Spacemusic Reviews

Category: Chamber Music

Sven Laux & Daniela Orvin: The Writings

The Writings

The Writings

Sven Laux and Daniela Orvin: The Writings
Released: 12 April 2019

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 In their brief spell, compositions reveal a withdrawn melancholy.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

Max Richter: From Sleep

From Sleep

From Sleep

Max Richter: From Sleep
Released: 4 September 2015

Max Richter is either the sharpest space cadet in Classical, or the most well-traveled sleepwalker in Ambient. His work Sleep is an 8 hour 24 minute adagio meant to lull listeners into the warm glow of slumber. This full-on version of Sleep may register as an epic of contemporary instrumental music, but the most significant parts of this experience will happen within the mind of the listener. While most music is vague in purpose (a distraction from, rather than an engagement with, our inner lives), Sleep is meant to open up a significant span of time where nothing is asked of the participant – nothing more than to reflect and experience the stimulating calm that this music has the potential to bring. If Sleep is to be heard while sleeping, then the album From Sleep (59’58”) is meant to be engaged and actively listened to – as best as one can. Featuring piano, organ and synthesizer tones by Richter, and the ACME string ensemble, From Sleep sustains an effective atmosphere of dreamy, drifty, restorative and altogether lovely meditations. The deep background of each composition produces sustaining virtuous chords, with the foreground commanded by a lilting forthright melody – and its recurring dream-like effect. In choosing the seven tracks for From Sleep, Richter provides us with one from each different texture and mood. From a stylish minimalism of tear soaked piano and violin, to brooding Spacemusic apparitions, and consoling child vocals, the music touches us – captivating our minds, and possibly penetrating our dream lives. From Sleep both belongs to and transcends its era. In no hurry to deliver his message, Richter is a comfort to his listeners. Yet, while serving us, we can imagine that he too may be using this music to search for something deeper within his own self.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END5 November 2015

Keaton Henson: Romantic Works

Romantic Works

Romantic Works

Romantic Works by Keaton Henson
Released: 16 June 2014

What heart beats beneath Romantic Works (31’35”)? In minimally staged scenes Keaton Henson wanders his way through nine instrumental tracks with affecting reserve – holding everything back, and always on the verge of tears. Giving an audible form to the heartfelt and unseen this album is an examining of intimate moments. A chilly poetry hangs in the air around these tentative piano ceremonies, often in consort with cellist Ren Ford – and the presence of a number of evocative and well-placed background field recordings. Trusting themselves to keep things simple Romantic Works is restrained where it matters and bold when it counts. Henson’s well-attuned Ambient Chamber Music is harmonically consonant and of a fragility found rarely among his contemporaries. In concert Henson generally seems to haunt his own performance stage. If his music is a revelation of his true nature, then it may well be that his survival depends on this isolation. Romantic Works has been realized in deftness and sensitivity – each perfectly paced piece generating a unique emotional idyll of uncommon sensitivity. The beautiful resolution found at the end of each composition might relate more to the fortitude of the composer or listener than to any ordered musical conclusion. Romantic Works is Ambient Music at its most studious and stirs the exact feelings it depicts. The elegance of its dramatic spareness and its brevity makes Romantic Works all the more enticing. It is the sort of album you want to re-hear immediately.

(Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END8 January 2015)

A Winged Victory for the Sullen: Atmos



Atmos by A Winged Victory for the Sullen
Released: 7 October 2014

While one may seek to gain strength during a stay in solitude, one should not do without music. Atmos (62’30”) will be the perfect companion on those occasions when we do not want to have one. Atmos is the second full-length CD by A Winged Victory for the Sullen – the ensemble headed up by Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran. This mesmerizing album of chamber ensemble, clear grand piano, breathing blissed-out electric guitar and various manipulations of sound visits a realm shared by minimalist Philip Glass, quietist Arvo Pärt and theorist Brian Eno. Known for the drift away from narrative on their 2011 self-titled debut, AWVftS moved beautifully towards landscape – from performed event to sonic space. Atmos does contain a number of these places of ambient otherness, but a few of the 11 tracks also produce musical activity with relationships to thematic forms. Over their brief spell compositions featuring rotating chord transpositions will be felt on an emotional level as adjacent pieces find the group creating a sonic timelessness through dramatic bass, digital atmospherics and a slowly scored tensile string section. Since its inception AWVftS has been an avid international touring entity. Experiences in reverberant church sanctuaries, pristine auditoriums and murmuring cafes and bars have Wiltzie and O’Halloran imagining that music is an arrangement of objects in space. They know how long it takes any sound to travel through the hall. As chords and melodic fragments float along surrounded by thick silence, their sonorities are given time to reverberate inside the listener’s mind. From its nearly stationary textures to structured, goal-oriented harmonic narratives, AWVftS allows their music to unfold moment by moment – as we listeners hope to feel that moment of grace music seems to generate from time to time.

(Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 October 2014)