (72’28”) he pairs off with nine other musicians to produce as many tracks in a distinctive range of new music. Mariën provides each collaborator with an atmosphere over which they may lay their signature sounds – each adding something to the effort that Mariën cannot conjure on his own. As ghostly assemblages of drifting guitar textures meet muted synthetic harmonies, we might zone out through whole songs at a time – only to become startled by some pristine sonic detail buried in the mix. In the restless surge of advancing tones the listener may find strength in the stillness – just as easily as the next track unleashes a lava-hot guitar drone “deal-with-it” drum jam. While some efforts do take the ear strangely, Collaborations I also provides enough reassuring ambient thought zones to color the listening space with familiar tones and warm temperatures. In the movement of these masses of sound, and the resulting radiant, translucent conditions, we find a certain comfort in all the openness, space, possibility and even the danger – as each track struggles for its own unity and cohesion.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END   19 April 2018

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Skoulaman: Next Step in Evolution

Next Step in Evolution

Next Step in Evolution

Skoulaman: Next Step in Evolution
Released: 31 March 2018
www.groove.nl
www.skoulaman.nl

Whether you came to know the music of Skoulaman by watching the impressive collection of jam sessions and demonstrations on his Youtube channel, or through attending a live show, in the music of Hans van Kroonenburg we will find a pleasing outward motion. His album Next Step in Evolution (77’56”) contains six slow-paced sequencer improvisations that will hold our interest in melody as much as they do our intrigue with the mechanized pulse. That these excellent works were realized in real time live in the studio exhibits van Kroonenburg’s ability (and ear) for working in the heat of a fleeting moment. By concentrating on live concerts he perfected his skills in performance techniques and the musical journey. With its arching melodies and well-developed narrative element, Next Step in Evolution provides a pleasurable, low-wattage drift through an electronic sensory consonance. Setting airy strings next to rapid daubs of echoing arpeggio notes, each track develops and builds variably. Repeating synchronized tone patterns enter, once introduced by reverberant electric piano and luxuriant solo synth leads. By using a range of vintage and modern analog style synthesizers, van Kroonenburg has access to and immediate command over all layers and aspects of the music – as it is happening – yet, has the good artistic sense to occasionally simply stand back and savor an especially interesting pattern or pad that shimmers in the sound space. Next Step in Evolution may be admired for its originality, nevertheless it is still a recognizable continuation of the illustrious tradition of spontaneous composition. As much as he can hold forth in the live setting, it may be that van Kroonenburg’s greatest gift is in just waiting for the sounds to tell him what to do. However, no matter how deeply Skoulaman may become fully absorbed in realizing and conducting this music, were we able to look into his realm, we would find that the only person truly, fully in the magical space he creates are you and I – the listeners.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 April 2018

Free System Projekt & Terje Winther: Spoon Forest

Spoon Forest

Spoon Forest

Free System Projekt & Terje Winther: Spoon Forest
Released: 31 March 2018
www.freesystemprojekt.nl

Free System Projekt believes that sound expresses something in itself, and each new production is an opportunity to further explore atmospheric relationships. Along with Marcel Engels and Ruud Heij, their album Spoon Forest (69’59”) features the sonic interest of Terje Winther. This collaboration does lead the group into regions they may not have visited on their own. Charged with electricity, every aspect of their three sonic landscapes is in motion. From pastoral simplicity to overloaded modulations, vivid aural tints form a handsome contrast. These contemporary colors of tone reinforce each others power and significance, while alien oscillations bloom and blossom into questions for the listener’s mind. As a synthesizer hymn winds its further course, glittering effects entwine about the harmonies – all against a rapid path of echoing lead lines and a growing height of celestial choirs. Over the hushed motion of the ordered array of sequencer notes, a plaintive Mellotron flute grows to full melodic statement. In one long gathering of speed and power, a charge of strings command cosmic forces – only to be brought down to the speed of thought by a few expressive Rhodes electric piano notes. While Spoon Forest may stir deeply an intelligent few, its overt experimentation will leave the weaker among us grasping for meaning. Throughout this work of energy and emptiness we are asked to think for ourselves or (at the very least) just sit quietly and feel the scale of the music working on us. This release takes the listener on a journey with (and within) the three musicians. Spoon Forest conveys how deeply this outfit feels the essence of Spacemusic – harmonious and dissonant alike – and takes the music to a place where machines cannot go.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END5 April 2018

Robert Rich: The Biode

The Biode

The Biode

Robert Rich: The Biode
Released: 25 February 2018
www.robertrich.com

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
www.projekt.com
www.forrestfang.com

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
chuckvanzyl.weebly.com

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
www.spottedpeccary.com
www.howardgivens.com
www.craigpadilla.com

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