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Spacemusic Reviews

Category: Ambient

LIsa Bella Donna: Tramontane

Tramontane

Tramontane

Lisa Bella Donna: Tramontane
Released: 26 October 2019
www.lisabelladonna.com

The first sonic impression of Tramontane (50’27”) arrives with a rumble of white noise. A deeply absorbing album, its listeners are completely taken over by a wondrous atmosphere. Wrapped in the skilled musical invention we have come to expect from our most innovative Electronic Musicians, Lisa Bella Donna breathes in a musical freedom that allows her to experiment without abandoning her strengths. The sounds found on Tramontane seethe and roil in a deep real cool – all in service to a skilled musical intent. Each of the two tracks, each a singular flowing thought, asks us to tune into our quieter frequencies. But being introspective does not mean that this work has to be vague. In its drift toward a soft-focus landscape many touching, quiet moments are indeed realized – but the ambient spell cast by this gemlike album is occasionally broken by an enlivening keyboard lead. These bewitching thought-zones arc through their magical moments in a beautifully transporting performance, both restful to the intellect and comforting to the spirit. By continually combining and recombining a vivid range of timbres into substantial sonic textures and cosmic aural colors, this artist leaves us dwelling in vivid states of wordless quietude and opalescent shine. Recordings of a natural wilderness environment mingle with synthesizer pads and detailed electronic modulations as the mood pushes into the far-flung reaches of thought. The deliberate pacing, the sense of consonance surrounded by space, the rush of warm rounded chords all make for a fascinating listening experience. Most competent musicians can easily produce heat. Lisa Bella Donna produces light. A work of sustained ambiance Tramontane conveys the enigmatic yet simple essence of her world apart.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 February 2020

Juta Takahashi: Pleochroism

Pleochroism

Pleochroism

Juta Takahashi: Pleochroism
Released: 31 December 2019
www.neotantra.co.uk
www.jutatakahashi.com

Juta Takahashi is strong enough to dream. In his music we do not re-locate, but rather we de-locate. The CD Pleochroism (62’06”) strengthens our hearts, as it stills our minds. Its music resides outside worldly realms – allowing us to step easily into sustaining zones of cerebral contemplation. As whispering synthesizers drift into silence, we find each of this album’s four electronic hymns to be a study in harmonic contrasts. Under a cloud cover of digital reverberation string triads sound out in the way moonlight sometimes shimmers. Beams of music, refracted through the spirit of the player, swirl elegantly throughout the sound space. Weightless notes bloom across a range of color and mass – in a process understood only on their own terms. Chords drift, slip and lift in a sweet reverie – as softer sounds prevail and coax the night to stay a few moments longer. Fitting easily into the New Age or Ambient Music categories, Pleochroism is a lush counterpoint to the lesser works of these classes. Each track seems to expand continuously over its duration – flowing gently through a range of sculpted textures and sustained moods. Pastoral and silvery then dark and dense, these slowly shifting realizations open up space then fill it with sound – as deep sonic pleasures lead to reassuring calm. In a time most concerned with the mastery of the world out there, listeners to Pleochroism may transcend the day-to-day – and find contentment dwelling in the universe found in here – within ourselves.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END6 February 2020

David Parsons: Chakra

Chakra

Chakra

David Parsons: Chakra
Released: 8 November 2019
gterma.blogspot.com

From the calm center of David Parsons comes an expression above existence. Through the specific language of his music he shares with us a discipline, a devotion that most people usually keep private. Chakra (63’25”) provides seven tracks for the quieter, more inward pursuits – and gives the moments we pass listening to it greater significance. Entering its weightless realm we feel received, accepted. Throughout its primitive polish and coarse refinement the human self remains audible. An enigmatic, deep album of methodical pacing and ceremonial intensity Chakra does not lead the listener, but stays with us well into the deeper dream. Electronic textures grow, thicken and gently shift, as harmonics become dense, then fall away into a smooth ribbon of sound. Expanding drones slow the plane of daily existence, as failing hums and buzzes give way to riffs of percussion which carry through the linear path of time. Chiming metallic tones ring above the tapping of synths and clicking of keys. Where breathy sounds seep into one composition, the chant of sequestered monks is released in another. Taken all together these elements convey the enigmatic yet simple essence of this world apart, and may even evoke the metaphysical dimension at the center of the player. However pleasurably adrift in this state of continual expansion, the listener is held inside an intriguing sonic palette – an experience notable for its profound impenetrability. The mind, the soul, the heart, this work touches all three. Chakra is not situated in the past, nor in the future. Within this most vivid sound field every listener is at the center of an infinite circle – with David Parsons declaring himself throughout.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END16 January 2020

Forrest Fang: Ancient Machines

Ancient Machines

Ancient Machines

Forrest Fang: Ancient Machines
Released: 2 December 2019
www.projekt.com
www.forrestfang.com

What is Forrest Fang doing for this world? With the release of Ancient Machines (73’06”) he asks us to hear what he hears. By listening to this album we take our first steps into a larger realm – a zone expressly for those desiring to encounter things outside of themselves. These new territories are reached with each of his successive efforts. The 11 luminous, graceful, self-assured tracks found on Ancient Machines seek a timeless space. Reconnecting us with life as it should be this music thrives. The most absorbing material may be compositions that feature violin or piano, which have been plucked, picked, bowed, struck or strummed. Propelled gently by tempo energy their voice and structure heaves under atmospheric weight. In a simultaneous sounding of tones a feeling of rest, of no need for further resolution is produced. Yet on some realizations clashing frequencies produce mildly moody results. A balance of opposing tensions, the connection between disparate sounds may lead us to better connect with unfamiliar ideas. In a slowing that sinks us back in time each piece is an exploitation of carefully chosen and contrasted tonal qualities. Under a building torrent of reverberating electronics this tech-tinged hybrid work seems from a primitive past, somehow beamed to the present day. With its masterful emotive shading Ancient Machines will be good for listeners, and even better for dreamers. Synthetic sonorities are combined with groupings of acoustic sounds and instruments in a specifically composed manner – and form a unity so as to convey the message of the artist. In a blend of art and technology he arranges timbres, pitches, and rhythms in a way so well that it stirs the emotions of the listener. All musical activity by Forrest Fang is the reproduction of the world that surrounds him, by means of the world that is within him – recreated in a personal form and an original manner. As for the listener, meaning is elusive… out where this music’s thousand dreams softly burn.

– Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END26 December 2019

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

Chuck van Zyl: Spacetones

Spacetones

Spacetones

Chuck van Zyl: Spacetones
Released: 26 October 2019
www.groove.nl
chuckvanzyl.weebly.com

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.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END24 October 2019