starsendradio

Spacemusic Reviews

Category: Kosmische Musik

Cosmic Ground: Cosmic Ground 5

Cosmic Ground 5

Cosmic Ground 5

Cosmic Ground; Cosmic Ground 5
Released: 25 October 2019
www.cosmicground.de

Atmosphere is the intention of works by Cosmic Ground. While most music made with electronic instruments provides abstractions in sound (leaving the listener lost amidst unresolved questions of existence) this project by prog-rock keyboardist turned space explorer Dirk Jan Müller continues to engineer expressions useful to those embarking on their own intimate aural adventure. The CD Cosmic Ground 5 (75’23”) presents eight tracks of Müller’s excellent Berlin-School inventions – each building out from spare beginnings into cool textural proportions. With its chilled synth pads pulling our mood into dark realms, the sound assembly soon gives way to echoing sonic effects seething above urgent sequencer throbbing. Inside these pulsing machine poems the motoring patterns circle and crest dramatically – their interlocking rhythms shifting with each new design. Continually throughout Cosmic Ground 5 the abyss widens, and, as a vast planetary choir mysteriously descends, fills with drama. With its mechanical reiterating riffs the cascading notes shift and divide in a twisting double helix of charged electrical tones. Once these propulsive fabrications reach their fullest spark, a coursing synth work stills the journey – flaring and sending us off to probe other coordinates. For riders of the empty plain Cosmic Ground 5 is the perfect soundtrack. Between its palpable sense of alienation and our yearning for meaning in The Universe we may hear the real force that moves things.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 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

K Markov: Interactivity

Interactivity

Interactivity

K Markov: Interactivity
Released: 24 September 2019
www.synphaera.com/exosphere

In playing Interactivity (65’33”) you are agreeing to listen to K Markov‘s story. Expressing a mood, an atmosphere, a tone, in a numberless variety of subtle sonic shadings, he travels through space like a rocketeer blasting past planets. Polished, rigorous and sober this release is influenced by the 1970s Berlin-School, yet it narrates from the present. Each of its five tracks emerge in a slow gathering of ominous growls – putting the audience inside the action. The amorphous texture of Interactivity initially fills out our space with dense forms. These timbre experiments provide an unexpected excursion. As drifting drones roll out their charged current, the potent, primitive force of sound itself expresses power. Above a storm of sequencer patterns, rushing synthesizer chords mix with lead lines and bristle with electrical current. These pulsing passages are spirited performances of melodic and rhythmic flight. Slow melodies hold forth above a venting mass, while echoing note cycles peal out amidst animated keyboard leads. With electronic harmonies rising and falling in passages of light and dark, an unexpected beauty emerges. Beneath the enigmatic cool of a deep space traveler, this musician generates heat. When tonal content melts into a muted metallic ringing, modulated effects bring on a darkening chill. Here too Markov captures angelic harmonies, amid mined subterranean frequencies. The structure of Interactivity sets the pace of thought. Out past the storms of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, and the other gas giants, past where the planets end, we may find – among the stars – that there is a meaning to this work. It urges us to be more, not to just want more. Animated by the power of music to convey emotions it stands strong against the cynicism that tears at the fabric of modern life.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END26 September 2019

Caterina Barbieri: Ecstatic Computation

Ecstatic Computation

Ecstatic Computation

Caterina Barbieri: Ecstatic Computation
Released: 3 May 2019
www.editionsmego.com
www.caterinabarbieri.com

It sounds like synthesizers, it sounds like sequencers, it sounds like someone is alive. That person is Caterina Barbieri, who, with Ecstatic Computation (36’04”), has realized a substantial Electronic Music. In her poem of electricity an ecstasy of synthesizer modules, cables and cases are used to describe an imaginary place with imaginary sounds. Irresistible from first bleep to last bloop, this album illuminates corners of the mind which usually stay dark. Overflowing with effortlessly effective musical invention Ecstatic Computation is uniformly excellent. Interweaving multiple tone patterns in a simple, fluid elegance this release comes through refreshingly unlike much of modern music. Full of incident, drama and emotion the six world-warping tracks seem like the inside of a cosmic clock – intricate, labyrinthine, and working around us in a kind of harmony we cannot begin to comprehend… until the final note sounds. Melodies bound along with rhythmic freedom, harmonies shift from one color to another, with full-strength synthesizers bleating, dancing and popping before our ears. In a kind of bladed terrain the musical forms assemble themselves around her, rather than in a pre-figured trajectory. Honed but not overworked Barbieri’s style has found a productive partnership between music and technology. Sounds collide and combine amidst a pervasive air of cool. In a slow precision her perfectly placed transitions produce an expressive urgency. Through a fugue of the continuous she travels the abyss between dreams, to realize the mirage of a coming age. On the black waters of Modular Synthesis Caterina Barbieri casts an ideal shining timbre – the presence of which might still our thinking and allow us to truly sense what we are hearing. Every generation must discover EM for itself, and in her time Barbieri has not only acquired total technical command of her music system, but has also developed an unmistakable voice. Her starry future is fueled by imagining that something wholly unfamiliar might still be encountered somewhere in the distance. But we will always feel like strangers to her, as Barbieri has peered into another realm – and we cannot follow. By listening to her Ecstatic Computation, we encounter an expansive imagination, and take our first steps into a larger world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 August 2019

Dave Fulton: The Defective AI

The Defective AI

The Defective AI

Dave Fulton: The Defective AI
Released 15 July 2019
www.jealousbutcher.com

On The Defective AI (38’30”) Dave Fulton‘s dreamy headspaces and propulsive motorik rhythms are presented as equal forces. This album’s mood runs from an introverted experimentation to a pulsating, progressive, propulsive drive. Proudly descending from the Krautrock order, Fulton enhances its specific themes, as well as Spacemusic’s more expansive ideas, into new sparks of adventure. The energy ramps up, then winds down in dramatic cycles, as Fulton conducts his synthetic forces. Listeners to The Defective AI will find a few abrupt dynamic shifts – from pressure-less atmospheres of free falling tones and mostly ghostly electronics, to seething stretches of distinct musical texture and an insinuation of rock-drumming. An intense declaration may be heard in heroic lead lines, phasing tone clusters, rising sequencer runs and electo-percussive riffs – all meant to quicken and deepen the music. Amidst such bold statements are also passages of delicate electronic textures. Creating an area of spaciousness in which the listener gently drifts, Fulton builds his next musical trajectory. This intricately designed work aspires to be more than merely music lost in space, it reflects a passion for all things forward-looking. At its conception, the then new genre of Kosmische Musik promised us tomorrow. Many decades on we find innovative musicians still shaping this field with a combination of intellectual rigor and emotional focus. The Defective AI seems to be building something, hopefully a map, inside our heads – as we again set our sights and hopes on days yet to come.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END11 July 2019

Beyond Berlin: Totem

Totem

Totem

Beyond Berlin: Totem
Released: 6 April 2019
www.groove.nl

For many of today’s Spacemusicians, their inspiration comes directly from the Electronic Berlin-School of 1970s Germany. Almost 50 years ago this highly independent group built an entirely original genre based on their own new principles. Along with the use of new music technology, one of the main features of this so-called Kosmische Musik is its idea of de-limitation. The synthesizer ensemble Beyond Berlin (Rene de Bakker, Martin Peters and Oscar van den Wijngaard) is making its mark by exploring this ideal. Their CD Totem presents five studio tracks which, while based on the work of their heroes, are not mere mindless replications. Balancing a technological precision with personalized artistic expression, this trio references the order and harmony of the contemporary mainstream – all the while leading their listeners into a new sonic realm. As gravity bends light, so Totem bends time. In a clockwork clarity of layer upon layer of building ostinato figures, each piece plays out in a pleasantly melodic dreaminess. With its skipping sequencer strategies and animated chord progressions, the overall mood of the album is embracing – as warm as an analogue synth, yet as cool as digital space. The patterns blend, displace and divide in a warping coil of echoing notes. Totem has been designed with care, and carefully carried out as an exploration of expression. In anticipation of a better tomorrow Beyond Berlin realizes a dynamic and mesmerizing sound. With thought leaders telling us that nothing ages as fast as the future, it is good to find each successive generation of artists reaching far into it – in blatant disregard of the doubts of today.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 June 2019

TJ Porter: Darkness

Darkness

Darkness

TJ Porter: Darkness
Released: 18 April 2019
tjporter.bandcamp.com

TJ Porter professes a profound influence from the Berlin-School of Kosmische Musik, and proves it throughout every one of his album releases. His Darkness (41’56”) is loaded with throbbing sequencer patterns, and winding motor notes – echoing through space in synchronized machine precision. In lines of dancing tones, each row reinforces the next – while heroic chord progressions pluck both heartstrings and gray matter in equal measure. A vital energy courses through Darkness. In a brilliant adventure into an electronic wonderland of seven carefully conceived works Porter embraces the ideals that framed his music’s founding. The melodic content unfurls above and below the pulsing foundation. Wide open synth lead lines energize and brighten the air, and shift mood pleasantly – only to slow dramatically within a bubbling, undulating pace. There are also thought zones where the feel becomes more settled, locating a less energetic and more reverential atmosphere. With darkness on the horizon, the mind of this musician can still imagine events beyond cynicism and mistrust. Let us hope that Porter’s Darkness is what we experience just before the dawn.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END6 June 2019