starsendradio

Spacemusic Reviews

Category: Ambient Chamber Music

David Helpling: Rune

Rune

Rune

David Helpling: Rune
Released: 22 November 2019
www.spottedpeccary.com

David Helpling tells stories with a cool skill. We should take to listening to his release Rune (67’55”) just before bed, because it feels built of pre-dream sweetness and of that familiar longing for adventure. Its eight tracks weave their way into your mind – each providing a pleasurable atmosphere within which to dwell. Both deeply felt and elegantly played Rune is disarming in its subtle tonal shifts. Taking a calm stance, from his electric guitar Helpling elicits works of languorous introspection. Exploring the possibilities of playing his instrument through the endless delay of digital processors he designs a rich and varied palette of textures and tones – which makes for a constantly renewed musical interest. Along with the looping riffs, sustaining leads and studies in slide guitar Helpling also deploys grace-filled vibrating metal chords and shimmering steel string structures flung toward the sky. Riding the tides of sonic seas, this work shifts in currents of harmonic motion. Textures thicken, and we become enthralled in the revealing depths of solemn and unfrequented regions. Helpling’s imagination carries these performances, which are often beautiful, even breathtaking. Rune will be well-received by the ears and hold fast to the heart. Beneath his album’s slick surfaces there is an insistent humanity – an understanding of the greater whole of which his music is a part.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 28 November 2019

Hotel Neon: Relic

Relic

Relic

Hotel Neon: Relic
Released: 10 September 2019
www.hotelneonmusic.com

Hotel Neon has always made subdued ambient music with a measured intensity. On Relic (36’27”) they pull from emotional depths and faded memories to shape an album coated in nostalgia and withdrawn creeping textures. On tape the music is an exercise in idea building, on stage it is sheer bliss. The slow burning style of spacey sonics radiates outward, even as the effect works its way toward the glowing inner workings of the listening mind. In five twilit scenes Relic provides a quietly moving impact. The tones the trio produce are processed, delayed, distorted and looped – creating complex harmonies and timbres not usually associated with ordinary electric guitars and keyboard. The vibrations emanating from rubbed, plucked or excited steel strings swirl and morph and assume a new identity. In spare, rare piano notes Hotel Neon extend their poetic ambitions. Under a kindred midnight these fully charged pieces retain a solid formality. Gauzy but gleaming below layers of reverberation a delicate music shows off the ethereal power of sound. As night falls, the guitars call, low in the lowlands and high on the hills. From heights descending notes fall fast, while ascending sounds take more time to reach us. Tones too big for the ear enter through the chest, to touch the heart – then retreat into silence. Following the thread in our head, the emotional intensity of our Relic will open within.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END14 November 2019

Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Tim Story: Lunz 3

Lunz 3

Lunz 3

Hans-Joachim Roedelius & Tim Story: Lunz 3
Released: 30 June 2019
www.curiousmusic.us
www.roedelius.com
www.timstory.com

Lunz 3 (69’23”) makes our collection of contemporary music one masterpiece richer. Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Tim Story do sound great on their own, but transcendent together. Through a unique intuition their collaboration leaves enough room not only for one another, but also for moments of tenderness and light. It is a dream team-up that is by turns searching enough to elicit some head-scratching, yet gutting enough to bring a listener to tears – sometimes in the span of a single composition. In the yawn of years since the issue of the original Lunz (2002) this duo has strived to become more worthy of their craft. Lunz 3, bathed in the autumnal light of time remembered, is partly a studio re-imagining of the earlier tracks, but to some extent a fresh new endeavor. Building on ideas and themes from the prior release, Roedelius and Story easily re-inhabit the gentle gravity of their Ambient Chamber Music. The musical gestures encountered here again feel straightforward and uncomplicated. By combining vague classical influences with weightless spacemusic, they conjure up a safe zone – an odd area where the notes may stay the same but their meaning is ever changing. With the pianos, cellos and violins engaging in lovely melodic substance, an ethereal sonic invention adds instruction-less puzzles. Bringing fragrance into the listener’s solitude an imaginative assortment of samples, gentle distortion and other detailed effects move these 18 key-centered pieces, by root progressions, each to their own perfect resolution. With wit and wisdom in every tone Roedelius and Story realize their quiet, hand-played works. Fundamental is the thought that people may be reached, that beauty can make a difference. Due to its expansive promise their music seems inexhaustible – as the musicians and their listeners are constantly seeking more from it. Lunz 3 opens a rare space for peace, thought and warmth. It is as powerfully effective as instrumental storytelling gets – flowing with the solemn, blissful insistence of life itself. From a slow chill and friendly sweetness, to the feeling of leaving Earth, or even the sense of coming home, for the duration of this album we get to live in a realm that we can make sense of.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 September 2019

Sven Laux & Daniela Orvin: The Writings

The Writings

The Writings

Sven Laux and Daniela Orvin: The Writings
Released: 12 April 2019
www.dronarivm.com
www.svenlaux.com
www.danielaorvin.com

The gentle presence of Sven Laux and Daniela Orvin may be felt every time we spin The Writings (49’16”). Either in collaboration, or on their own, their nine somber compositions will be the perfect companion for those occasions where we would rather be alone. Organized with understated design principles this work is meant to still our brainwave activity – as it creates a slow space for us to drift through. It is in the clouds just below consciousness that The Writings will be truly known. Harmonies play and progress, but sometimes become lost – floating to the forefront over and over again. Long unhurried chords emerge out of a soft aura of reverberation, as the music is performed in measured motion – a limitation that does not prevent Laux and Orvin from capturing many moods. In their brief spell, compositions reveal a withdrawn melancholy. While some pieces drag themselves down to a near standstill, others float along surrounded by thick silence – their sonorities given time to reverberate within the listener. Inside its nearly stationary atmosphere this album unfolds. The texture of chamber instruments usually comes through, as does a piano emanating soothing notes – in a room down the hall, or a synthesizer drone – somewhere in the house electric wiring. Brooding and luminous, as well as accomplished and satisfying The Writings contemplates an encounter for the mind – as it conveys a balm for the spirit. In their beautifully bleak arrangements, Laux and Orvin easily inhabit the gentle gravity of Ambient Chamber Music. Here these dependable quietists have realized a gorgeous journey into the elegiac – leaving us composed, cool and collected after the event. From what idyllic age must this study have come?

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 June 2019

Bob Holroyd: The Cage

The Cage

The Cage

Bob Holroyd: The Cage
Released: 9 March 2018
www.bobholroyd.com

Everyone has a talent, but not everyone has something to say. So let now those with ears hear The Cage (59’57”) by Bob Holroyd. Relentlessly introspective, this album is about what it means for Holroyd to be alive right now. Patient and yet exploratory, the music may be as much a therapy for the musician as it is a pleasure for his listeners. While little of The Cage is truly new, the light it sheds most definitely is. As Holroyd seemingly runs an electrical field through a chamber ensemble, instruments lose their sense of place and become sonic forms – making every note piercingly bright, yet soft as velvet. Haunted and fragile, stricken strings establish a secret territory – a kind of twilight struggle between contrasting harmonies and unresolved emotions. His ambient zones work well to still the wheels, while further in textures thicken, a rhythm arises, and an anthem resolves. The Cage always takes the way of the thinker, even when it is pumping and pulsing soft beats and gentle grooves. This music for the quiet mind also grows softly – with layered violins, reverb drenched piano notes, delicate acoustic guitar, and all manner of digital treatment and interference. The quieter sections tug from the edges, pulling our attention away from their center. With its subtly heightened, finely focused energies flowing through every moment, this work decorates our condition with music. Holroyd is a remarkably protean composer, one at home in a wide range of styles. At all times he is the human centerpiece of The Cage – his hollowness, his most veiled, impossible longings, and more, all portrayed across 12 tracks of becalmed poetic brevity. Pushing the Ambient Chamber Music form forward with intellectual precision, artistic clarity, and stylistic confidence, any one of Holroyd’s finely tuned compositions prove it is possible to achieve a utopia with the materials we have at hand.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 December 2018

Max Richter: The Blue Notebooks (2018)

The Blue Notebooks (2018)

The Blue Notebooks (2018)

Max Richter: The Blue Notebooks (2018)
Released: 11 May 2018
www.deutschegrammophon.com
www.maxrichtermusic.com

Max Richter‘s second album The Blue Notebooks (40’36”) was first heard on broadcasts of STAR’S END shortly after it was released in 2004. From the first listen it was felt that here was a work with enough cinematic scale to warrant a film of its own. Almost 15 years onward we find that music from this album has indeed been used to great effect in a number of television and movie releases. The composition On the Nature of Daylight may be found as part of soundtracks for Arrival, The Innocents, The Face of an Angel and Shutter Island. No less than four versions of this piece may be found on the Deutsche Grammophon two CD re-issue of The Blue Notebooks: the album version, an orchestral version, a slightly more textural entropy mix, and finally a version which ingeniously integrates Dinah Washington’s moving vocal from her 1959 song This Bitter Earth (which closes out the seven tracks found on this edition’s 30+ minute bonus disc). The Blue Notebooks also presents readings from Franz Kafka and Czeslaw Milosz by actor Tilda Swinton – interspersed amongst movements of delicate piano, booming pipe organ and weeping string ensemble, and often embedded within the sounds of a typewriter in use and environmental recordings. Visceral and dreamlike in its sonic power Richter’s work embodies a bold assertion of humanity, in a desolate, empty land that seeks forever to blot it out. In his enthusiasm for the forces that bind us together we hear an open heart. Effortlessly elegant, with a raw vulnerability The Blue Notebooks makes us believe in things we have long forgotten. We must hope to be worthy of the grace the composer of this work has received.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 September 2018

Steve Jansen: The Extinct Suite

The Extinct Suite

The Extinct Suite

Steve Jansen: The Extinct Suite
Released: 6 March 2017
www.stevejansen.com

We are attracted to people who will share something of themselves with us. Steve Jansen does so extraordinarily throughout The Extinct Suite (55’46”). Letting go of his need for fixed answers, Jansen seems to be living his way into this work – to become new to himself in ways that matter. His continuous, extensive, wordless structures are so beautifully rendered that Jansen easily pulls us over to his side. At times moving at a muted, measured pace, tones fight gravity – as music enters from a strange wayward place. Searching through the rubble of memory, a series of unresolved chords further advances a disconcerting state. As Jansen’s internal guidance directs this music through its moods and atmospheres, ensemble instruments sustain alongside synthesizers and samplers. Noticing a digital debris vignetting the drama of piano notes and building cinema strings, we find a bewitching quality of sonic stillness. Quiet sections settle as does the dust that hides the glow of a rose, while further in the bending of starlight holds ethereal voices in an upper realm. Smoky textures fill a formerly vacant spot, with an unbothered keyboard driving scales of notes above. Silvery flute lines breathe along a dulcet arc, countered later by metallic drones and a listless ambiance. As each theme, form and motif emerges, sustains and resolves, it should be understood that no matter how puzzling or diffuse, the only way for the audience to get through this realization is to give our selves over to it. Expertly rendered in a most fragile theater of time The Extinct Suite helps us become vulnerable to the beauty of existence. Jansen manages to bring the listener into his world – which is often a gorgeous realm. In a kind of cursive grace he travels down a number of mental musical corridors, never leaving anyone behind. Sound has always been a secondary consideration in music, yet throughout The Extinct Suite it is of primary concern. Lacking limits, this album is a continuous delight to the ear, and to the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 6 September 2018