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Spacemusic Reviews

Category: Christian Steffen

GROBEK: GROBEK I

GROBECK I

GROBECK I

GROBEK: GROBEK I
Released: 22 July 2019
grobek.bandcamp.com

GROBAK is the duo of Jorg Erren and Christian Steffen, who take part in an annual off-season synthesizer jam in the village of Ouddorp on the North Sea. Each of their Wintertime rituals yields a wealth of new music, made proper after additional weeks or months of editing and re-imagining. The tone of their album GROBEK I veers from quietly electronic and textural, up to the kinetic and the reckless. Moving in the mad poetry of its energized, nodding notes, up through echoing, tumbling sequencer patterns, this album then again backs down – veering between the two realms in an easy flow. Calmly hypnotic, the pulse of this music tries to align the conflicting energies of the mind. Yet, within the overlapping mobility of circling and spiraling notes, the excitement, emotion and mystery of this work is expressed. As bold synth melodies search for accompaniment, the current of sound builds, recedes, then resolves into an adagio of synthesizer strings. Every minute of GROBEK I seems filled with something that demands our attention. With its interlinked shifting arpeggios the sound of a wildly spinning engine softens to that a more harnessed propulsion. The atmosphere is lean, transparent, surging – like currents journeying through a limitless expanse. Raw, dark and dreamy, we feel the potency of every note. GROBEK I is a studio album which vibrates with restrained intensity, yet remains fully energized by the free-form nature of the recording process. In its mix of anthemic melodies, harmonic landscapes and motorik rhythms the listener will find a steady sonic pleasure – as each of its nine tracks glitter with its own charm and electricity.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END5 September 2019

EFSS: Tidal Shift

Tidal Shift

Tidal Shift

EFSS: Tidal Shift
Released: 9 April 2018
efss.bandcamp.com

If you are seeking an easy way to shift your mind set, then just cue up Tidal Shift (54’23”) – the collective collaboration between Jörg Erren, Bert Fleissig, Jochen Schöttler and Christian Steffen. This album selectively activates neurochemical systems and brain structures associated with positive mood – as its music travels from the brain space of the creators directly into ours. Each of the seven tracks vibrates inside us, one by one conjuring a different color and atmosphere. The tempo may prowl then race outward with machine-like focus. A sense of serenity mutates into unease, setting us down amidst oxidized tones and an eerie beauty. Metallic drones, churning within collapsing worlds, are soon joined by ethereal strings and ticking percussion – with fat synthesized blobs marking time beneath flights of echoing sequencer runs. A rhythmic grid locates itself in space, and is promptly foregrounded by glittering modulated effects and raw energized sparks. Ghostly assemblages of drifting electronics become absorbed by a restless surge of synchronized patterns, only to plunge us back into the stillness of a close and holy darkness. All this and more makes Tidal Shift an exhilarating document. EFSS spends only a few days a year working together urgently on this music, and here reaches a new plateau. This release reasserts their originality as musicians – operating in the luxury of an underground haven where ideas can be explored freely with no worry of how they will land. This secluded existence is built around the contemplative pursuit of making music. By purchasing this CD, playing their work, and listening, we are granted permission to go with them on an intimate journey of creativity.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END10 May 2018

EFSS: Night on Ouddorp

Night on Ouddorp

Night on Ouddorp

Night on Ouddorp by EFSS
Released: 14 August 2014
efss.bandcamp.com

Spacemusic is largely an untamed art. Despite the logical and technical rigor this music may appear to display, it truly belongs to a sub-planetary religion. So consumed are the zealots within this temple of tech; were an inquisitive outsider to ask about changing chords, the reply would most certainly refer to something measuring either three, six or twelve feet in length. The album Night on Ouddorp (48’10”) was made by four men of this realm. Specializing so in the technica of Electronic Music, when Jorg Erren, Bert Fleissig, Jochen Schöttler and Christian Steffen get a tingle from their music they immediately check for a faulty ground wire connection. Night on Ouddorp was realized out of the third of this quartet’s annual week-long getaways – which combines under one roof a series of loose jam sessions and gear tweaking with serious arrangement and compositional collaborations. EFSS‘s intellect works under the forward-looking theme of sound innovation, but their retrograde hearts belong to the Berlin-School. Track after track assails us with bouncing electrified notes echoing in rows of repeating arpeggio patterns. So steeped in machinery is this work that while listening we can almost see the blinking lights, dials, buttons, switches and patch cords of this outfit’s rig. Monsters are always hungry, and the sequencer patterns on Night on Ouddorp pump out a soundtrack fit for the chase. With burning foreheads EFSS produce heroic electronic pulsations borne on blood soaked dissonance. While some of the first six titles generate a stable mood and energy, others are given enough juice to dim the lights and have the late night listener looking over their shoulder. Thankfully, the tastefully administered glittering modulated effects and synthetic melodic leads manage to offer humanity and warmth to counter the otherwise mechanical mathematical vibe of this crisp production. The last of these seven works quietly murmurs in a mysterious dark downward dirge, and brings us to the borders of sleep – that unfathomable deep where all must lose their way. True, we may lose our way somewhere in Night on Ouddorp, but never our selves. The ideas found within this genre have a life outside of it – if only known of by the initiated few. What a better world it would be were it populated with more individuals such as Erren, Fleissig, Schottler and Steffen – people who carry with them in their hearts and minds the secret forces of this music.

(Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 October 2014)