Spacemusic Reviews

Kwali Kumara/Pete Ardron

Elemental Temple Pt 1 Kwali Kumara/Pete Ardron

Kwali Kumara/Pete Ardron: Elemental Temple Part 1
Released: 21 January 2022

Elemental Temple Part 1 (125:46) possesses a rare and cherished quality. The four lengthy tracks realized by Kwali Kumara & Pete Ardron open up and out into a blissful realm of gentle melodies, drifting ambience and reassuring consonance. An enigmatic, deep release of methodical pacing and ceremonial intensity Elemental Temple Part 1 does not lead the listener, but stays right with us well into its deeper dream. Electronic textures grow, thicken and gently shift, as harmonics become dense, then fall away into a smooth surface of sound. Expanding drones slow the plane of daily existence – their outward-reaching arc adrift on the stillness of thought. Taken together these elements convey the enigmatic yet simple essence of a world apart, and may even evoke the meditative vistas at the center of each player. Entering their weightless domain we feel received, accepted. Each composition has its own unique sense of weightlessness – as within these vivid soundfields every listener feels at the center of their own eternal circle. In a near constant state of gradual expansion, contrasting ambient landscapes blend and morph beautifully across a subtle cosmic backdrop. Utilizing a diverse electronic palette unique timbres arise, hang in space, brighten, then darken, then morph into something new. This atmosphere of flourishing synthesizers notably includes playful, graceful wordless singing. Intriguing treatments transform lilting vocalizations, slightly – into an even more ethereal encounter with the infinite. Late in this long-player the listener is summoned into focus with intuitive beats and rhythmic flow. As viridescent hums and buzzes give way to riffs, grooves and celebratory chanting, these heated moments seem taken from life itself – passing pleasingly at a human degree. Whether the mood is slow-burning bright and hot, or more of a nocturnal still chill zone, this duo’s sonic sense is beguiling – taking its lines from life itself. A mesmerizing combination of technology and tradition, aether and earth, sensuality and reason, this music, with its incense like dynamics, lingers on well after the ember’s glow has cooled. The mind, the soul, the heart… this work touches all three. Kwali Kumara and Pete Ardron have provided us with an aural expression intent on restoring contemplation over mere mainstream diversion. Their Elemental Temple Part 1 ennobles us with the resolve to carry out whatever realizations this journey has fostered – leaving we listeners hoping that we will always be as open and as honest as this album has asked us to be.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 11 August 2022

Chuck van Zyl: Skyspace


Chuck van Zyl: Skyspace
Released: 7 August 2022

On 10 June 2022 an informed audience assembled within Chestnut Hill Skyspace in Philadelphia for a unique concert with noted Electronic Musician Chuck van Zyl. Skyspace (73:13) presents the complete continuous set. The concert realization Last Light was made live in the moment before an affectionate, informed audience. As these conditions are known to reveal an innovative spirit, we find the musician and listeners experiencing this extraordinary music together in the act of it being made. Energized equally by the pulse of the Berlin-School and the hope of the New Age, the remarkable setting and welcoming company brought out a substantial, expressive and meaningful performance.

In order to fully enjoy Skyspace one must accept the fleeting essence of this live improvised recital. Chuck van Zyl’s perspective on live performance remains particularly singular. An enactment of self-discovery his unschooled spark produced an undeniable dramatic energy throughout the venue. This exquisitely crafted concert, meant for the extraordinary open-roofed space that looks out onto the night sky, allowed this artist to do more than simply share his work. Set against the mystical grandeur of the heavens just above the heads of the audience, Chuck van Zyl was able to search for and share something of his true being.

Addressing the dreamer inside all of us Skyspace begins with bold dissonances. A spare sequencer pattern emerges, barely, amidst cross-modulated tones, synth string tritones, and a roiling Mellotron choir. As the wandering notes organize into an orderly pulsation, fluttering effects generate trailing spacey references. Once the rhythm becomes more mechanized additional lines emerge. The cycling tones interweave, overlap and wander across the inevitable arc of this extended set. In a passionate outburst of dramatic imagination melodic lead lines and key changes add a narrative force to this expansive nocturnal adventure.

In an act of shear concentration Chuck van Zyl oversees the ceaseless adjustment of his system of instruments. In refusing to work with a laptop or other kinds of pre-recorded, pre-programmed, pre-set resources his approach remains innovative, maybe even radical in our digital era of music making. In this space where compelling forces converge and combine – this mutually reinforcing circle of validation – it is only after a trial such as this one that this musician can become aware of himself, of what he is capable of, how far he has come, and how far he can go. Please lend your heart to this album. If you can, Skyspace will leave the trajectory of your thoughts surely changed for the better.

Skyspace was released by Synkronos Music on 7 August 2022 to coincide with the Chuck van Zyl on-air concert for Star’s End Space Camp 2022.

  • From the Press Release 7 August 2022

Steve Roach: What Remains

What Remains Steve Roach

Steve Roach: What Remains
Released: 5 August 2022

Steve Roach beckons with the promise of fantastic escape. A meditation on fugitive beauty his What Remains (70:22) glows with an air of cosmic yearning. Subtlety has always been one of Roach’s strengths, and the four tracks here are so well-stated and precise that their complexity seems to come quite easily.

This music, while made with machines, has been made for humans. Succinct and eminently re-playable What Remains drifts from moods of exuberance and wonder, to nocturnal befogged views and synth soft poetic power. Breathing his tetrad of realizations into our imagination, one by one Roach engulfs the listener in a sonorous minor-key semblance of ambience.

Shifting to a spectral plane handsome and imposing drones give way to a simmering groove. As electronic percussion moves under, over and through adjacent sounds the mind may sense a polyrhythmic texture. Only hinting at its ethno-origins this energy feels forged deep beneath some indefinite surface.

Slightly cloudy, reverberant synthesizer chords give way to echoing sequencer patterns. As the resulting restless energy, space and time are strikingly transformed, Roach is found to be pulling from different emotional poles. In the gathering gloom a collage of sounds – free-floating, rounded metal edged, linked within cavernous reverb – emerge from roiling digital effects. The slow burning closing piece erases all bearings, leading us back into the silent now.

Throughout What Remains Roach’s quiet compositions of connection and reflection gently articulate an intense well of feelings behind even the simplest gesture. United by the sense of discovery which may be felt by informed listeners he continues to re-imagine the potential of his music. Yet, no matter how far it is pushed, or how hard it is played, it never forgets the abiding creative energy that first put it into motion.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 4 August 2022

David Parsons: Atmanaut


David Parsons: Atmanaut
Released: 21 March 2022

David Parsons beckons to us again with the promise of far-flung fantastic escape. His 13 track double CD Atmanaut speaks anew to the dreamer inside all of us. Upon entering the Edenic atmosphere of this substantial release we set out to new places within ourselves. A journey at once vibrant and soothing, then crackling with live-wire energy, Atmanaut is more interested in reveling in the myths of World Music than in piercing them. A remarkable achievement of the imagination it offers paths of inquiry limited only by the mind’s ability to become aroused. Conjuring translucent textures, from an ethereal simplicity to a riotously rare intensity Parsons pulls from different emotional poles. To satisfy the craving for faster tempo and weightier percussion we encounter propulsive rhythmic patterns. Through enlivening pulsations the listener synchronizes with the music, only to untether during zones of night-black synth textures – places where Parsons just allows himself to vibe out. The closer one listens the more one hears this album’s glistening dark-edge fade into a ceremony of the spirit. Even in our broken and diminished realm it is possible – even necessary – to exult the mystical. Atmanaut offers otherworldly consolation – as we, like Parsons, take refuge in the beautiful mysteries that remain in our people and planet.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END28 July 2022

Martin Sturtzer: Epsilon Eridani

Epsilon Eridani Martin Sturtzer

Martin Sturtzer: Epsilon Eridani
Released: 20 July 2022

With Epsilon Eridani (40:55) Martin Sturtzer shares his LP length window on the cosmos. Charged with a brain chilling energy this most majestic machine music involves all sorts of human choices and interventions. Across its three tracks the pitch-dark universe seems to become lit by a flicker of electronic grace. From dense sounds carrying an air of displacement to undulating fields of synthesized chords, Epsilon Eridani expands and contracts in a slow motion of round sounds and tamed timbre. We may imagine a set of concentric spheres – echoing sequencer patterns progressively revealed – as we move further along this sonic detour from linear thinking. Delving deeper into the the second half of this release we find tonal differences dominating the realm. Through the placement of contrasting harmonies this piece expresses texture, atmosphere, and all else that eludes the spoken word. Throughout all his substantial spacey interludes Sturtzer encourages the listener to follow the music in all its unfolding detail. In his idea of what may exist between the stars we should experience an unfamiliar feeling of lightness, like being on another planet where the force of gravity is only a fraction of the earth’s – a world where the low hum of possibility is constantly reverberating.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END21 July 2022

Scanner: The Homeland of Electricity

The Homeland of Electricity Scanner

Scanner: The Homeland of Electricity
Released: 17 June 2022

Accessible only from the first person The Homeland of Electricity (50:11) attracts our attention by way of the veritable imagination of Robin Rimbaud. Under the enduring alias of Scanner he has realized another ten tracks – ten transmissions better understood as distillations of thought, streamlined to play for us within the parameters of Electronic Music. The character of the sounds that make up The Homeland of Electricity range from the rounded and consonant to the brittle and bleak. These deep late encounters with Scanner may go one way or another. Some moments are as soft as sleep, where the mind may slip free of conscious control – while further in arraying linear patterning yields steady sequencer runs, then on into a wide, curved vacancy where we are left to wander the wastes of space alone. Mechanized patterns of notes emerge with an assured meter. In the succession of tones and ideas we find ourselves traveling in place. Within such ambiguous sonorities it is an easy drift deeper into the music. Midway through this album excursion arises a point where we can firmly feel the pressure of Rimbaud’s creative energy. In a present tense of wakefulness the propulsion of beats and wildness of samples barreling through slick sputtering synths crosses over Spacemusic boundaries and into something more alloyed. Between the disarmingly gentle and the animated and unconfined we attempt to grasp Scanner’s Zone of the Unknown. In his unforced experimentation he discovers hidden affinities. From the raw and power packed to the subtle and dulcet this work retains an all-embracing spirit. By remaining unnamed, it remains even more so in our thoughts.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END14 July 2022

Klaus Schulze: Deus Arrakis

Deus Arrakis

Klaus Schulze: Deus Arrakis
Released: 1 July 2022

Part dream engineer, part sonic philosopher, in his earliest efforts Klaus Schulze utilized a new instrument (the synthesizer) to realize a new music for a new age. His atmospheric explorations of timbral and temporal space, of extended durations and considered harmonic structures came to be referred to as (for lack of a better term) Space Music. Untethered to traditional disciplines this new era of expression opened up space and then moved through it like nothing before. Released posthumously, his Deus Arrakis (77:28) is yet another superb release in a long line of albums inhabited by flowing synths, delimited imaginings and gradual revelations. Marked by an unmistakable spirited energy, the three lengthy pieces of Deus Arrakis develop under ethereal textures and spiraling effects. The deft cello-bourne melodies of Wolfgang Tiepold and extended vocals by Eva-Maria Kagermann heighten these compositions with a luxurious feel. Restless variations expose concealed connections as the stream of transformations encourages neural firing in the brain. As sprawling sequencer lines pulse ahead, Schulze’s imaginative scoring and simmering intensity evokes limitless horizons. Fantastic in their construction, endlessly complex in effect, the cycling patterns motor on – whirling by in a magical motion of syncopated notes. Always working at a scale that transcends the listener, he showed us the difference between being merely close to the music and being inside it. A heroic explorer, Klaus Schulze’s reach is long. If we learned anything from his body of work it is that the mind is bigger than its thoughts – an idea that will keep us engaged for many years after his music has stopped.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 July 2022

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