Spacemusic Reviews

Category: Harrison McKay

Skoulaman: Fluxes in Philadelphia

Fluxes in Philadelphia

Fluxes in Philadelphia

Skoulaman: Fluxes in Philadelphia
Released: 26 October 2019

The Dutch Electronic Musician Hans van Kroonenburg chooses to make his life bigger through playing concerts as Skoulaman, and ours richer through the act of listening. His Fluxes in Philadelphia (71’45”) extends the fleeting connection of the concert venue through a live CD. Recorded on 18 May 2019 as part of The Gatherings Concert Series it reaches moods and emotions that a less adventurous contemporary instrumental music could ever possibly touch. Seated in the pews during this confident performance it was hard to recall the existential emptiness of modern life just beyond the reverberating sanctum. The seven tracks found on Fluxes in Philadelphia are examples of the Skoulaman live dynamic at its peak – living in the flow of the moment and simply playing to those assembled from the heart. With still sustaining synth pads supporting interlocked sequencer blips, rising keyboard lead lines converse with electric piano. In the ambient, more reflective zones the mind flows inward – with the focused, melodic, rhythmic sections leading us on a journey outward. When stirring up metallic glitter analogue synthesizers breathe ethereal tones. In an instant we hear the lyrical rush and rumbling of a coming time. With its celestial choirs, growling pads and delicate textures this work portrays a certain amount of drama – yet its delightful acceleration never disturbs the friendly and contemplative feel. With the sound expanded on two tracks by local electric guitarist Harrison McKay, the Skoulaman show took flight in midnight swirls and cloud nine bliss – and demonstrates the rare thing that may be felt when a unique talent, receptive audience and reverential air all converge in a unique sanctuary setting. This is a realization that could never be the mere distillation of several classics, as the unique and supportive atmosphere contributed so significantly. The conditions under which this music was made are of a factor that can never be replicated – a one-time-only moment for Skoulaman to hold forth and make his statement. Those at the performance could see the joy this man took in the act of playing music and creating something new. Through the release of Fluxes in Philadelphia everyone may now hear this joy. This event and album reminds us that the world is still full of beauty and kindness – and the musical realm Skoulaman creates is a place we should all aspire to live in.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 December 2019

The Tangent Project: Threads



The Tangent Project: Threads
Released: 21 May 2016

The Tangent Project creates a coherence from forces of wide ranging origins. Synthesist Jeff Coulter and guitarist Harrison McKay find their musical truths in the vague idea of atmosphere, as they forego the conventions of music which prevent others from finding a truer expression. The album Threads (71’02”) may at first seem like a vessel of primitive energy. With its rough grained coarse timbres, sustaining thought tones and potent exhilarating immediacy, Threads ably converts electrical current into sound. But the work of The Tangent Project is more than just the dream of a mechanical future. Out of an increasing density and dissonance emerge tonal elements – suggesting our higher emotional being. Expressionistic moans, a noise from beyond, driven by transformations of texture and rhythm, jump in from nowhere to snap in the air. The fluid sound of McKay’s e-bow guitar evokes a wordless oratory, as Coulter’s common chords move gradually between the sullen and dusky, and the serenely radiant. Sequencer sections move in circles, clearing away any abstract clutter, while areas of epic sustaining notes find the twilit listener, and move them gently into the stillness of night. Luxuriating in these ambiguous sonorities, we drift easily further into thought. But, in a quick rush of sound, remnants of a memory, shapes from a vision, coalesce into clear cycling patterns – echoing pleasantly along an intriguing compositional arc. Mellotron reeds play their subtle message through a vertical mass of deep reverb, and mark the brink of nothingness. As the lustrous arrangements build, Threads commands our attention. Its four tracks (one commissioned for STAR’S END) move us through liminal realms. In a vivid succession of sounds, rhythms, moods, and musical ideas we find ourselves traveling in place. As we traverse the great distances of our thoughts, we must regard the quiet roar upon which we are riding. This curious sensation goes with us, on the lonely road of exploration.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END29 September 2016