Spacemusic Reviews

Various Artists: Gemstones 2

Gemstones II

Various Artists: Gemstones II
Released: 17 September 2021

When you have reached the limits of what listening to Spacemusic offers, one must then make their own. The 12 synth sharps of Gemstones II (85:16) have studied the greats – not to imitate them, but to advance their beliefs. Extending the impressive anthology series from Cyclical Dream, the Ambient and Berlin-School themes and forms this second installment explores should be embraced by even the most casual listener. Each mindscape is a realm of its own, individually distinct and unrestrainedly imaginative. Few other electronic artists can conjure up such complete other worlds with such clarity, depth and beauty as these do. Setting forth from the here and now, these works forge forward under their own momentum. Each submission works off the energy of the one before it, and draws us into the next, showing connections and amplifying the value of all – illustrating that the meaning of this music is much greater than that of the individual maker.

Presenting an even dozen skilled electronic musicians, possessing abilities and backgrounds unique to each, Gemstones II opens with Gradient 12 by Robert Rich. Building a captivating sequencer backdrop, he lets lead lines freely flow to snake and drift about in the foreground… Expose by Erik Wollo follows in a glimmering beauty and striking sonic drama… In a tightly worked sequencer command Spacers by Martin Sturtzer enters rhythmic realms somewhere past ours… and even the author of this review (Chuck van Zyl) submits a personal expression; in The Child of Night light lilting melodic patterns settle into a Berlin-School sequencer ride… It’s Taken by Sam Prekop brims with an uncommon aliveness as energy and heat are exchanged… The trio Cartas de Japon hears their identities in the striding motor-motion of Estepa… Traveling through the void of space, Merging Into the Night by Max Corbacho descends into darkness… On Much Too Late the duo Perge spin out of orbit on rousing anthems atop ardent echoing tones… Then, with Still Untold Sophos rules the night… In what furnace did this dream of Fritz Mayr forge? Energized by a striding mechanized pulse his From the Ashes crosses an unimaginable gulf to reach us… Suggesting new dimensions Michael Bruckner & Rebekkah Hilgraves ask that we Love One Another, a restless and imaginative piece of beguiling sonic charm… Fondness by Filter-Kaffee begins as a portrait of desolation, infiltrates our minds with cycling arpeggio notes and ethereal harmonies, and concludes with questions posed at the edge of doom…

Inside this collection we find a universe in flux, where space flows like time and time stretches out like space. The music will live up to what we believe in it, what we believe it to be. For those robbed of their optimism, listening to Gemstones II should restore your faith in the future – because after all, that seems to be where all this great music is emanating from.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 September 2021

Lyonel Bauchet: The Diver

The DiverLyonel Bauchet

Lyonel Bauchet: The Diver
Released: 17 September 2021

Lyonel Bauchet‘s collection of electronic implements seem to carry the weight of ceremonial objects, that is until he starts operating them. Working off the energy of his imagination, he delves into a singular sonic cosmos of relentlessly synthetic sound. His The Diver (52:38) teems with weightless sonorities and blended timbres. Issuing from a well-managed system of modular synthesizer components and keyboards we might guess that this work belongs as much to the musician as it does to his instruments. But while this studiously constructed album exalts the modulation possibilities of the studio equipment, Bauchet’s music delivers a substantial revealing experience. From intense droning depths to lighter harmonic progressions, the five tracks on The Diver are continually contracting and expanding. Drifting in a cool blackness, then rising into orbit, the sound field shifts shape and scale – swinging gently between contemplation and dynamism. Further in rhythms rise in sonic celebration. A space motor spins out its sequence of notes. Echoing in unguarded patterns the aural energy expands, as we revel in how beautifully electricity may be rendered into music. Part of a genre with no limiting principles the wordless structures found here provide many inviting and reassuring textures – countered well by moments of experimental introversion and metaphysical mood. On this journey into the materiality of sound we may certainly notice the connection of imagination and creativity to technique and technology, but the most thrilling moment in listening to The Diver comes finally when we listeners claim what we are hearing as our own.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END16 September 2021

Paul Ellis: Panoramas 1

Panoramas 1Paul Ellis

Paul Ellis: Panoramas 1
Released: 10 July 2021

Paul Ellis has never confined his work to one medium or one space. With his Panoramas 1 (62:33) he returns to the genre of Electronic Music and its quest to penetrate the cosmic darkness. In a direct connection to the most elemental part of the listener this work generates drama through sheer sound. Like a comet heading for a distant star Panoramas 1 spends most of its energy searching. The deeply felt interior resonances of its two long tracks were, not really composed, but rather they seem discovered. As a thousand dreams gently burn, chill currents suggest a scene, and create a mood. Passing the limits of known forces we fall through space. Tones collide and combine. Even when chords move in contrary motion Ellis soon somehow finds accord. The timbre of his expressions are fascinating – of such shades lush and tender their beauty feels electric. Each section comes at us in a ramble of cello, a pursuit of melody, a duress of atmosphere. The musical language is lulling and languid, but as the disc nears its conclusion Panoramas 1 moves into a more energetic zone in an arcane, wandering way unique to this artist. Even as Ellis navigates a vista of sequencer patterns and keyboard leads, we become even more anchored to the intensity of this singular synthetic voice. Serving as an entry point, such elliptical exploration is just the beginning of a three part CD set. The music on this introductory, wide-ranging album delivers a treasury of moods and atmospheres. Both faint and muted, then inspiring and uplifting in scope, we wait for unity, and then meaning in the message it will convey.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 September 2021

Daniel & Booth: Circle of Phenomenon

Circle of Phenomenon

Daniel & Booth: Circle of Phenomenon
Released: 29 August 2021

Circle of Phenomenon (75:49) is another step forward on the restless journey of Michael Daniel and Phil Booth. Their music is not really about tomorrow, that is just where it sounds like it comes from. Aspiring to the past, present and future all at once, this is a work to get inside of, not just listen to. Unfolding beneath the yawn of the night sky the four tracks form a constellation constantly melting into and out of being. In a remarkable consistency of mood Circle of Phenomenon achieves a sustained atmosphere – away from the familiar climax and release of conventional content. In arrangements of gentle gravity, which take shape in recurring motives and portentous contrasts, expressive gestures register and resonate across time. From textures of desolation, and still chill zones, to a charged musical charm, Daniel & Booth embrace a great spirit of openness, energy and exploration. Never far from the scenes of Encore and Ricochet this EM release is not a mere compilation of sonic data – here an enigma is being circled. Swirling strings land in dark restless drones, leading minds to roam as much as the sequencers do. Where electric guitar solos rise in liquid leads, an energy strengthens below, is made continuous, and attains direction. A yearning Mellotron surges with vitality, and is soon displaced by dreamy synth lead lines. Hovering above the pulse of echoing patterns melodies race ahead, only to recede into a shadowy spiral. With an open-endedness true to the spirit of the Berlin-School, Circle of Phenomenon means to expand the genre. Heading out upon the deep Daniel & Booth shelter in their dream. Yet, as introspective as it is, this album is constantly reaching out – transporting the listener in ways they could never imagined.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END2 September 2021

Chronotope Project: Gnosis

GnosisJeffrey Ericson Allen

Chronotope Project: Gnosis
Released: 20 August 2021

Chronotope Project has released yet another striking work. All warmth and rounded edges Gnosis (52:18) is Jeffrey Ericson Allen‘s ninth album (his fifth for Spotted Peccary) and truly honors his complexity as a creator. Achieving an impressive declarative power he realizes a splendid work somewhere between the sybaritism of New Age and the sonic explorations of Spacemusic. Utilizing the expressive potential of this style, the shape of each piece offers a slightly different arc upon which the listener travels. From darkly resonant to dreamy and light, fine textures sooth – while further in tenebrous timbres question. Ethereal synth strings thicken the atmosphere – unfolding easily in the dreamy brilliance of shifting chord progressions. Yet with motorik vigor and formal control the tightly patterned pulses that traverse Gnosis induce distances of thought. Building tension with a subtle heightening of tone and darkening of mood, these six tracks occasionally acknowledge desolation, but overall the sonic spirit remains quite optimistic. With an intense intimacy confessional scenes expand into quiet softness. Animated by the power of melody the well-crafted tones found throughout Gnosis devour immovable static durations. It is in the generation of these bewitching melodies that we get a sense of both moment and motion. As this music approaches the future, and whatever is just beyond the limits, listeners conclude their experience nourished by this musician’s vision and hope, in a beautiful echoing of the essence of the artist.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END25 August 2021

Lisa Bella Donna: Moogmentum

MoogmentumLisa Bella Donna

Lisa Bella Donna: Moogmentum
Released: 21 August 2021

Oh were it true that our times moved with musicians like Lisa Bella Donna. This unremitting expressive force has for decades been delivering substantial, forward-thinking work to our ears – for the betterment of the world. Moogmentum (42:19) presents yet another success in expressive power. Sounding fully invested in making its own kind of magic in its own time this album brings motivic vigor and formal control to an eclectic vision. Across 42 minutes of sonic expression this album remains so engaging, so pure in belief, that we cannot help but follow along on this irresistible electronic journey. A direct and unforced, thoughtful work Moogmentum feels like this performer has no limit – employing various playing styles and devices right up to the edge of the mainstream realm. Extroverted with prominent rhythms and melodic hooks, and occasional inklings of Prog-Rock and Jazz acuity, Moogmentum comes off sounding perfect and effortless. Tones float and contend for the front row. Numinous and changeable as clouds, night-blooming notes execute serpentine solos in vacant space. Building tension through the subtle heightening of texture the tightly patterned compositions burn with halogen-bright synth chords – a harmonic exposition at electrical speeds. From the densely composed and brilliantly colored to something more quietly ecstatic the 12 tracks are rendered with intense intimacy. Please listen closely, because there is a great deal of life contained within each.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END19 August 2021

Brendan Pollard: Phrases and Protocols

Phrases and ProtocolsBrendan Pollard

Brendan Pollard: Phrases and Protocols
Released: 6 August 2021

Although of the Kosmische Musik category releases by Brendan Pollard are very much of the air-breathing land world. More than a reckoning with ghosts, his Phrases and Protocols (63:25) captures well the raw edge and interstellar mood of the Rubycon era. These three tracks do sound like lost discoveries from 1975 – dug up on Mars – and prove that, like the Universe itself, this territory is still well worth exploring. Its electrical atmosphere is just as strange and absorbing as the original, as is its rare emotional pull. In breathtaking passages of sequencer dexterity and Mellotron command Phrases and Protocols suggests that renewal is always possible. Tempestuous and dramatic, this album expresses itself methodically through weight, momentum and repetition. Where low doom-laden drones pervade, high untamed gestures oppose and reach for new heights. Gleaming tones, floating like secrets in the air, gets moving the gears of our imagination – while the motor machine precision of echoing notes sweeps in a wired energy. The scene created is so chill that in working out with his massive modular synth Pollard seems to barely break a sweat. Phrases and Protocols makes a strong case for this movement of innovation’s ongoing relevance. As our modern minds search for peace, it is good to find that all this Spacemusic is asking of us is to align with our inner mysteries. Success in this genre means reaching a different realm, and Pollard’s music certainly has an immediate effect on how you feel within your reality. In this masterwork of grand-scale intimacy we find all the charged bliss points of the Berlin-School, and a tender respect – as we continue to look for what lies just beyond the limits.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 August 2021

Juha-Matti Rautiainen: Still Water

Still WaterJuha-Matti Rautiainen

Juha-Matti Rautiainen: Still Water
Released: 2 July 2021

Juha-Matti Rautiainen has realized yet another striking work. Strong feelings are present throughout Still Water (40:49), not measured out, but flowing, echoing the essence of the artist. The warm, rounded music brings light to a room. Traversing distances of thought, Rautiainen enters his own wilderness to reveal inner complications. We must listen closely, because there is a lot of life within these four tracks. In the inspired force of quiet softness this album comes off sounding perfect and effortless. Fully invested in making its own kind of magic in its own time the atmosphere of Still Water goes where words cannot. Unforced yet densely composed, it invites the listener along on a journey. An intimate stillness and fragmentary near-narratives infuse the story with a subtle spacey strength. As the stars wander darkly, then halt in the air, nothing stirs within the stillness of these depths. In a mix of harmonious designs and anomalous forms dreams emerge with straightforward emotional force. When bright tones give way to rumbling drones the listener fades. Even as consonance is eventually restored we feel unbound from within. Cycling steps of sequencer blips surface, circling the listening area on a pulsing electrical current. But further in the instrumentation gradually contracts. Once the mix of electronic sounds, bass guitar and looping textures dissipates Still Water is left with just the layered lament of a human voice – exposing the deepest disclosure this musician hopes to convey in his creations. This project may have served Rautiainen as a personal expression, or an internal exploration, but it belongs to all of us now – its shape and grace helping us believe that we live in a better world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END5 August 2021

George Wallace: The Art of Imagining

The Art of ImaginingGeorge Wallace

George Wallace: The Art of Imagining
Released: 23 July 2021

George Wallace comes from a town near Philadelphia. Where the music on The Art of Imagining (69:23) comes from is hard to tell. Back to rescue our over stimulated brains this talented multi-instrumentalist has realized another album to take us places we cannot get to with anyone else. A veteran storyteller Wallace again aspires to get us thinking in new ways. The beckoning atmosphere is at once sensual and unsettled, and celebrates the private sphere – where originality, conscious and self-understanding thrive. From sombre abstractions to full-voiced declarations, The Art of Imagining is a varied, enticing and alluring listen. A lucid demonstration of composition, production and execution it reveals new layers on every spin. Pleasantly meandering, its swirling sounds and mellow melodies relate an endlessly engaging spacey saga of release. As instruments and harmonies come and go each piece inhales and exhales. While at one point a composition may lose its shape, or even collapse, further in the energy sparks and grants new life. Wonderfully diverse in its arrangement, this episodic work is full of enticing synth-borne melodies, arcane samples and dreamlike spheres. Each track offers its own keenly calibrated shift of perception. In a tricky combination of timing, vibration and light, subtle swings in contrast keep you attentive and charmed. Attaining a surreal poetry in the slow march through a minor key grand piano notes resound through dense harmonic textures. Complimenting the high sonic style reverberant guitar strings provide focus, and point the way ahead. From cloud gentle, mental soundscapes to ethno-chill filled spaces, these seven tracks are an impressive collection of songs and views from a detailed interior realm. Listening to The Art of Imagining we should feel less alone in our private experience. Whether just the truth of a complex heart, or the solitary testimony of the soul, the unmistakable tone of healing and hope permeate these compositions – confirming that magic lurks around every corner, if you leave yourself open to hearing it.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END29 July 2021

Erik Wollo: Winter Tide

Winter TideErik Wollo

Erik Wollo: Winter Tide/Live at Soundquest Fest 2021
Released: 20 July 2021

How many ways are there to be human? By seeking transcendence in the crucible of the concert Erik Wollo validates his existence in the showcase of live performance. With Winter Tide (60:14) he adds another enduring work to his discography – this one realized for SoundQuest Fest 2021. Released during a summer when thinking feels like a big ask, this eight part suite unfolds in slow, cooling sighs of sparkling synthetic sounds. As soaring guitar-driven anthems head for the sky, this album’s confident melodies hold fast to the heart. Sending his instrument through a labyrinth of digital processing Wollo’s playing yields a rich and varied palette of textures and tones. Alongside silvery lead lines he deploys chords of steel strings – which ride atop rising rhythms of electronic precision. The overflow of magical musical moments impacts us at a level deeper than that of words. Arresting, absorbing and rewarding, Winter Tide freezes time by inundating the mind with thought. Searching and contemplative, then striding into the deep, it achieves a satisfying, constant level of high thinking. The bright spots are incandescent, and we are moved by the concord of sweet sounds – only to sink into icy waters, where the turbulence really attracts the ears. The recital setting allowed room for risk. In this familiar space Wollo discovers a potent sense of drama – heard in the unique energy exuded throughout each track. Subtle in all the right ways Winter Tide was made for a particular kind of listener – determined to collect unique feelings and enjoy each span of sonic goodness while it lasts. Finding our way into this music is a familiar adventure – one where we learn the secrets that we knew all along.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 July 2021