Spacemusic Reviews

K Leimer: The Starting Errors

The Starting ErrorsK Leimer

K Leimer: The Starting Errors
Released: 1 July 2022

Throughout his long-established career, K Leimer has always told a good story – something which we look forward to hearing with each new outing. In one more self-scrutiny The Starting Errors (72:16) wonders about what we have created, and when it will end. Yet another remarkable achievement of the imagination it hopes to provide something moving and true. Possible categories include Modern Chamber, Ambient Electronic or Neoteric, but there really is no name for this kind of music. Original, genre bending, thought-provoking, emotionally resonant and above all a consistent pleasure, the vibe of The Starting Errors is as undeniable as it is undefinable. Perhaps realized under a darkling sky, its eleven tracks, one more poetic and intriguing than the next, move from reasoned sonic blurs and fragmented digital currents, to a junction of prowling ghosts and crackling live wires. In one existential moment after another we can experience interludes of lightness and insistence awash in quiet and subtle details, followed by the unnervingly open-ended loaded with philosophical possibility. A tonally delicate midway point stands out as an exceptional location where nothing disrupts the essential harmony and loveliness of this beguiling composition of piano and string ambiance. Further in, neo-classical orchestrations supporting repeatedly recited spoken words offers a more direct message. The subdued journey of The Starting Errors takes plenty of detours into unexpected zones, tones, textures and states – which in fact may be the entire point of this effort. An artist of Ambient eloquence Leimer’s informed listeners will find themselves again engrossed in his skillful sonic designs and imaginative atmospheres, as surely as they will his artistic spirit. Always reaching for perfection, music seems to be the best way for Leimer to capture what he is living in, and share these feelings and emotions with receivers of like-mind. In this dusky present, lulled listeners will know their own brilliance by recognizing his.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 June 2022

John Luther Adams: Houses of the Wind

Houses of the Wind

John Luther Adams: Houses of the Wind
Released: 17 June 2022

Constantly testing his powers John Luther Adams leans into the raw energy of a decades old recording of Aeolian Harp. The sound emanating from this dawn spacemusic instrument and its wind animated strings seems a perfect soundtrack to unsettled realms. His Houses of the Wind (52:46) – an album in five parts, each about ten minutes, each perceived so elementaly – makes it easy to imagine our planet before it was inhabited, or at such time it is returned to that state. Transformed into a migrating, subtly colored timbral field, the basic recording of this instrument gains depth, acquires radiance, and further comes to life through untold audio manipulations. Requiring multiple facets of listening, thinking and feeling Houses of the Wind may seem the result of a strange new art. Lacking familiar reference points, it should lead us to consider unseen things around us.

The fluvial action of wind on strings produces a gradual purring drone, which is reimagined by Adams’ action on the recording – which provides even further transformations between mood, tone color and hue. Further in, darkness descends in rumbling drones and primitive spaces. The shifting shapes and shades of sound hum in a tremor of floating textures – emanating from the simple vibrating overtones of taut susurrating strands activated by random currents of air.

With Houses of the Wind Adams adds to an impressive oeuvre and proves himself a far more adventurous composer than previously suspected. His relentless curiosity and receptiveness to all things audible and a fascination with the effect of sound tells us about his values – that his work is as equally about music as it is about attitude. Whether an unnavigable experiment in indefinite pitch, or a quiescent tone zone, the haunting nature of these five realizations will be felt long after the recording has completed its play. In a world that cannot be made sense of Adams offers the listener music for dreaming bigger than one’s own self – of something bigger than what we know in this world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 June 2022

Private Sea: Private Sea

Private Sea Private Sea

Private Sea: Private Sea
Released: 10 June 2022

Attention all Owlish Ambient types! Fellow travelers Alex Mitchell and Ryan Todd should be arriving in your listening space with Private Sea (50:26) – their excellent self-titled debut. While Private Sea expresses and experiments in ways built on previous entries in this field, they are far more focussed on the wonders of the psyche than the machinery used to make this release. Their optimism and artistry are fully present throughout every well-crafted musical moment. Driven by openness and compassion, vision and vibe, the assured pacing of its six tracks leads us into this duo’s remarkable euphonic, electronic, stereophonic state. In their interrogation of atmosphere, Private Sea commands the sound, the weight, taste and texture of synthesized tones. From fuming, vigorous and urging, down to the softest susurration of truthful timbral rumination, they navigate between Spacemusic’s tidal drone zones and ethereal washes, on up to a lively braindance of melody, rhythm and pulse. Although geared toward tranquility and quietude, nothing about this album seems confined. Testing the waters on this their first outing, Mitchell & Todd believe in the promise of new coastlines – and that the mind is its own place, its oceans vast and to be explored. In daily life feelings ebb and flow like waves upon the shore, but it is in the Private Sea of individuality that the sheer sensation of accomplished works like this one will endure.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END16 June 2022

Carlos Dengler: Aqueduct

Aqueduct Carlos Dengler

Carlos Dengler: Aqueduct
Released: 15 April 2022

Multi-instrumentalist Carlos Dengler rests easy at the outer reaches of Ambient Music. His Aqueduct (60:40) is brimming with ideas, but never tells us what to think. As self-assured as it is exploratory this is not a flashy album. It possesses a warmth and excitement (seemingly from the process of creation) that is satisfying, even joyous to the listener. Under the pervading, probing nature of Spacemusic, the drifting quality of Ambient and the caressing comfort of New Age, Aqueduct maintains the unique connection between sound and spirit. A vibe will carry you further than solid ideas can, and Dengler’s polished performances reveal genuine emotional content. Flowing between a number of sincere moods, from somber elegance to playful luxuriousness and daydream dramatics, mystical melodies move the music into illuminated space – while elsewhere gray atmospheres direct us toward decidedly subdued sonic hues. Agile arrangements and meticulous timing indicate great abilities and technique, yet this work for the quiet mind glows softly. With guitar, flute, bass, piano, voice, light percussion and synthesizers, most listeners will slip through states of awareness, enjoying the wonderful journey between their internal life and the resonating listening space. Heightened by hints of the otherworldly the seven tracks are easy to listen to, yet are still capable of provoking thought. With its subtle intricacies, clear beginnings and dramatic resolutions, we leave this realm feeling better for having had experienced this music. Even as Aqueduct plays out in fluid sensitivity to detail and tone, it withholds secrets. It is wonderful company – even more so with the familiarity brought by additional listening.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 June 2022

Skoulaman: Mundus in Motu

Mundus in Motu

Skoulaman: Mundus in Motu
Released: 24 April 2022

Who does not love being transported while listening to music? ‚Ķespecially when the journey takes you across a diverse terrain and through many intriguing moods. On Mundus in Motu (74:46) Skoulaman (Dutch Electronic Musician Hans van Kroonenburg) applies his creative spirit to this end. Its seven tracks, studiously varied, allows our mind to unwind. Leading us to a place outside ourselves, the music seems to be emanating directly from this musician’s being. A jewell box of a release Mundus in Motu takes on a certain shape in our memory. On his quest for momentum, van Kroonenburg deliberately dwells in the assured pace of his superbly syncopated sequencer patterns. As harmonic forms advance and recede, the free movement of drama widens and expands. Subtle contrasts of cool melodic hues push and pull at the listener’s attention, while the warm currents coursing through this music hits our ears all at once – as if everything gathered in the head and heart of the artist has emerged in a totality of sound. Arranged in exciting, inviting ways this music takes place in a smarter, gentler world than the one in which we live. Though polished and sure Mundus in Motu is also full of heart and wild touches. Coming from someplace beyond the spoken word, in generous stretches of charged synthetic zones, down to its soft, easeful spheres, this release is fully and effectively imagined. Listen to it straight through, because you would not want to miss the surprises or the pleasure of discovering this work. Please close your eyes, and open your ears, and dream bigger than you are.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END2 June 2022

Meg Bowles: Pilgrimage


Meg Bowles: Pilgrimage
Released: 20 May 2022

Inward looking, yet continually expansive, Pilgrimage (54:18) by Meg Bowles gives musical form to thought and a unique passage through the world. Geared toward soft cerebral states this passionate, brainy album takes flight in our imaginations – where its beauty often surpasses that of reality. Energized rather than daunted by the inexhaustible creative nature of her field, Bowles plots a sweeping journey of dramatically shifting moods and detailed aural landscapes. Pilgrimage features six tracks, each a unique spell cast by slow motion synthesizer fields of consonance and serenity. The tones are clear and calm, and meant to liberate contemplative states already within the listener. Atmosphere, texture and mood all unite in gentle converging currents. Secret voices emit a warm glow amid receding forms, as abandoned melodies hover over drifting sonic designs. While electronic aggregations progress in cycles, gather force and then subside, harmony is expressed in a breathing stack of intervals. Alive with the pleasures of synthesis interludes of tremulous repose inundate shimmery string timbres. Rolling swells, rich harmonies and peels of sound spark one charged moment after another – yet exploring the scale of this music is what leads us ever upward. Arriving whenever we get there, on this journey we are in no particular hurry to reach our destination. Traveling these spaces the listener may roam blithely – dissolved into something great and complete, or seek ardently – as one should on a Pilgrimage. Searching through this sonic realm you may discover new or expanded ways to hear and feel, or merely experience the beautiful stillness and charm within the resounding immensity of Bowles’ music.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END26 May 2022

Polypores: Hyperincandescent


Polypores: Hyperincandescent
Released: 20 May 2022

The electronic instruments in the studio belonging to Polypores are just waiting for Stephen James Buckley to tell his story. Realizing music of the imagination, the laboratory conditions of this art have produced Hyperincandescent (43:54). While thoroughly modern, the making of and listening to this marvelous music does still allow for an old-fashioned charm and wonderment. Its reverence for thinking, or because it is undertaken by a musician whose mind is so settled and fixed upon their work, Hyperincandescent will be heard as a unique form of expression – one where the mind has created something that it did not already know of. Pursued in multiple parts, each of this album’s suites connect continuously across the span of an LP side. From drifting weightlessness to roiling tempest, this music feels like a journey through time, darkness and light. Discovering properties of sound, Buckley expresses well the play of atoms in the mind. Describing this work by its magnitude, volume, density, speed, energy, mass, duration and direction may help listeners recognize the intelligence at the other end of this musical message. But the truth of this release is found in its ability to magically transform our surroundings into an element to which we belong. In striking sonic swirls and upward scales the two tracks re-affirm the pleasures of Electronic Music – while further in chill currents descend downward past known forces. Notes combine as they collide. In such shades lush and tender their beauty feels electric. Sequencer patterns emerge amid machine modulations, and are soon swept toward a vista of synthesized chords. In bonding better to this voltage vision, the music gives full play to our fancy, and rises to new heights. There is a creative lifeblood circulating through Hyperincandescent. It is a music-to-think-about record – easier to enjoy when your mind is flexible and in a playful, pondering mood. In this open, neural neutral state we are most likely to find an order to these tones, and some meaning waiting for us within this most patient music.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END19 May 2022

Brendan Pollard: Cycles and Pulses

Cycles and Pulses

Brendan Pollard: Cycles and Pulses
Released: 6 May 2022

For his first album back after months off resetting his music studio Brendan Pollard delivers a release that is somewhat less than an all-out sequencer celebration than it is a carefully cultivated atmosphere of deliberation. Full of hidden connections and secret encounters, his Cycles and Pulses (65:08) is an epic in five-parts. Its ambitious scope is tender and reaching, then stormy and searing – the sound field reducing down to a lithe tensile thread, then expanding out into wider, wilder dimensions. Rising into the pleasures of pulse his Berlin-School inspired works gain momentum in cycles of note motifs echoing energy beneath hovering ambient shadows. As commanding melodies flee past shimmering sonic shapes, the structured delirium resolves into a solemn hymn to humanity. Converging in darkness Mellotron strings roll over corroded drones. While glittering accents and fluttering modulations swirl above a motoring pattern of tones, sustaining organ chords enter and chill the electronic current. Throughout over an hour of exploration Cycles and Pulses is in a constant state of motion. Its spare, controlled style unites intrinsic conflicts and vast landscapes in framings as haunted as the are provocative. Overcome by rolling swells and peels of sound, powerful patterns and hushed harmonies, the listener surrenders to Pollard’s spacey spell. In complete command of this style he communicates in code. From wildly impulsive, down to the more cerebral, encrypted messages grow abstract and questioning – easily delivering exhilarating, propulsive synth devotionals on a celestial scale. Our world is big, but the realm of space and sound is even bigger. Pollard’s form of expression is infinitely mutable, its structure open, yet orderly – allowing for innovation and variation. The mind is its own place, which is where Cycles and Pulses takes up residence. The re-birth of wonder, and the insistent reclamation of our humanity may be among its highest productions.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 May 2022

Chuck van Zyl: The Winter Wind

The Winter Wind Chuck van Zyl

Chuck van Zyl: The Winter Wind
Released: 8 May 2022

An artist of independent mind, Chuck van Zyl has sighted common goals with industry8, which has now released The Winter Wind (41:22) – the first vinyl LP project for both artist and label. Leaning into Spacemusic’s expressive potential, Chuck van Zyl directs our attention inwardly – where it expands. Across two side-long aural odes to wind, frost, snowflakes and ice he generates meaning from an array of analogue and digital studio devices and instruments. Referencing classics of the Berlin-School, sounds and energy arise, combine, change and melt away – gradually, as all things sub-zero must.

Side A’s In the Dull Soft Skies of Coming Snow (20:50) conjures ice, frost and snow, as well as a sense of scale. Navigating between tundral gloom and arctic brilliance the sequencer notes tumble one over another in echoing syncopation. The motoring pulse expands and contracts beneath lilting lead lines and gelid chords. Synthesized strings freeze and thaw, while silvery strains hold fast to the heart. This lovely electronic wandering sonifies the bold proportions of the wintertime, and electrifies the listener in its chilled charm. It seems for a season yet to come – further ahead than our own, but not too far removed.

The hibernal texture of Side B’s On the Swift Howlings of the Winter Wind (20:32) are bright, crisp and clear, producing the feel of the confidently cold. As crystalline tones tinkle and twinkle under hovering reverberation, a slow storm forms a quiet force. Snowflakes chase along ten banks of sequencers – returning a vision as fresh as the new fallen snow. This magical boreal region of shining auroras and starlit melodies freezes time by inundating the mind with thought. Searching and contemplative, then striding into the deep, it achieves a satisfying, consistent level of creativity beyond the cold logic of the machines used to create it.

Whether describing the bareness of a vast tundral landscape or the complexity of an individual snowflake – The Winter Wind offers unique insight into our realm through the infinite perspectives of music. Finding our way into this work should be a familiar adventure. It has been made for a particular kind of listener – determined to collect unique feelings and enjoy each span of sonic spirit while it lasts. Chuck van Zyl believes that this kind of music has the potential to contain the world, and asks only that we please listen to his album, and the world, together.

From the Press Release – 7 May 2022

Paul Ellis: Pulse Width

Pulse Width Paul Ellis

Paul Ellis: Pulse Width
Released: 22 April 2022

The work of Spacemusician Paul Ellis is to imagine, through music, a world better than the one we live in now. His system of instruments harbor a realm they can actualize, a reality we cannot know until it is here. Out of a hazy shade of square waves comes Pulse Width (63:33), appointment listening which only whets the appetite for more music of this kind. Ellis splits his story between five pieces. Never simply academic, but in turns visceral, sensual and epic, Pulse Width expertly shifts focus – reducing a composition to its skeletal shape amidst the gentle untangling of melody, only to rise in sonic overdrive just for the sake of how it sounds. An advanced sequencer mathematics builds smaller cycles into larger ones. Mellotron strings and flute call out in a fragile consistency – providing a fleeting reference against which the developing patterns stand out. The tracks come on easy, but a few moments in we realize that each has got hold of us. There is a particularly striking openness to this album, marked by spacious improvisations, and a tendency to reveal secrets and melodies at their own pace. Poetic without being overwrought, the narrative of Pulse Width expands past its maker, to edge gently out into the cosmos, in a realm where we find the magical, the otherworldly and the unexplained. If this release qualifies as experimental, then this experiment is instantly effective.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END28 April 2022