starsendradio

Spacemusic Reviews

Category: Kosmische Musik

Various Artists: Portals: A Kosmiche Journey through Outer Worlds and Inner Space

Portals

Portals

Various Artists: Portals: A Kosmische Journey through Outer Worlds and Inner Space
Released: 2 June 2020
www.behindtheskymusic.com

Portals: A Kosmische Journey through Outer Worlds and Inner Space (77’41”) presents 13 tracks by a range of potent artists in electronic sound. With each generating its own hot-wired intensity these works originate at the wall outlet, but play out in the head. Charging the hidden activity of our minds with a dreamy forward motion each musician provides a wonderful jaunt across a kinetic synthetic terrain. Maybe a good place to begin this review is with the extensive inventory of gear, which is listed within the 70s retro album art and graphic design. Flaunting Mellotrons, modern and vintage synths, all manner of modular synthesizer systems (either custom built or store bought), and other powered tools – this inquiry will surely invite endless analysis and debate. So it should suffice to say that the true electricity running this music is flowing fast through the veins and brains of the musicians involved. Portals presents realizations by dreamers and builders like Ian Boddy, James Bernard and Steve Roach, right alongside the beat machine energy of Listening Center, Pleasure Corporation and Nigel Mullaney. When the searching sequencer meditations of Tungsten Mountain, Steve Moore and Lisa Bella Donna motor up, coiling surges nest inside long unwinding passages – where we can feel the light and heat of the creative current. In drifting moods at cosmic heights In the Branches + Bluetech and Polypores feel as immense as the heavens, while d’Voxx and Johnny Woods hold forth in the sonic schoolyard with a grounded questing optimism. Portals will certainly fulfill the audience’s appetite for energetic Spacemusic, as we will eagerly be seeking out the next installment in this well-done anthology series. Yet, let us consider also that a good compilation album will indeed present good music, but can function on a higher level as a statement beyond the genre – proclaiming that the power of this music is greater than that of the individual maker. The subject is connection, both electrical and human – which may mean that even in this dark world of ours there is still salvation to be found in each other.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END28 May 2020

Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij: Forgotten Tracks

Forgotten Tracks

Forgotten Tracks

Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij: Forgotten Tracks
Released: 11 April 2020
www.gertemmens.com

The triple CD set Forgotten Tracks compiles 16 studio works realized between 2006 and 2014 by the Dutch duo of Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij. Representing the best of what Berlin-School Spacemusic has to offer, with its mind moving minimal arrangements and spirit of adventure, this collection provides a meaningful experience to the seasoned listener. Finding an ongoing inspiration from their synthesizers the starry soul of this collaboration reveals itself over and over in the mood and mystery of a rare aural flair. The impeccable electrical sonic terrain found throughout Forgotten Tracks is a blurry blend of blossoming synthesizer tones, vintage Mellotron strings and other immaculately crafted sounds. As deeply breathing chords stack up and sustain, motor-like sequencer patterns gain momentum – powering through in a trail of echoing mechanized rhythmic interplay. Built by synthesized strings and harmonies chords move through dramatic progressions. Across vividly imagined distances the spacey swirl of moods and textures rise in quiet force. Synth lead lines soar above a vivid, thickening atmosphere as the music reaches a maximum possible dimension. And as a vast cosmic choir mysteriously ascends through the sound space, brief experimental zones leave us searching the cosmos and beyond. Decades after its inception Spacemusic continues to take musicians and their audiences to new and fascinating places. Emmens & Heij freely exhibit their creative talent and technological craft – in their push toward the limitless horizon.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END14 May 2020

Arjen Schat: LP2

LP2

LP2

Arjen Schat: LP2
Released: 29 February 2020
www.tresordargent.com
www.arjenschat.nl

Synth lovers awaken! The extraordinary Electronic Musician Arjen Schat possesses a distinctive understanding that music should be something that fills the sphere of the temporal dimension rather than a mere succession of multi-layered sounds. The two realizations found on his thoroughly re-playable LP2 (38’40”) have been founded on principals of the Berlin-School, yet renders anew the concept of timeless forward motion. These compositions draw us in along their many rhythmic strands, heard individually yet comprehended collectively – on a great journey through the mind space. Schat’s apparently endless gift for design, repetition and variation are on full display – with his LP2 effortlessly creating vivid ethereal feelings and associations toward the limitless. While its performance may be completely improvised, this music is always intentional. Played to entrancing effect the crisscrossing of fractured sequencer blips expands in echoing syncopation. Captivated at the interplay and intricacies of its manifold patterns and kaleidoscopic pulse there is room to imagine anything; as in one zone the warmth of the life force may be felt, moving further out puts us in the dead regions between stars. As minor key chords sweep across the sonic tapestry the tone darkens, lightens, and then holds in a vital synthetic fidelity. Providing a sense of certainty, creamy lead lines slip along heated scales and octaves – in the specific poetry of ideas borne on electrical current. Arjen Schat is called upon by a deep-rooted spirit of innovation to do this work. With its dreamy brilliance and spacey sonic logic LP2 is a sincere exploration into the mood and mystery of the Spacemusic genre. With strong core ideas and skilled execution, in this album listeners will find vast aural riches.

-Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END2 April 2020

Vic Hennegan: Between the Spaces

Between the Spaces

Between the Spaces

Vic Hennegan: Between the Spaces
Released: 9 March 2020
www.vichennegan.com

If the art of painting is seen as a window into the world, then can Spacemusic be thought of as a window into the self? Working from a sense of wonder instilled at birth, Vic Hennegan realizes works that escape the limitations of our human sized scale. His release Between the Spaces (57’08”) is yet another chapter in the life story of one who is fully alive, and fully human. Hennegan’s approach to the core Berlin-School repertory is informed by a profound knowledge of the traditions from which his compositions emerged. Yet, what this album remains most faithful to is its creator’s creative impulse. Throughout the seven tracks of vivid electronic poetry Between the Spaces arranges sounds against one another in a most imaginative and expressive way. In one region the colors and contrast appear amped up, while further in dulcet melodies glide gracefully atop the wild tumult of open sequencer patterns. Where intersecting aural planes seem solitary, fragile and tenuous against the might of the wild night surrounding us, the direction of Hennegan’s line of melody is ever forward – always into the future. Minor key harmonies slowly sweep through space. Dense drones hold, then darken, and move the music’s mood. In an ascending surge we are lifted into infinite realms. But upon our revival we find a lulling peace. Departing more common thoughts, the listener heads for the deeper districts of the mind. In a world determined to alienate us from the sources of our strength, Between the Spaces provides a compelling case for staying strong against such forces. This CD conjures an enigmatic zone where great and elemental things prevail. Pulsing with the light of the gods this music attracts the ear as perfectly as it triggers the spirit – and the magical release of our thoughts.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 18 March 2020

Hollan Holmes: Milestones

Milestones

Milestones

Hollan Holmes: Milestones
Released: 21 February 2020
www.spottedpeccary.com
www.hollanholmesmusic.com

From the digital valley to the analogue mountain the Electronic Musician Hollan Holmes has experienced many years of breakthroughs, discoveries and advancements. His CD Milestones (65’05”) notes this artist’s progress, yet also advances ahead of it. Producing music in storm as well as calm, through deep listening the 11 tracks will gain a magical release for our thoughts. With its deep purple tones and plush sonic reverie, his sound can be as companionable as a meteor burning its way through the atmosphere, or as lonely as the distances through which this object has traveled. Sequencer tracks, as open as they are forceful, advance in wild tumult – and lend strength to the already muscular compositions. As the soundscape darkens, dulcet melodies glide gracefully atop small waiting forms – stilled in the long cold between stars. Further in, the sense of receding space dissipates and Milestones becomes pleasant, soothing and restorative. The intelligent arrangement of intersecting aural planes further intensifies each composition. From an unsettling remoteness up to a stirring enchantment, the whirling force of texture and motion attracts the ear and triggers the spirit. Slowly unfolding in the dreamy brilliance of harmonic climaxes we hear a fully and effectively imagined work. Listening to Milestones beneath the dark arch of the sky above we can imagine escaping the limitations of our human sized scale. Although the Spacemusic genre is now quite mature, thanks to the practices of musicians such as Hollan Holmes it remains ever new. Through a gift for opening disused channels of thought in the listener, we may find a path back to the underlying sources of our strength – and reconnect with the sense of wonder meant to last our lifetimes.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END5 March 2020

Chuck van Zyl: Live on Star’s End 10.06.19

Live on Star's End 100619

Live on Star’s End 100619

Chuck van Zyl: Live on Star’s End 10.06.29
Released: 23 February 2020
www.industryeight.com
chuckvanzyl.weebly.com

Guiding listeners from the safe place of what they know to an active awareness of what can be is the job of a good DJ – and of a good musician too. During his ongoing 40 year tenure as host of the weekly radio program Star’s End, Chuck van Zyl has been commissioned with the task of leading an audience – the proficiency of which may also be found in his musical realizations. So inspired by the music he was spinning on-air, Chuck van Zyl began making his own Electronic Music works – with a synthesizer he still uses to this day. Live on Star’s End 10.06.19 is the second in a series of live-to-air radio concert releases, and features over 75 minutes of the live Spacemusic he made in the WXPN performance studio during the private Salon Concert and live-to-air broadcast of 5/6 October 2019.

In this music Chuck van Zyl gives voice to the character of his existence. It is a proclamation of his alive-ness, by way of an in-the-moment inventiveness. A complex multi-leveled album Live on Star’s End 10.06.19 utilizes the full dynamic range of sonic possibilities. Moving truly between an electric unrestrained intensity on down to shivering chill currents, the juxtaposition of the primitive and the delicate lends tension to the drama. Working the dials, searching out the sound, groping for the pulse – in whirlwinds of intertwining sequencer lines, and the gorgeous exploration of tone color, form and atmosphere – he coaxes magical moments into the sound space.

Chuck’s live concerts show the identity of his instruments as equally as they do the identity of the artist. Making music in an enormous present, his live improvisations find Chuck attempting to transcend, not an instrument, but a system of instruments – a constellation of synths, sequencers, echoes and reverbs all in service to a potent musical vision. An expressive power, the right situation of the venue and the heedful is capable of releasing unsuspected energies. With the body activated and central nervous system firing the joy of playing this music is unmatched.

If the moral track of the Universe arcs upward, then this music must be part of that eventuality. Just as the optimism of the weekly broadcasts of Star’s End (in contrast to the present moment) seem a notion leftover from the previous century, so will albums like Live on Star’s End 10.06.19 chip away at the inherent dissonance at the heart of modern life. Although the subject of this album may be specific, its implications are cosmic.

Press Notes/STAR’S END20 February 2020

Radio Massacre International: M21/The Rhodes Less Travelled

M21

M21

Radio Massacre International: M21/The Rhodes Less Travelled
Released: 14 October 2019
www.radiomassacreinternational.com

In a world in which everything may be known, Spacemusic does remain a mystery. This portion of the musical spectrum may be too vast for some, but not for the likes of Steve Dinsdale, Duncan Goddard and Gary Houghton. Their long-lived live band Radio Massacre International has executed a great number of successful experiments in this discipline. Drawn together more in cooperation than in competition, to achieve each of their concerts this collective of improvisers calls on personal resources none are certain they possess. The double CD sets M21 and The Rhodes Less Travelled present this trio in some of their finest moments – with M21 spotlighting the 7 May 2011 show at St Clement’s Church in Manchester, and The Rhodes Less Travelled featuring out-takes from this event’s luminous rehearsal sessions. Making works meant to move the mind from still chill to smoldering state, RMI‘s encounter with their audience sets up the possibility for transcendence. Where intertwined sequencer riffs mix, shift and divide in a twisting double helix of echoing synthetic tones, further in RMI confronts a dissolving world of perpetual gloom – and ascends to the sonic stasis of gentle twilight realms, then on to melodic and harmonic fog clearing clarity. With their synthesizers, sequencers, Mellotron, Rhodes piano and electric guitar RMI performs the Berlin-School form to realize an even remoter music. Dinsdale, Goddard and Houghton live in the flow of the moment. As their bodies become activated by what they are hearing, their central nervous systems fire and a mysterious drama is built. Spacemusic runs deep in the fabric of these three. Their music is spontaneously composed, and so the act of performing live is constantly evolving. As they attain this otherwise unreachable experience, the atmosphere generated remains mysteriously ever in the near future. Yet, the retreat into wordlessness, the struggle against inevitable decay, and its desolating states are no match for the calm and quiet of an old electric piano set against a background of electronic night spirits – giving hope that maybe one day the profound peace RMI knows out in space will also be found here on the Earth.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 January 2020

Rene de Bakker: Our Gift

Our Gift

Our Gift

Rene de Bakker: Our Gift
Released: 1 June 2019
www.groove.nl

Our Gift (76″04″) is the ambitious solo effort by Rene de Bakker. Part of the Dutch synthesizer ensemble Beyond Berlin, on this release both the musician and audience discover what he is capable of left to his own devices. Our Gift presents six tracks of brilliantly intricate sequencer patterning. Transpiring in an electrical heat this music will throw off sparks. In an effortless braiding of high-concept electronic music and echoing notes each realization conjures a distinctive spacey mood. Polymetric pulses yield complex interlocking, repetitive motifs – and deliver a potent sense of motion. From the beat of the heart to the tick of a clock, larger cycles build from smaller ones. Rene de Bakker commands a striking range of electronic color and texture. Some works maintain just enough keyboard notes to sketch a melody, but where ever tension is fully wound up the leads tower fast and true. Flowing across a fascinating range of textures and moods one may drift into this album. However, Our Gift is an excellent example of smart brain beat Spacemusic, and so requires our attention. Spending time with it is never less than intriguing, and will leave us with a lasting sense of possibility.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 January 2020

Neuland: Neuland

Neuland

Neuland

Neuland: Neuland
Released: 22 November 2019
www.neuland.net

The self-titled debut by Neuland may be based on the 1970s Berlin-School, but it narrates from the future. Neuland unites two of Germany’s most prominent and established synthesists: Peter Baumann and Paul Haslinger. The pairing brings out the best each has to offer. Baumann & Haslinger have a great deal in common. They both independently rose to icon status – catalyzing the contemporary synth community – through their work with Tangerine Dream and in significant solo projects. On Neuland two monuments to our scene offer fresh insight into the energetic realm located somewhere above Spacemusic but just below Prog-Rock. Fortunately for intelligent listeners their pursuits are beyond that of the commercial audience. Freely exhibiting a musical vision and technological talent this duo lights up the neural pathways – and leads us on a substantial listening experience. In a swirl of synthesizers a tumbling latticework of echoing notes dance along scales of minor key textures. Sequencers fire like mental mechanisms – to better align thought and mood toward a more positive current. These neatly built pattern exercises provide a hurtling onrushing quality. As electronic harmonies rise and fall, in light and dark tones, an unexpected beauty emerges. In their building, slow-burning spacey anthems lush harmonies sigh and whisper a celestial concord. Chords change keys and the sound fills out. While being completely instrumental, the music somehow manages to speak in a human vocabulary. With each ribbon of melody unfurling, the drama of the song unfolds. By playing this album you are agreeing to hear a story. Rigorously composed and realized, these 15 tracks across two CDs attest to Neuland‘s tendency to interact with the world in the image of their dreams and nightmares. Animated by the power of melody to convey emotions this work stands strong against the cynicism that tears at the fabric of modern life – and reminds us that we all still have our own feelings, questions and fears. This debut is a vivid mind trip on headphones – and knows that the deeper we go within ourselves, the better we may connect with the rest of humanity.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END2 January 2020

Chuck van Zyl: Recitals 3

Recitals 3

Recitals 3

Chuck van Zyl: Recitals 3
Released: 21 December 2019

www.facebook.com/synkronosmusic
chuckvanzyl.weebly.com

Since 1986 Chuck van Zyl has been a man finding his moment, in any live space that will hold him. The double CD Recitals 3 presents music recorded at several 2018 performances. His shows were documented with an ordinary two-track recording device, and, after months of review, two 60+ minute sonic journeys were produced and released as Recitals 3.

In most live improvisations a player is trying to transcend their instrument – but live concerts for Chuck van Zyl are an attempt to transcend a system of instruments. Finding the truest version of himself on stage his wish is that, according to the musician, “the you inside you will know something about the me inside me”. Making the music happen in space, as if touching the notes, molding them and shaping them within time itself offers a great quality of expression. Recitals 3 arrives with high expectations and from the start it delights and transports. The live concert, the flickering shadow of the soul is where moment by moment this music was realized. Musicians know that it takes someone else to hear the truth in their work, and it is in the concert venue that Chuck van Zyl promises to uncover the secret of his own operation.

Disc 1 (71’39”) includes music from live performances for MUSIC WITH SPACE, Johnny Brenda’s and NEEM Fest 2018 and moves from the dolorous to the ecstatic in a balance of opposing tensions. As if upon the workings of some powerful engine the music moves deliberately in sequencer steps rather than abruptly in leaps. Entrancing cyclical motifs and subtly spun melodic fragments pivot in front of harmonies and phrases and so make the repetitions feel new and novel, yet confidently familiar. In his vast poem of electricity van Zyl threads reciprocal shades of soft-hued tones, dazed sonic introspection, icy reverie, and lunar lullaby into a kaleidoscopic suite of interstellar melody and electronic communion. In sputtering sparks this work sounded crisply on the mild air of the concert space – while further in, the rolling clicking-clock ticky-tock pulse will unwind your mind. A symphony of thought, The Weakening Eye of Day fascinates the mind, captivates the heart, and stimulates the imagination.

Disc 2 (76’05”) features extracts from the abstract passages of five performances, and hopes to bypass the conscious sensibilities for a direct connection to that which is elemental within the listener. Like a meteor seeking a lost sun this passage spends its force searching. Inside the lowest midnight a thousand dreams softly burn. Through shivering chill currents, we pass the control of known forces. Like something falling through darkness, this moonlight swirls in the color of night. Notes collide, collude and combine. Each movement comes at you in a ramble of melody, a search of harmony, a flight of timbre. With chords moving in contrary motion, and opposed by industrial sound effects, the listening ear is pulled through the shadows to light. Throughout To the Close and Holy Darkness Chuck van Zyl develops a poetic idea, suggests a scene, creates a mood. Even as its accord of sounds, so sweet and pleasing to the ear, is opposed by dissonance, we may hear a unity in the arrangement and the message it conveys.

Communing at these concerts the soundscape forms itself around us, and so we may feel human together – the bright tones communicating a sense of repose and clarity and capturing a wide range of deeply felt interior resonances. The music found on Recitals 3 displays the glimmer of imaginative energy that has graced van Zyl’s music for over 30 years. Conjoining disparate impulses it evokes cycles of collapse and renewal. Gorgeously colored, weighty in theme, style and construction this music reaches into the world of the surreal. As expected, this live album does feel newborn, yet ghosts are created on every track. In a culture where everything can be explained, the meaning of this music still eludes definition – because somewhere in its vast stretches of the unknown and the unanswered, there is something moving, something profound – is waiting.

From the Press Release – 17 December 2019