Chuck van Zyl: Spacetones
Chuck van Zyl has a way with beginnings… and with endings… and often with middles too… His 31 March 2018 performance at the E-Day Festival at De Enck in Oirschot, The Netherlands was an abundant story of, not just his trans-continental travels, but also the culmination of his years long journey as a musician. The concert space is the crucible in which van Zyl dispatches his thought experiments – and Spacetones (68’48”) provides the document of the spontaneous compositions and in-the-moment improvisations which transpired over the course of his festival live set. Pulling the audience forward with the inexorable logic of sound, the concert’s mythic beginning gives way to excited sequencer notes motoring on in echoing perfection. The patterns go brighter, then dim, transpose, add on and subtract out notes in the syncopated minimalism Berlin-School fans have been fascinated with for decades. Gliding along the spaceways, these pulsing passages present spirited effects of rhythmic flight. Slow chords hold forth while echoing note cycles peal out below animated keyboard leads. With electronic harmonies rising and falling in passages of dark and light, an unexpected beauty emerges. When the listener becomes swallowed up in Mellotron stringed soundtracks and layers of portentous synthesizer drones, energy flares are deployed in a menacing enchantment, and elevate the structure of the album, and the concert – always at the speed of thought. Accomplished in its narrative complexity and drive Spacetones is a wondrous evocation of the virtues of live EM. Beneath the enigmatic cool of the deep space traveler, this musician may indeed be generating heat – but at every moment is asking the listener to please, “come along with me”. Throughout Spacetones we are listening to someone with a real passion for sound and atmosphere. It is a sweeping vision of what live EM is and what it may do for us. But in spite of all the current emphasis on the specifications of equipment and gear, or the harrowing stress of playing this kind of live concert, in truth this music is simply the story of the state of a man… going from the one heart on stage, to those out in the audience.