starsendradio

Spacemusic Reviews

Category: Looping

Jon Durant: Alternate Landscapes

Alternate Landscapes

Alternate Landscapes

Jon Durant: Alternate Landscapes
Released: 3 May 2019
www.alchemyrecords.com

Along with all the usual effects boxes and digital processors guitarists use nowadays, Jon Durant arrives to the recording studio with a great number of solid ideas – good ones, the kind that must track across a sweep of beautiful moments and sonic states in order to become fully realized. His album Alternate Landscapes (58’36”) takes its time in getting its point across. The four pieces are mysteriously affecting, and brilliantly inhabit a musical realm richer and stranger than the standard fare. Alternate Landscapes will take some getting used to, as Durant’s inventiveness will engage unsuspected capacities of our ears and minds. He is not merely sending sounds into space, he seems to be making music whose motion induces space. Vistas may open behind this music – not as settings, but more like the airy or plunging ambiences found in dreams. With gracefully unfurling, caressing phrases, Durant extends his poetic ambitions. Loaded with lush layered guitar orchestrations this album seems of an endless energy. A complexity of sounds merge and separate, leaving the listener with the impression of an aural terrain in motion. As mild yet mysterious discord causes tension and anomalous melodies distend across an illimitable distance, each composition retreats into it own unique territory. Durant travels deeper and further with a resolute sense of discovery. He is also not afraid to veer off into unknown realms – exploring whatever sonics and phonics his improvisations may lead to. As an artistic statement, Alternate Landscapes has nothing to struggle against – other than the dullness of modern minds.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 May 2019

Erik Wollo: Infinite Moments

Infinite Moments

Infinite Moments

Erik Wøllo: Infinite Moments
Released: 4 January 2019
www.projekt.com
www.wollo.com

Often, music will reflect the state of the times in which it is being made. Fortunately for us, Erik Wøllo is making music not for our now, but for our future. The album Infinite Moments (57’32”) is a journey into Wøllo’s beliefs and perception of the world, and is powerful in ways that words cannot capture. Playing his electric guitar with an e-bow through a substantial amount of digital processing, he approaches these six sonic flights with a stable sense of serenity. In a masterful, tightly controlled performance his thick, spare, sometimes ominous approach conveys the joy of living, but also a few shades of solitude and isolation. Gone is the familiarity of the six-string tones. Bearing the drama of Wøllo’s slow melodies and embracing harmonies are his rounded, flexing sounds – which arrange themselves comfortably throughout the listening space. Breathing chords, friendly rather than foreboding, emerge, sustain and recede – drawn out in echoing waves of gentle tones. The explored realms pass between pastel cloud sunsets and the velvet cloak of night, to a place of private understandings. Charged with electrical nuance and the questioning nature of proper Ambient Music, Infinite Moments delivers the expected shivers. A completely meditative work, it is as if we are hearing the sound of the cosmos being filtered through 21st century technology. Wøllo observes the granular texture of reality, the severity of its miracles, and the range of its grace. For fans and novices of Spacemusic… Infinite Moments is a must.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 March 2019

Steven Kemner: Little Notes

Little Notes

Little Notes

Steven Kemner: Little Notes
Released: 3 December 2018
www.fluidaudio.co.uk
www.stevenkemner.com

Clearly Steven Kemner is fascinated with the inner life of sounds. The album Little Notes (39’18”) comes from a place where words are unnecessary, as music better conveys his story. Performed in a kind of slow motion, this album is a work defiant in its meticulousness. Little Notes offers eight places of ambient otherness – each realization of a languorous, inviting disposition. Some pieces are penetrating in their blankness, while others are well received by the ears and hold fast to the heart. Over their brief reclusive spell these compositions rotate and transpose keys. Chords progress and play to a resolution, but occasionally become lost – floating to the surface over and again. Along with its breathing blissed-out layers of vibrating electric guitar strings, Little Notes adds slow piano notes, organ-like tones, mysterious field recordings and manipulated samples. As long melodic lines rise out of a misty aura of harmony, we find its ambiance to be established by an array of expressive sonic shades. It was his concerts within reverberant church sanctuaries that led Kemner to imagine the component emanations of his instrument as objects in space. As notes would float through the air, surrounded in silence, he learned to allow time for themes and forms to be felt by each and every audience member. In his utter refusal to be dull Steven Kemner advances the nearly stationary textures of generic Ambient Music to the level of a steely structured, harmonic tale. Warming the circuits of the listening mind, he reminds us of an often neglected thought – that what has been accomplished in the past can show us what is possible in the future.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END17 January 2019

Juha-Matti Rautiainen: Above Me Weeps the Sky

Above Me Weeps the Sky

Above Me Weeps the Sky

Juha-Matti Rautiainen: Above Me Weeps the Sky
Released: 15 November 2018
www.juhamattirautiainen.com

We find the music of Juha-Matti Rautiainen drifting in a cool deep blackness. Tinged with cosmic melancholy his album Above Me Weeps the Sky (66:31) feels as intimate as a whisper, yet as vital as the sun rising on a new day. Rautiainen has a musician’s gift for finding and organizing the perfect range of sounds and textures meant for conjuring a specific atmosphere – in service to expressing certain emotions. It is this exact sonic poetry that gives this album its slow chill. Rautiainen has obviously left the conventional view of his instrument behind, as Above Me Weeps the Sky finds him using it to explore music of stillness and space. The music slowly alternates between a trembling vulnerability to waves of strength and light – often with a deep subsonic foundation. Coaxing new and surprising timbres, along with more comforting melodies and contrasting harmonies, the field of sound expands beyond the well-established palette of the bass with layered tones, bending notes, metallic pitch shifts and image altering processing. His success may be found in the connection of imagination and creativity to technique and technology – and the taming of a quieter action. Rautiainen has not found the right solutions to the problems plaguing our age, but he has found the right questions. By hearing him play the electric bass guitar in a most resourceful way, doing such imaginative things with it, eliciting sounds from out of the sky on down to the ground, with just four steel strings, it should not be hard for us also to imagine being bigger… larger than the way we find ourselves. We are a meaning seeking kind, and so seek to silence the turbulence within to better carry out our ways. By taking the way of the thinker we may find that we are not living through a bad time, but it is an empty time – which leaves it up to humanity to find the sacred. And so we shall, even as the sky cries above the weary world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END27 December 2018

In the Branches + Bluetech: Behind the Sky

Behind the Sky

Behind the Sky

In the Branches + Bluetech: Behind the Sky
Released: 8 June 2018
www.behindtheskymusic.com

Whirling through the halls like a wild wind Behind the Sky (60’54”) offers the listener relief from the plight of The World. In the Branches + Bluetech ask nothing more than our quiet attention, as unpredictable swerves and drifts of their conversation apply logic to sonic symbols. Dedicated electronic tinkerers Shane Cotee and Evan Bartholomew work through their influences to achieve an uncanny directness. A realization for large forces Behind the Sky offers seven scenes of a vital analytic gravity. Thanks to the musicians’ subtly heightened, fiercely focused energies, this album advances, not at the speed you would expect of space travel, but at a rate determined by the motion of atmospheric fronts. Each section is quite distinct, moving each into its own collective texture. Sounds are quietly yet forcefully flung at the listener. In a rush of darkness, thoughts dissolve into a waking prayer – each track a moment of authentic inner expression. Round synthesizer tones form consonant melodies, slowly praising the beautiful unknown. Cycling notes echo through reverberation, uncoiling over cloud covered landmarks – as spare guitar strings ring under heavens lit by stars. Masses swell and expand then recede into less reckless zones. Conductive to thinking, Behind the Sky is yet excitingly alive. In an outflow of music there must be something more than what is called force. There must too be distinction, and a rarity of feeling. Waiting for a sign in the sky, or a word from the stars, Cotee and Bartholomew express the soft fire of collaborative moments, and the elation of transcendence between the terrestrial and the interstellar.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END19 July 2018

Robert Rich & Markus Reuter: Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018

Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018

Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018

Robert Rich & Markus Reuter: Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018
Released: 4 July 2018
www.robertrich.com
www.markusreuter.com

People pray in a church. On 19 May 2018 Robert Rich & Markus Reuter played in a church, and did something that was truly new. Their program for The Gatherings Concert Series merged the aesthetics of Classical Music with the profanity of improvisation; as this duo did not just acknowledge the mystery of existence, they celebrated it. Their album Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018 presents the full concert – where Rich performed at the grand piano and Reuter with his Touch Guitar and digital processing before a rapt Philadelphia audience. Some audiences sing along, or clap, while others may drink, dance, sway or bob. Symphony attendees read the conductor’s notes. At The Gatherings we listen, which provided Rich & Reuter with an opening to delve deeper into a new set of explorations – of a magic they had first encountered in the making of their 2017 studio album Lift a Feather to the Flood. These guys know all the notes, chords, scales, majors and minors. Yet the works found on Flood Expeditions are about the subtle power of sound – not for decorating the live space, but for a glimpse into something spiritual. With its ever-fading atmospheric tones and digital haze their realizations may seem a formless vacuum, yet everything is balanced by optimism. Rich’s piano notes resound through reverberation, surrounded by surreal fluttering environmental textures. Whether playing the keys seated, or reaching into the piano to pluck, scrape and strum its inner workings, he seems to produce emanations from a lifetime of receiving and expressing wonder. Reuter waits deep in the soundscape to find many electric moments. His guitar first breathes lowly, then asserts a color of succinct distortion in heated lead lines, expanding soon into ethereal consonance. Using a uniquely routed echo, he even manages to wedge in a conversation with himself. Rather than root the audience to where they sit, together Rich & Reuter transport us to an immaterial realm – where an internal guidance awakens. This music represents something outside of ourselves, upon which we project our thoughts and contemplations. There are no instructions for listening to Flood Expeditions, there is only the sensation of hearing. As we endeavored to hear their message in the darkened sanctuary this performance reminded us of the nature of possibility – of what we can become. But Robert Rich & Markus Reuter cannot play us into the answers, we must live into them ourselves.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 July 2018

Hotel Neon: Means of Knowing

Means of Knowing

Means of Knowing

Hotel Neon: Means of Knowing
Released: 14 May 2018
archivesdubmusic.bandcamp.com
www.hotelneonmusic.com

Hotel Neon decorates our condition with music. They draw on old photos, crumbling landscapes, mythic archetypes and their own restless sonic imaginations to realize albums that seem less made than discovered. As if plucked from the cultural ether and given color, voice and form, Means of Knowing is a work for large forces. Offering the audience relief from the plight of Mankind, if this release suffers from anything, it is that, in delivering that ease, it is, at times, almost too gorgeous for its own good. Their work moves, not at the rate you would expect for Ambient Music, but at a speed determined by the motion of atmospheric eddies – like the turbulence of refracted effects on unresolved distant sources. Thanks to the players’ subtly heightened, fiercely focused energies, Means of Knowing resounds with emotional and intellectual acuity. Using primarily electric guitars and a synthesizer, the occasional addition of field recordings or room noise adds a dimension of place. With pure harmonics spiraling around us, sound seems to hang in the air, at once diffused and enriched. Routed through various levels and kinds of processing, the vibrating steel strings of their instruments blur into interference fringes, the result of unique sonic diffraction or subtle distortion. Below this vague churning mass, electronic emanations hold forth in a foundation of low-lying drones. Across 12 waking prayers Hotel Neon’s studied imaginings have a tug of an inescapable gravity. Evoking a feeling of somber introspection, some pieces are as still as death, in a representation of the eternally forlorn. Black as winter branches, these passages deepen quietly, with a ghostly flourish and the rush of darkness. Here a frost wrought stillness mingles with the void. Later, the sound of a rough edge on a surface tugs from the edges, echoing and pulling attention away from the center. Further in, tracks gradually evolve into an intense aural field. Finally stretching across all instrument ranges, the expanse of notes becomes so large that the collective layering of instruments are treated as one single entity – just texture, loudness and tension. As the spell unravels, we shield our eyes – with the night yielding once more to day. As warm as sunlight on your face, a winged spirit does rise in day glow tones. This taming is a quieter action that calls upon us to grow. In addition to being masterfully made, Means of Knowing is an honest exploration of human qualities. Some will find it a balm for the troubles and griefs that pull people together, while others will use it simply to still the wheels of an over-worked mind. Hotel Neon lends enduring form to the stuff of their lives. You sense their sound on the skin, but feel it in your gut.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END28 June 2018