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Spacemusic Reviews

Ascendant: Particle Horizon

Particle Horizon

Particle Horizon

Ascendant: Particle Horizon
Released: 7 November 2017
www.synphaera.com
www.ambientascendant.com

Particle Horizon (73’42”) shows a new confidence at the reunion of two coolly calculating minds. As Ascendant, music makers Don C. Tyler & Chris Bryant work well together at communing with our interior monologue. In touch with the current of creativity, by way of the current of electricity, here this duo provides ten harmonious compositions – each portraying ideas and feelings of magnitude. With its benevolent messages, drifting lost in the darkness of space, Particle Horizon is an intricate but effortlessly listenable album. From meandering melodic thoughts, to luxurious lead lines, Tyler & Bryant champion civility. Sounds shine spectacularly as synthetic sighs and whispering waves expand across note dappled soundscapes. Skittering electronic pulsations are woven into the music, yet refuse to establish a regular beat – as each piece on Particle Horizon turns like a system of intermeshed helical gears. Enhancing the sonorous aspects of this work its tonal material intricates a lofty character, and achieves a surface of equalized tension. Synths slowly crest, then recede into timeless cosmic serenity. Bass notes mark a slow time in potent dramatic holds, just as intermittent sonar chiffs signal an incoming message. But, for all its musicianship and production values, the importance of this music lies in the emotional responses of its listeners. In an apparent independence from terrestrial concerns, Particle Horizon has been designed to create and sustain a particular state of non-climactic thought. As its users grow ever wiser to its technology, one would think that this genre would eventually begin to sound conventional, and become tamed. Yet, it still has the capability to unleash latent creative potential in everyone who engages with it (musician and audience alike). The true wonder of Electronic Music is not that its reaches are so vast, but that its people continually attempt to touch that which will always be just beyond their grasp. In this spirit, the technological revolution will be proven to be not an unstoppable, unguided force, but a product of human creativity. As the authors of each advance, Mankind will always decide where technology will take us.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END14 December 2017

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Slow Meadow: Costero

Costero

Costero

Slow Meadow: Costero
Released: 17 November 2017
www.hammockmusic.com
www.slowmeadow.com

While modern culture enjoys the distractions of its electric sideshow, Slow Meadow opens a rare space for peace, thought and warmth. The second release by multi-instrumentalist Matthew Kidd is titled Costero (43’01”), and provides ten tracks of reassuring Ambient Chamber Music. An album that flows with the solemn and blissful insistence of life itself, Costero brings fragrance into the listener’s solitude. Featuring mainly pianos and strings, as well as an imaginative assortment of samples, gentle distortion, and other detailed effects, Kidd’s key-centered pieces each move, by root progressions, to a perfect resolution. He makes the relationships of triadic tonality as interesting and understandable as possible, and so the character and quality of his ideas become richer in the process. The musical gestures encountered on Costero are straightforward and uncomplicated. By combining vague classical influences with weightless ambient music, Costero conjures up a safe zone – a realm where notes always stay the same, but meaning is ever changing. Presented in delicate scoring, the violin is explored in all of its registers and shadings, with the piano engaging in lovely melodic substance. When convincingly performed, contemporary music may project strong emotional content. Played with sensitivity, one might touch a flower without troubling a star. But, what world created this music? Surely not the 21st century – where mainstream consumers of music feel anxious, as the marketplace thrives on their exploitation. On the inside, the rest of us explore our music fully in thoughtful repose – where we might imagine but one thing more pleasurable than listening to this album, and that must have been the act of performing it.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 November 2017

Arjen Schat: Spectrum

Spectrum

Spectrum

Arjen Schat: Spectrum
Released: 3 November 2017
www.tresordargent.com
www.arjenschat.nl

While the current crop of man-with-a-sequencer albums seems to trace their success back to a substantial cache of electronic gear, the two items most essential to the impressive work of Arjen Schat are just the two ears he was born with on either side of his head. His release Spectrum (44’08”) does indeed feature five striking works for synthesizers, and their associated accessories, but its most important attribute is a wondrous uplifting musicality. This album is so enjoyable to listen to that once it is over we will want to give thanks for how fine a listening experience it was. Schat has obviously fully absorbed the traditions of the Berlin-School, and improvised some new ones, but Spectrum is no mere homage to the early classics. In poetic precision note patterns echo out, glowing like sparks against a midnight backdrop. The multiple levels of reiterating tones taken together make for a fascinating, ever-evolving texture. These pulsing, crowded moments find order within the mind, as this music shows its ability to hold the listener. Sets of notes, marching out in exact machine order, prove crystalline enough to shine through dusky arrangements, yet raw and direct enough to put across complex emotions. Amidst all this serial mechanized winding do exist long lines of lithe synthetic chords. These ethereal sounds mysteriously soften the steady motoring and pumping at the core of each composition. Whatever challenges that were posed to Schat’s skills in the making of Spectrum, were perfectly met. It is this mastery of detail that adds to its sonic interest – which has great impact upon initial exposure, and continues to grow with each subsequent hearing. In Schat’s inventiveness we find hope for a new enlightenment – one born out of the heat generated during the making of this music.-

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END16 November 2017

Scanner: The Great Crater

The Great Crater

The Great Crater

Scanner: The Great Crater
Released: 29 September 2017
www.glacialmovements.com
www.scannerdot.com

The work of Scanner has always been an uncommon counter-argument to conventional studio Electronic Music. Robin Rimbaud, and the formidable power of his ideas, continues to take us to new places – using things that exist freely all around us. His album The Great Crater (48’36”) goes deep and dark, unsettling the world into which it intercedes. Even brief exposure to this music may make the listener feel vulnerable, so much so that merely giving ear to it becomes a symbolic act. A departure from earlier outright aggressive experimentation, this work is based throughout on various permutations of its title. Across ten tracks suggestive of the unprotected region of the South Pole, The Great Crater whirls and undulates in the way snow drifts, and contracts as do the icecaps now melt. Its consuming dark moods, and a quiet sense of mystery, rise out of a tension within the fabric of the music. In a mysterious unfolding of spatial complexity grinding ice seems to flow. A textural interplay between synthesized tones and stringed chamber instruments provide delicately haunted passages – a remarkable somewhere in which a powerful quiet has washed over us. We find any rhythmic energy on The Great Crater to reside in the periphery. Lilting music box patterns gently surface out of a rumbling frost, as forlorn harmonies issue from overcast fields. In frigid, fragile understated constructs, bitter tones creak and scrape – as an environmental message is sent through. The one missing piece in most EM is ideology, so beyond its excellent concept and production The Great Crater offers a psychological depth not present in other Electronic work. Listening to Scanner, we find that he is not like other musicians. As he reaffirms the resiliency of the artistic imagination, we feel the growing impermanence of the permafrost, and that The Earth’s silence may be its one remark.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 November 2017

Ombient w/Chuck van Zyl: The Gatherings 20 May 2017

The Gatherings 20 May 2017

The Gatherings 20 May 2017

Ombient w/Chuck van Zyl: The Gatherings 20 May 2017
Released: 20 October 2017
www.thegatherings.org
www.ombient.com

The album The Gatherings 20 May 2017 (58’55”) presents the complete live performance by Ombient (Mike Hunter) and Chuck van Zyl during the 25th Anniversary Season of this most venerable innovative music series. Their realization KL-93 was made live, in the heat of the moment, before an enthusiastic, informed audience. As these conditions are known for revealing the creative spark, we find both musicians and their listeners experiencing this extraordinary music together in the act of being made.Without laptops or pre-set software this duo endeavors out into a realm made up of hardware electronics and mental reverie. Minor key Mellotron chords slowly sweep across the sound field. Synthetic drones hold, dim, then lighten. In an ascending rush, then a descending calm, with our imaginative sonic aviators we depart our more common thoughts… for mysterious regions. Bass laden drones soon swallow a melodious Mellotron flute solo, which lilts blessedly above a maelstrom of writhing timbres. Wrapped in a luminous halo of reverberation a string section rises from the rumbling tempest, before the introduction of Hunter’s signature breathless tone patterns – which mount, repeat, and seem to echo out across eternity. A demon behind the sequencer he forgoes the white heat of computer technology – for realizations of mechanical, electrical and analog origin. Utilizing several cases worth of sacramental modular synthesizers, in a secret ministry of sound he performs a most welcome digital detox on the audience.

In propulsive bristling fervor, tumbling sequencer patterns motor on in echoing perfection. The notes brighten, darken, modulate, add and subtract, in a futuristic syncopated minimalism Spacemusic fans have been fascinated with for decades. In a withheld energy these echoing interlocking runs of notes produce a mounting compositional tension, released in our minds as impressionistic cerebration. Every new ascent presents the classic sound of one or another vintage synthesizer, and a shivery reverence that defies explanation. With each turn, these Spacemusic mystics manage to conjure a stimulating atmosphere of mystery, adventure and motion. From its plutonium dense gray desolation and battles with extreme silence, to twinkling modulations and multiple rows of rolling sequencer patterns, we move – west with the night. Arranged under an atmosphere of netherworld sonics, the composition KL-93 throbs powerfully and bounds outward along an electrified musical current.

This work, and that of contemporaries such as Arc, Cosmic Ground, Free System Projekt, Node and Redshift, draws on higher-order capacities. Theirs is a minimalism that speaks volumes. By carefully exploiting the intrinsic technological limits of 1970s Electronic Music Mike Hunter & Chuck van Zyl enlarge the medium’s expressive range and prove this genre is an organism that continues to grow and change with each new manifestation. Today’s artists hope to elevate the Spacemusic experience to one of mystical proportions – as they continue to push this sound as far as it can go.

STAR’S END20 October 2017

Proceeds from the sale of The Gatherings 20 May 2017 by Ombient w/Chuck van Zyl go to support the efforts of CIMA of PA, the IRS recognized, non-profit, all-volunteer organization which oversees The Gatherings Concert Series in Philadelphia

Arc: Fleet

Fleet

Fleet

Arc: Fleet
Released: 20 October 2017
www.din.org.uk

Arc, the UK duo of Ian Boddy & Mark Shreeve, returned to the stage in force at the 13 May 2017 E-Scape EM Festival. Their resulting album is Fleet (74’31”), and includes seven select pieces from their performance. Only in part a vehicle for release and liberation, their live shows always reach towards the unseen depths within all of us. A compelling team on the stage or in the studio, we find that after so many years together their creative flame is still burning brightly. From start to finish, Boddy & Shreeve know where we are headed. Recruiting technology they feel could best carry their intents, it is a devotion to form, structure and rigorous compositional development that yields these tightly arranged and perfectly paced live works. So enormous are its gifts that this music nearly remakes the space around us. Bursting with moody sensuality Fleet takes each member of its audience on their own personal journey. This electrical, mechanical music obviously has something warm and human stirring far down in it. 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, Fleet invites wonder. While some pieces were designed to be nothing more than a fun good time, this album’s best works should unsettle the world into which it intercedes. In ever strengthening whirlpools of thought, Boddy & Shreeve deploy rows of echoing tone patterns and banks of synthesized harmonies. Unblinking, completely in control, their formidable powers of sound design can leave listeners feeling profound and impervious to lasting harm. Heroic keyboard leads and Mellotron chords peak over a pumping, commanding bassline and rocked-out drumming – only later to be drawn down into shifting shadows of sustaining synth textures and a quiet sense of mystery. Fleet provides an epic intimacy in the digital age. In a time where just going to a concert becomes a symbolic act, we love to look back at the decade of the 1970s – as it was bursting so with musical abandon. But our so-called Electronic Spacemusic still keeps taking musicians (and us) to new and fascinating places. So many currents have contributed to its arrival, that one modernistic label should not be allowed to overshadow all else – even as it dares to satisfy us in a way music of an earlier age used to.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END26 October 2017

K Markov: Soul Keeper

Soul Keeper

Soul Keeper

K Markov: Soul Keeper
Released: 13 June 2017
kmarkov.bandcamp.com

The music of K Markov continues to take the listener to new places. His release Soul Keeper (61’29”) seizes our ears and our imaginations. The virtues of lucidity, concision and unity exemplify the refreshing clarity of Markov’s imaginative thinking. At times graceful and consonant, at times angular and dissonant, Soul Keeper has a broad atmospheric range. As we are drawn into a musical experience of larger proportions we find that the impulse for this work is overtly electronic. Throwing off sparks in a superb heedlessness and wild ferocity an intricate geometry of sequencer patterns run like a secret engine. Cast in three pieces the rhythmic buoyancy and variation of Soul Keeper reflects the innate quality of Markov’s creative gift. Patterns of minimalist complexion cycle and vary notes, length and key, in the still driving force of this music’s mesmerizing pulse. Its abstract structures are more overtly coloristic and varied in their expressive range, while textures are diversified to fascinating degrees. In a slow burn of quiet energy a dark sonic mass rustles sleeping shadows, as this album generates heat against a cool cosmic background. Coherent synth lead lines thread through multiple intersections – where ideas, memories and emotions connect and reconnect in myriad combinations. Spookily vacant passages recede within heroic synthesizer themes. Under these building chords we find that a heart still beats. Ultimately, the greater feeling of weight and power on Soul Keeper resolves into a suitable concluding section – an ending hopeful yet credible. So many currents have contributed to this music. While technology and contemporary life hold their high positions, we find Markov himself as the immovable center. He is a planet builder. His music generates worlds where we cannot feel the decay of ours.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END19 October 2017