Spacemusic Reviews

Carlos Dengler: Private Earth

Private Earth

Carlos Dengler: Private Earth
Released: 2 June 2023

Carlos Dengler approaches music making with a radiant receptivity to beauty. His Private Earth (52:30) is an ambient sigh of quiet captivation. Expressively played and exquisitely produced, each of the thoroughly inspiriting six instrumental tracks draws us into a remarkable realm of musical tranquility and enchantment. This album cannot wait to show you what it can become. Dengler’s competent compositions feature mesmerizing figures, forms and color – plenty of wonderful welcome details to grant you entry. As acoustic instruments establish their presence, the pieces develop consistently and remain completely in focus throughout their duration. Shimmeringly installed in the mind Private Earth expresses a more melodic imagination. With Dengler providing ambiance and atmosphere, Keith Bonner’s breathy flute tones float gently above wispy synth pads, strumming acoustic guitar, spare piano and chirping field recordings. Naturally pacing the narrative to the length of one breath, this elysian work stays consistently on the human level. Where sound shapes into texture the atmosphere combines and broadens in fascinating ways. A sustaining mood forms, offers meaning, then resolves in reverie. Our brains and bodies appear to slow, restless reflections fade, and an opportunity may arise for the purposeful pondering of one idea at a time. The effect seems to weaken the confines of borders as we are asked to contemplate the details of our planet that matter most. Sometimes a window onto a new world can also show you home. With its eloquent melodies, impeccable instrumentation and appealing arrangements, contented are those who tour this Private Earth.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 June 2023


Tangerine Dream


Tangerine Dream: Encore
Released: October 1977

Reinterpreting the form that they helped establish, over a series of concert realizations Tangerine Dream emphasizes the unimaginable gulf which lies between interstellar space and the listening mind. Their 1977 double LP Encore (71:49) helped free us from the confines of the present in a metaphoric language belonging more to the dream lands than to our daily routine here on Earth. Listening to Encore decades after its recording we remain in its thrall. On an engrossing escape into the innovative past we are still struck by TD’s originality and continuity of vision. Encore offers a radical musical perception into reality while conferring something passionate and eternal. Like all good live albums Encore exudes the danger and excitement of discovery. Its four side-long jams propel the audience into distinctive storyscapes. Through the coded references of the now classic flute, strings, choir and other ethereal Mellotron sounds we feel the pull of the cosmos. Giving rise to a rousing sense of propulsion, creamy synth leads hover wistfully above the throbbing pulse of interlocking, multi-layered sequencer patterns – which race ahead, then diminish into a swirling atonal ether. As a wandering electric guitar solo plays out into the the upper regions, strange modulations and deep somber chords make contact with the inner dark of Spacemusic – and fuel our headspace journey. In the disoriented frenzy of a nightmare the harmonic assembly of tones reveals a luminous treatment of texture and shadow – and conjures primitive realities from an unsettling remoteness. Further in, as strange forms climb into existence and hover all around us, those attending this music find an allegory for the limits of reason and rational thought. Summoning the imagination Encore was among the first releases to encourage a deeper form of listening – one that helped us reconnect with our own true selves, and to those of others. Defined by its ceaseless reinvention and transformation the early innovative works realized by Tangerine Dream in the 1970s combined the human desire to invent and innovate with a highly personal notion of beauty as a quieter counterweight to the truths of post-war Berlin. This shaping of the future continues to this day – and is compellingly revealed in each successive generation of players and artists in Electronic Sound.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END25 May 2023

Ian Boddy: Modulations III

Modulations III

Ian Boddy: Modulations III
Released: 5 May 2023

When he sleeps, Ian Boddy surely dreams of his synthesizers. But when Boddy’s synthesizers slumber, do they ever dream of him? Sublimating reality with the power of sound Modulations III (181:52) continues a period of remarkable creative expansion. Heading out without a destination our confident quester summons frenzied and desolate moods with equal conviction. In shades and degrees of timbre Boddy utilizes his Modular gear to express an extraordinary range and vitality. His seven striking sonic inventions, roaming from several minutes to almost an hour, extend from metabolic eruptions and high tension stillness on down to a more reasoned set of quiet thoughts. Throughout Modulations III Boddy plays as if he has something trapped inside him, which seems to be escaping in reeling groans and electronic surges. Producing free-spirited works bursting with the joy of making he communicates a sense of motion in the breathless rush of secrets shared. Searching phrases shiver as strangely, smartly set forms rise with precision and variety. Further in soundtrack ready swells sink into an entrancing haze of electrical activity – settling in an atmosphere of doleful retreat. Where tones glow and grow more abstract they become distant from personal experience, and so float more freely across time and space and into the interior realm. Progressing from straight abstraction to an idyllic synthetic ambience, then advancing venturesome melodies over bulletproof drums our wild adventure feels transmitted from somewhere out ahead. The future is all around us, yet is revealed quite unevenly. Actively attending this album, we get a glimpse. While Ian Boddy continues his efforts to master the use of color, scale, and composition his well-warmed synths leave the listener in a restless mood – waiting for the next group of transcendent realizations in this exceptional compilation series.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 May 2023

Jeff Pearce: Path to Returning

Path to Returning

Jeff Pearce: Path to Returning
Released: 13 April 2020

Whenever Jeff Pearce visits STAR’S END Ambient Radio he does not just take to the airwaves, he transforms them. His fifth such juncture on 8 October 2017 overcame all modern obstacles to deep focus to realize a substantial hour-long atmospheric soundworld. Rooted deeply in the key of space his Path to Returning (61:37) presents this live-to-air STAR’S END session. Improvised in a form of music in need of decoding, Pearce’s free-spirited weightless work quietly flows from the joy of playing. Sounds floating with perceived gravity, mass and scale attempt to portray all that is intangible and transient. The two lengthy tracks reach the dreaming mind, known for its inherent opposition to the constraints of rationality and sensibility, where it harmonizes with the infinite. His superstar, super-sized soundscape soloing provides us with an impressive range of subdued notes and shaded moods. Surrendering to the stillness we unmoor ourselves from conventional ways of listening. Path to Returning builds slowly, because its author is realizing a different kind of world. Issuing a round silvery beam of cool tones, Pearce’s processed electric guitar breathes warmly in easily engaging curving contours. Further on, in a restless mood, Pearce transmits from somewhere out ahead. Once you tune into his restrained aesthetic the subtle shifts become more forceful – and fuels our journey to the future. Composed in an expanded minimalistic style, this continuously lulling long-form piece gently drifts through Ambient realms. A quieter, sustaining experiment, it takes its time developing its idea. Moving gently through our sleep, over an audience tending toward the beautiful, mysterious and meaningful Path to Returning shares its secrets – on soft wings of sound, across vast distances of thought.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END11 May 2023

Robert Rich: Travelers’ Cloth

Traveler' s Cloth

Robert Rich: Travelers’ Cloth
Released: 1 May 2023

Travelers’ Cloth (64:40) finds Robert Rich again discovering, and then following possibilities. Out of an intense creative ferment come nine novel nomadic tracks. Evoking mental pictures, Rich’s is a mind music which enters always through the heart. Executed using the seasoned skill his audience has come to appreciate, he transforms the natural emanations of flute, piano and guitar into something else, something foreign, something more ethereal. Once surrendering to these quietly captivating formations we may feel their beauty and glow. Wherever synthetic sonorities surround groupings of acoustic sounds and instruments, we cross into the land within the artist. Further away, the motive power of trekking drums provides a propulsive, finely detailed drift into myth. As digital samples mix with percussion, and a glissando guitar glides across notes, synthesizer tones respire beneath a distant, heaving atmosphere. The listener, now traveler, dreams over the great distance of imagination, to rest upon timeless textures of timbre. Our thoughts follow this music into a welcoming aural realm of ideas – reprieved briefly from the life sentence of a grinding world. Rendered as a euphoric, many-splendored journey of fleeting moments and sonic pleasures, Travelers’ Cloth revels in the flowing motion associated with living things. Robert Rich’s music has life, has unique and subjective focus, concept, context and point of view. Made in the age of machines, yet fully human, there is plenty here for us to treasure.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END4 May 2023

loscil/Lawrence English: Colours of Air

Colours of Air

loscil/Lawrence English: Colours of Air
Released: 3 February 2023

Alive with dialogue and detail Colours of Air (49:27) grants us an octad of slow-moving headspaces. loscil (a.k.a Scott Morgan) collaborating with Lawrence English endow their work with pensive depths and a studied sedation. Floating forward into a new era of music this duo presents their poetically precise symphonies of thought in a release so lifelike you will not notice how much of you is in it. Colours of Air represents a kind of art that respects our capacity to search and roam. Overtaken by darkness the benighted listener waits for shapeless tangents to emerge and guide us from scene to scene. From bloodless, airless studies in sound to a dense, brick-like heaviness, then giving way to tremulous, nearly weightless, woozy textures; to absorb this album the brain must make connections that cannot be traced in any lab. With no conventional rhythm or melody, that does stick in the mind, whenever changes in atmosphere form a sudden gravity we locate ourselves under distinct districts of sonic pressure. These mysteries of ambience lead one down strange pathways, where the complexity of color pursues a wide-ranging tone through spatially supple settings. But even after engaging very carefully with Colours of Air you will get near the end and still have many questions. Multiple encounters will provide greater insight into the mechanics of these eight realizations – or perhaps a collapse under the weight of their vague intricacies. More than mere songs, these tracks are electronic odes to the mysteries of existence – and in need of a radiant receptivity to beauty to complete their design.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END27 April 2023

KiloWatts: Live on Star’s End 01.29.2023

Live on Star's End 01.29.2023

KiloWatts: Live On Star’s End – 01.29.2023
Released: 30 January 2023

KiloWatts (a.k.a. Jamie Watts) was given an hour of airtime, and in return he gave us a quietly captivating, forward facing expression. Live On Star’s End – 01.29.2023 (60’00”) presents the complete live performance. His single sixty minute segment yielded an experience of sonic invention and immediacy available only in this late-night broadcast period. A mood and mind moving journey, the music drew on opposite sides of Watts’ personality – only realizing itself in the act of playing. Finding peace in the steadily falling night, musician and audience followed a sprawling sleep narrative of sound and spirit. Within a chamber of reverberations and resonances subtle harmonic contrasts cast their suggestive spell. The atmosphere thickens and thins, light rises and falls, visions come and go, and somewhere out there on the timbral plain the artist is profoundly revealed. As an impressive sonic dexterity lulls listeners, we may try to identify a grand piano or clarinet in the mix, but nothing much more makes its way in from the conventional world. Next to drifting melodies and fluttering modulations we are lead to where shadows play, and beckoned further inside this substantial Ambient soundscape. A gently cascading power, triggered by a command of music and technology, mood, tone and atmosphere, enlivened this KiloWatts session. Behind all the electric-synthetic, warm circuitry lies a calm humanity animating this music – someone wondering about the path this music will take on its way through the brain. Works like Live On Star’s End – 01.29.2023 propose a new native landscape, one which confronts time and its captors that are depleting our inner and outer realms. With this impressively secure rendition KiloWatts offered the late-night radio listeners everything from the promise of dawn to the dark poetry at the heart of mankind – a rare and restful space of possibility, dreaming and drifting through the cosmos.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 April 2023

Various Artists: Cause and Effect

Cause and Effect

Various Artists: Cause and Effect
Released: 21 April 2023

Cause and Effect (64:51) leads us quite far away from where it begins. The seventh module in the Tone Science series from DiN Records again echoes the utopian ideals of EM with another ennead of innovative musicians and their varied and inventive works.

Built around a recurring block of contrasting chords Abalone Vortex by Andrea Cichecki fills out in a focus of energetic cycling sequencer notes. Tempestarius from Chris Meyer proceeds in a more ceremonial fashion, deliberately unspooling pulsations of patterns in painstaking wonder. Rodent (a.k.a. Eric Cheslak) realizes the inescapable creation of something static, minimal and hypnotic in Dim Rill – whereas Flutter by Dark Sparkler (a.k.a. Kyle Swisher) infiltrates our dreams with a repeating theme and a mild mind buzzing crescendo to emphasize its somber narrative. Blakmoth (a.k.a. Jack Smith) and Of Ash and Sorrow has the air of being outside of time, yet emerges to contribute something brilliantly imagined, and carefully crafted to the continually expanding history of Electronic Music – as its fixed tones and aching suspensions melt into a remarkable elaboration of sound. Pareidola, Brendan Pollard‘s 1970s Berlin-School space mission, adds something superb and memorable to the many emblematic documents written from Phaedra onward. Followed by Hecataea, Andrew Ostler‘s kinetic concentus of repetitive structures and rising rhythms, this music advances under an entrancing, commanding artistic vision. A Hopeless Momentum propels listeners alongside James Cigler’s handling of mechanized broken chords, which plays out in a chamber of resonances and reverberations – until Jon Palmer‘s Near Earth manifests itself to draw the ear with its complex and powerful quality of sound. Dazed notes drift downward, rubbing, eroding and corroding one another. Yet, as with every track in this series, beneath all the urgent circuits and synth-smithing we feel a human being animating and enlivening each piece.

Subjecting their raw electrical material to a number of obscure routes and processes along warm circuitry and wires, the group of nine found on Cause and Effect have provided another most enjoyable and equally fulfilling collection of sonic statements of creative endeavor. Designed to facilitate an appreciation of this field’s depth and breath of expression, and the diverse personalities populating this realm, this seventh chapter in the Tone Science series is another exhibition of our faith in the future – from where all great music comes.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 April 2023

Cosmic Ground: Entropy


Dirk Jan Müller vibrates at his own frequency. Relentlessly wired, his work in Cosmic Ground generates both signal and noise. His message and meaning comes through the electrical medium in longer than usual, slowly oscillating waves. Entropy (72:35) probes the sub-currents of Electronic Music as it expands in rewarding directions. A sense of surrender is essential for the full enjoyment of this release. Each of its eight tracks shift seamlessly from one point of view to the next, prompting us to open ourselves for an experience of slowed-down, move-close listening and thinking. With more complexity, and a higher level of organization than conventional music, Entropy propels outward ominously. When its industrial crush yields a haunted cosmic haze, an untamed terrain becomes hard, stark and pleasingly disorienting. Quietly poetic across the lulling run time Müller is constantly folding in unexpected sounds and textures appropriate of this Kosmische Musik style. Vast emotional surges cascade through the mind – triggering memories, analysis, and all the senses. The pensive depths beckon, and we shudder at what they may contain. Each piece slowly reveals itself, and the richly expressive soundscapes hold your attention – because you are never entirely sure where they are taking you. In one moment the air seems to tense up around us. In the next, lush insistent voices warp against one another under a sudden gravity. In constant connection to itself this serenade for the land of dreams adds significantly to the Berlin-School. Through great technical talent and creative capability this album expands our idea of what Spacemusic can be and how far it can go. Ethereal emanations swirl in a sonic storm of timbre, gently giving way to a mechanized, calibrated dance of energized masses. Motorik sequencer runs enter, pattern, flex, echo, and recede before the advancing harmony of newer textures – which engulf machine control under a darkening plain. Conjuring a moment of consonance in The Universe Cosmic Ground traces a path through the brain – where every phrase, rhythm, pitch and gesture is subdivided, distributed and reassembled over an infinitely complex network of mechanisms and convergences. Opening countless doorways within the mind, Entropy is stimulating enough to keep you up way past your bedtime – which is always the best time to encounter such sounds, music and thoughts.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END6 April 2023

Jeff Greinke: A Thousand Year Flood

A Thousand Year FloodJeff Greinke

Jeff Greinke: A Thousand Year Flood
Released: 7 April 2023

Jeff Greinke continues his intense creative ferment on A Thousand Year Flood (57:56). After decades devoted to refining his craft these eight interactions between form and tone seem perfectly effortless. Each piece proceeds like a somnambular dance, with Greinke, along with cellist Heather Bentley and clarinetist James DeJoie, conjuring landscapes, worlds and realms that exist only for the few precious moments each piece endures. Flickering briefly alive to share their private melody, moody texture and shadowy thoughts, chords play and try to progress toward a resolution, but become lost – floating back to the forefront again and again. Unhurried notes emerge out of a soft aura of reverberation, to disappear with dreamy deliberation. This Ambient Music builds and shapes, breathes and sighs, blooms and sleeps, then detours into unexpected zones, tones, textures and states – leaving behind nothing more than a mysterious human trace. The relentless drive to make sense of our condition is palpable throughout A Thousand Year Flood. From the vaporous, melodious piano, synths and strings, to the sonic shapes at the edge of perception, it reduces geometries while transforming the phenomenon of sound into another, finer reality. Providing a different temperature of cool, this music is about a feeling, an expression – and the enigmatic substance of which we are all made.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 March 2023