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Spacemusic Reviews

Category: Kosmische Musik

Christian Wittman: Music for Unknown Worlds

Music for Unknown Worlds I Music for Unknown Worlds II Music for Unknown Worlds III

Christian Wittman: Music for Unknown Worlds I II III
Released:
30 April 2022
14 July 2022
5 October 2022
christianwittman.bandcamp.com

Christian Wittman speaks in timeless, celestial statements about our place in The Universe. His Music for Unknown Worlds I, II & III seems to be asking us to consider the furthest reaches of space, as much as it wants us to examine what is happening inside our own thoughts. So extraterrestrial are these releases that the more careful members of this audience may hear the night sky filling their listening space. In these moments of sonic wonder a little of mankind’s awareness shows itself. Moving our minds in the familiar outward direction of the best Kosmische Musik Wittman conveys a restless invention. His immunity to harmony, melody and rhythm allows these albums to exemplify the truest expression in pure manipulations of sound. With the delirious, doomed Universe as his subject, ideas condense out of the mental cloud to form music. The thrill of their provocation, the unpredictability and undeniable daring exercise many an aural eccentricity. Teeming with potent indeterminacies, intimate dimensions emerge in a nocturnal glamour and untamed beauty. Music for Unknown Worlds I II III is infused with enthusiasm and delivers Electronic Music that stays with you. Further in, otherworldly synth emanations, like gravel wrapped in velvet, transform into smooth tonal textures – dwindling from atmospheric heights and establishing an ever-evolving spatial scale. Yet, human moments do seep into this music of machines. A real, if exhausted tenderness carries forward this high enterprise. Yielding to emotional currents within, Wittman ultimately conveys a tender sensitivity. His work, like his reasoning, is always in motion. From the quietly anguished, to the outsider’s sense of longing and abandon, his thinking is too dreamlike to be described – and so he makes music to transmit his beliefs.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END26 January 2023

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Isostatic: The Forest Abides

The Forest Abides

Isostatic: The Forest Abides
Released: 15 November 2022
exospheremusic.bandcamp.com

Covering a wide sonic terrain, from luminescent beauty to anonymous landscapes, The Forest Abides (57:25) by Isostatic (alias Sean Costello) offers edge to edge motion. Each track, a singular flowing thought, asks us to tune into the quieter frequencies of music. These eight works unfold distinctively in the dreamy brilliance of slow harmonic climaxes, then vaguely in the thickening air of electronic dusk. With little in the way of discernible rhythm to meter distances, nor melody to accompany us on our trek, The Forest Abides shivers in stretches of atonal textures, sparkling effects and ascending atmospheres. Transcendent, yet tethered to Earth, across this release harmony and timbre reinforce each other on a nuanced journey into sonic and terrestrial vistas. Murmuring drones brighten then blacken against pristine field recordings as Ambient whispers stir soft chimes. Faint bells casting about above luminescent chords provide a slow contemplative pace, while further in breathing synth strings shift from dark keys to light. The experience is quiet and contemplative – and meaningful to those open to such declarations. In most places consoling, but occasionally questioning, The Forest Abides means to move the listener out of the dissonance of the everyday, and into bewitching thought zones of telluric richness.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END19 January 2023

Nils Frahm: Music for Animals

Music for Animals Nils Frahm

Nils Frahm: Music for Animals
Released: 23 September 2022
www.leiter-verlag.com
www.nilsfrahm.com

Works by Nils Frahm always feel more from the heart than from the wall outlet. In a transformative encounter with electricity his three CD/four LP set Music for Animals (186:43) presents ten remarkable tracks of Ambient Spacemusic. Building wonder and suspense within an atmospheric system of minimalism, the air of this release is serious, but not dispiriting. Below its subdued sense, punctuated by passages of radiance and light, the meaning behind Music for Animals steals into the audience through the sides of the head. Subtly propulsive, then still, beautiful and strange, in translating electronic currents into sonic textures Frahm’s chords move from deep-toned to light and radiant – melting an experimental mood under a sudden gravity. Underpowered sequencer lines hold space and reduce the mechanical-motor pulse into something more secret, lean and potent. Above the rounded machine patterns floats an ethereal glow of quietly yearning synths. Transported from another purer realm these arrangements counter the shallowness of the mainstream – and pose that life is nothing if not electrical. Every zone is mood chilling, yet heart warming. Such is the beauty of Frahm’s music that each moment is an enigmatic delight. The tone that comes so naturally to him floats somewhere between dreams, memories and the fragments of a time yet to come. Music for Animals does everything we ask of great music: it enlarges our world, expands our attention outward, and opens up our hearts and minds. For musicians like Nils Frahm EM is about mobility, mobility of expression. In its many meetings in recognition, along dimensions that cannot be articulated with mere words, the realizations illuminate an inner reality, but long for real life.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END17 November 2022

Cosmic Ground: Isolate

Isolate

Cosmic Ground: Isolate
Released: 23 September 2022
www.cosmicground.de
www.tonzonen.de

With new technology comes the promise of styles and expressions that we have never heard before. Under the name Cosmic Ground Electric Orange keyboardist Dirk Jan Muller has for over a decade been amassing and deploying synthesizers beneath the beacon first lit over 50 years ago during the Berlin-School era of EM. Supplementing our sense of the possible this style of music, and the gear used to produce it, offers the potential for a remarkable range of revelations. With a strange beauty that borders on the forboding Muller submits his seventh studio album Isolate (73:14). The depth of each of the six electronic journeys is striking – with each realization providing a spellbinding sense of a place in space. In this full-speed ahead trip behind the beautiful forever of Kosmische Musik the listener encounters all that Spacemusic can be. Energizing and invigorating, emotionally piercing yet thrillingly alien, Isolate will exhaust those who cannot surrender to it. In the headlong drive of spiraling sequencer runs patterns of notes ascend in an echoing motor-motion. Settling into a careful clockwork, saturated Mellotron strings bestow a heightened sensitivity to the cosmic covenant. As creative energy moves from the musician’s interior to that of the audience, bold dissonances ring and spark across an outburst of dramatic imagination. From desolate soundscapes of darkening drones and chilled fallout fields, to the brooding sweep of sustaining sci-fi zones, Isolate easily pulls listeners into its specific sonic realm. This genre was, in ages past, all about the future. These days it is about survival. Synthesists dream about tones, and wake up thinking about them – which connects the artist to the story of the sound, and to what their music should be. But among us fans the act of listening is an act of trust. Along the upward arc of such resolute works of perpetual becoming we rely on Cosmic Ground, our keeper of mysteries, to lead us further – and to not displace too many of us during our drifting, dreaming voyage of the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 22 September 2022

[‘ramp] happy days are here to stay

happy days are here to stay

[‘ramp]: happy days are here to stay
Released: 29 August 2022
doombientmusic.bandcamp.com

Whenever a label named “Doombient” releases an album called happy days are here to stay (73:15) we might wonder, can the end of the world be that far off? The irony emitted by such an incongruous view and title is the stuff of Stephen Parsick‘s favorite mania, and how he processes the world. His work under the name [‘ramp], with its shifting myths of sound and unrelenting territory of timbre, emerges from a place of wonderment and integrity. While the self-aware nostalgia of happy days are here to stay brilliantly conveys a Berlin-School enlightenment, as well as the mysterious mood and aura of discovery from this era, we must ponder what Parsick is not telling us. Across eight tracks a spirit of infinity seems alive – taking flight with enough force to place each listening spirit safely into Earth orbit. In exhilarating lateral shifts come simplified lines of ordered notes and rich colors of sound. Although of a monumental quality this realization may be heard better as an intimate chamber drama possessing an expansive cosmic overlay. In subduing the impulse for embellishment a quiet longing of soft Mellotron flutes hovers above a spare soundfield – an elemental simplicity softening the controlled riot of pumping sequencer patterns below. As finely tuned as anything by [‘ramp] happy days are here to stay is dense, prismatic, mesmerizing, and capable of imaginative leaps. But with this ironic title, it may be trying to catch the current moment… when actually the moment it succeeds in capturing is from a long ago age of truth and hope for the future. Complete brain engagement from the listener is not required, but it would help. Full of Spacemusic’s transformational promise, cosmic yearning and diverting abandon this music trusts you to have not outsourced your thinking. As the musician is revealed to the world through their actions, through their art, we should not miss even one split second of this aural adventure. Because with intimacy exhibited at this level, sometimes we learn more than we should.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 September 2022

Chuck van Zyl: Skyspace

Skyspace

Chuck van Zyl: Skyspace
Released: 7 August 2022
chuckvanzyl.bandcamp.com

On 10 June 2022 an informed audience assembled within Chestnut Hill Skyspace in Philadelphia for a unique concert with noted Electronic Musician Chuck van Zyl. Skyspace (73:13) presents the complete continuous set. The concert realization Last Light was made live in the moment before an affectionate, informed audience. As these conditions are known to reveal an innovative spirit, we find the musician and listeners experiencing this extraordinary music together in the act of it being made. Energized equally by the pulse of the Berlin-School and the hope of the New Age, the remarkable setting and welcoming company brought out a substantial, expressive and meaningful performance.

In order to fully enjoy Skyspace one must accept the fleeting essence of this live improvised recital. Chuck van Zyl’s perspective on live performance remains particularly singular. An enactment of self-discovery his unschooled spark produced an undeniable dramatic energy throughout the venue. This exquisitely crafted concert, meant for the extraordinary open-roofed space that looks out onto the night sky, allowed this artist to do more than simply share his work. Set against the mystical grandeur of the heavens just above the heads of the audience, Chuck van Zyl was able to search for and share something of his true being.

Addressing the dreamer inside all of us Skyspace begins with bold dissonances. A spare sequencer pattern emerges, barely, amidst cross-modulated tones, synth string tritones, and a roiling Mellotron choir. As the wandering notes organize into an orderly pulsation, fluttering effects generate trailing spacey references. Once the rhythm becomes more mechanized additional lines emerge. The cycling tones interweave, overlap and wander across the inevitable arc of this extended set. In a passionate outburst of dramatic imagination melodic lead lines and key changes add a narrative force to this expansive nocturnal adventure.

In an act of shear concentration Chuck van Zyl oversees the ceaseless adjustment of his system of instruments. In refusing to work with a laptop or other kinds of pre-recorded, pre-programmed, pre-set resources his approach remains innovative, maybe even radical in our digital era of music making. In this space where compelling forces converge and combine – this mutually reinforcing circle of validation – it is only after a trial such as this one that this musician can become aware of himself, of what he is capable of, how far he has come, and how far he can go. Please lend your heart to this album. If you can, Skyspace will leave the trajectory of your thoughts surely changed for the better.

Skyspace was released by Synkronos Music on 7 August 2022 to coincide with the Chuck van Zyl on-air concert for Star’s End Space Camp 2022.

  • From the Press Release 7 August 2022

Martin Sturtzer: Epsilon Eridani

Epsilon Eridani Martin Sturtzer

Martin Sturtzer: Epsilon Eridani
Released: 20 July 2022
www.phelios.de

With Epsilon Eridani (40:55) Martin Sturtzer shares his LP length window on the cosmos. Charged with a brain chilling energy this most majestic machine music involves all sorts of human choices and interventions. Across its three tracks the pitch-dark universe seems to become lit by a flicker of electronic grace. From dense sounds carrying an air of displacement to undulating fields of synthesized chords, Epsilon Eridani expands and contracts in a slow motion of round sounds and tamed timbre. We may imagine a set of concentric spheres – echoing sequencer patterns progressively revealed – as we move further along this sonic detour from linear thinking. Delving deeper into the the second half of this release we find tonal differences dominating the realm. Through the placement of contrasting harmonies this piece expresses texture, atmosphere, and all else that eludes the spoken word. Throughout all his substantial spacey interludes Sturtzer encourages the listener to follow the music in all its unfolding detail. In his idea of what may exist between the stars we should experience an unfamiliar feeling of lightness, like being on another planet where the force of gravity is only a fraction of the earth’s – a world where the low hum of possibility is constantly reverberating.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END21 July 2022

Klaus Schulze: Deus Arrakis

Deus Arrakis

Klaus Schulze: Deus Arrakis
Released: 1 July 2022
www.spv.de

Part dream engineer, part sonic philosopher, in his earliest efforts Klaus Schulze utilized a new instrument (the synthesizer) to realize a new music for a new age. His atmospheric explorations of timbral and temporal space, of extended durations and considered harmonic structures came to be referred to as (for lack of a better term) Space Music. Untethered to traditional disciplines this new era of expression opened up space and then moved through it like nothing before. Released posthumously, his Deus Arrakis (77:28) is yet another superb release in a long line of albums inhabited by flowing synths, delimited imaginings and gradual revelations. Marked by an unmistakable spirited energy, the three lengthy pieces of Deus Arrakis develop under ethereal textures and spiraling effects. The deft cello-bourne melodies of Wolfgang Tiepold and extended vocals by Eva-Maria Kagermann heighten these compositions with a luxurious feel. Restless variations expose concealed connections as the stream of transformations encourages neural firing in the brain. As sprawling sequencer lines pulse ahead, Schulze’s imaginative scoring and simmering intensity evokes limitless horizons. Fantastic in their construction, endlessly complex in effect, the cycling patterns motor on – whirling by in a magical motion of syncopated notes. Always working at a scale that transcends the listener, he showed us the difference between being merely close to the music and being inside it. A heroic explorer, Klaus Schulze’s reach is long. If we learned anything from his body of work it is that the mind is bigger than its thoughts – an idea that will keep us engaged for many years after his music has stopped.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 July 2022

Brendan Pollard: Cycles and Pulses

Cycles and Pulses

Brendan Pollard: Cycles and Pulses
Released: 6 May 2022
brendanpollard.bandcamp.com

For his first album back after months off resetting his music studio Brendan Pollard delivers a release that is somewhat less than an all-out sequencer celebration than it is a carefully cultivated atmosphere of deliberation. Full of hidden connections and secret encounters, his Cycles and Pulses (65:08) is an epic in five-parts. Its ambitious scope is tender and reaching, then stormy and searing – the sound field reducing down to a lithe tensile thread, then expanding out into wider, wilder dimensions. Rising into the pleasures of pulse his Berlin-School inspired works gain momentum in cycles of note motifs echoing energy beneath hovering ambient shadows. As commanding melodies flee past shimmering sonic shapes, the structured delirium resolves into a solemn hymn to humanity. Converging in darkness Mellotron strings roll over corroded drones. While glittering accents and fluttering modulations swirl above a motoring pattern of tones, sustaining organ chords enter and chill the electronic current. Throughout over an hour of exploration Cycles and Pulses is in a constant state of motion. Its spare, controlled style unites intrinsic conflicts and vast landscapes in framings as haunted as the are provocative. Overcome by rolling swells and peels of sound, powerful patterns and hushed harmonies, the listener surrenders to Pollard’s spacey spell. In complete command of this style he communicates in code. From wildly impulsive, down to the more cerebral, encrypted messages grow abstract and questioning – easily delivering exhilarating, propulsive synth devotionals on a celestial scale. Our world is big, but the realm of space and sound is even bigger. Pollard’s form of expression is infinitely mutable, its structure open, yet orderly – allowing for innovation and variation. The mind is its own place, which is where Cycles and Pulses takes up residence. The re-birth of wonder, and the insistent reclamation of our humanity may be among its highest productions.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 May 2022

Chuck van Zyl: The Winter Wind

The Winter Wind Chuck van Zyl

Chuck van Zyl: The Winter Wind
Released: 8 May 2022
chuckvanzyl.bandcamp.com

An artist of independent mind, Chuck van Zyl has sighted common goals with industry8, which has now released The Winter Wind (41:22) – the first vinyl LP project for both artist and label. Leaning into Spacemusic’s expressive potential, Chuck van Zyl directs our attention inwardly – where it expands. Across two side-long aural odes to wind, frost, snowflakes and ice he generates meaning from an array of analogue and digital studio devices and instruments. Referencing classics of the Berlin-School, sounds and energy arise, combine, change and melt away – gradually, as all things sub-zero must.

Side A’s In the Dull Soft Skies of Coming Snow (20:50) conjures ice, frost and snow, as well as a sense of scale. Navigating between tundral gloom and arctic brilliance the sequencer notes tumble one over another in echoing syncopation. The motoring pulse expands and contracts beneath lilting lead lines and gelid chords. Synthesized strings freeze and thaw, while silvery strains hold fast to the heart. This lovely electronic wandering sonifies the bold proportions of the wintertime, and electrifies the listener in its chilled charm. It seems for a season yet to come – further ahead than our own, but not too far removed.

The hibernal texture of Side B’s On the Swift Howlings of the Winter Wind (20:32) are bright, crisp and clear, producing the feel of the confidently cold. As crystalline tones tinkle and twinkle under hovering reverberation, a slow storm forms a quiet force. Snowflakes chase along ten banks of sequencers – returning a vision as fresh as the new fallen snow. This magical boreal region of shining auroras and starlit melodies freezes time by inundating the mind with thought. Searching and contemplative, then striding into the deep, it achieves a satisfying, consistent level of creativity beyond the cold logic of the machines used to create it.

Whether describing the bareness of a vast tundral landscape or the complexity of an individual snowflake – The Winter Wind offers unique insight into our realm through the infinite perspectives of music. Finding our way into this work should be a familiar adventure. It has been made for a particular kind of listener – determined to collect unique feelings and enjoy each span of sonic spirit while it lasts. Chuck van Zyl believes that this kind of music has the potential to contain the world, and asks only that we please listen to his album, and the world, together.

From the Press Release – 7 May 2022