Spacemusic Reviews

Category: New Age Music

Isostatic: The Forest Abides

The Forest Abides

Isostatic: The Forest Abides
Released: 15 November 2022

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


Anne Garner: Dear Unknown

Dear Unknown Dear Unknown (Instrumental)

Anne Garner: Dear Unknown
Released: 1 April 2022& 6 May 2022

Encountering these two albums back to back, Dear Unknown feels as though it is entering us at a level different from that of other music. Anne Garner straight away creates a distinctive listening zone of real, if exhausted tenderness – while the Dear Unknown (Instrumental) version gently settles atop the beautiful bliss brought on by the first eight renditions of this superb venture. Through both releases you believe you are in sure hands – always aware of what the storyteller is attempting to convey. The most significant feature of most of this effort is Garner’s vocal work. There is a spacey, special beauty in the way she pulls lyrics apart, elongating them so that they stretch toward the infinite – which is the entire point of the Spacemusic genre. With its rush of tearless tones, palliative piano, fragile flute, and droning drifts of daybreak, all mingling with an ethereal alien beauty of voice and words, Dear Unknown seems to be breathing more than manufacturing music. We hear the musician alone wavering and fragile above hazy electronic chords, then further in such otherworldly energy makes it seem as if this star has seen more than others of her kind. The designs are intimate and exact – with a self-generated glow radiating beneath the chill shadow of a despondent beauty. The character and energy of the music making, the level of detail, the freshness, all lead the listener to a sense of having strayed into someone else’s dream. With its message of hope and healing Dear Unknown has the qualities of an experience outside of time. As useful for thoughtful introspection as it is for forgetting oneself entirely, in every outing with this music we receive much more than we seek.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END5 January 2023

Palancar: Music for Stargazing 1 & 2

Music for Stargazing One Music for Stargazing Two

Palancar: Music for Stargazing Vol One & Two
Released: 8 September 2022 & 11 December 2022

If words are latecomers to truth, then Darrell Burgan must make music. Under his Palancar alias he has long displayed an adventurous, innovative spirit. Music for Stargazing Vol One & Two (159:01) offers another call to adventure for the imagination. Luring us into a nomadic journey of heart and mind Burgan provides electronic wonder in every single note. Inspired by cooly distant images from out of the night sky, this Music for Stargazing series plays perfectly – even when encountering radiation from outside our solar system. Evanescent as a flicker of starlight traveling vast distances to reach us, track after track exude power in their boldness – only to swiftly veer off in passages of delicate invention and sonority. Warming the breast and focusing the vision, well-crafted sounds stagger around their meanings. Beneath a series of intersecting aural planes we find clarity and momentum, while further in finely tuned balances diminish in tension and improbability. Within this zone the more abstract pieces exhibit an elevated separateness. Marvels of continuous transformation, colossal themes reveal in atmospheric textures, then take full thundering flight. The terracing of dynamics seems expansive and transparent – on a shared quest into vectors of nowhere. From Prog sparked bluster to glossy New Age sonics of space and romance, to the propulsive rhythms, shifting harmonies and conquering melodies of a more galactic drama, this diverse work courses across Burgan’s inclusive growth mindset, and on into the interstellar realm. The result is an extraordinary listening experience, a remarkable two and half hours realized by a charismatic Electronic Musician who knows how to hold his listeners. Music for Stargazing, from the electrifying to the tenderhearted, will have you feeling like the first person on planet Palancar – or maybe the last. As the scene darkens around you, in the midst of this music it should be easy to remember that no matter how far you travel, or under what sun, you carry with you always the light of the divine and the flame of the human.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END29 December 2022

Meg Bowles: Voices from the Ethereal Forest

Voices from the Ethereal Forest

Meg Bowles: Voices from the Ethereal Forest
Released: 2 December 2022

Out of a darkling underworld comes a voice of calm. Dreamily from the depths Meg Bowles touches technological wonder as she hymns crescendoing keyboards and indulges the Spacemusic brain. Her Voices from the Ethereal Forest (57:18) provides seven tracks of meticulously layered, dreamily flowing, ambient music. In this aural adventure Bowles warms us in an air of reverence and mystery. Conjuring vibrant vocal tones atop sustaining serenity drones, her arrangements confer the verdant, timeless words of nature. Mingling with stir soft chimes an aura of harmony clings to the ears and whispers in the heart. As searchlight timbres luxuriate in electronic colors, somberly swelling textures tell of a dissonant distance. Above a room filling radiance Voices from the Ethereal Forest floats its diaphanous melody. Echoing through stacks of lustrous sustaining synths a hint of sonic invention beneath the haze of harmonic play compels shadows to hold their breath. While further in, other detours delight the mind along murmuring currents and billowing spells. Layers of sustaining warm notes slowly gather, build into lulling, seemingly infinite moments – only to recede quietly before advancing descendant chords. Drifting and ranging to resounding effect Voices from the Ethereal Forest moves the listener across lush landscapes and bewitching nightscenes. In nurturing our sensitivity to beauty Bowles hopes to build a better world – through the deepening of each listener’s cherished, infinitesimal share of The Universe.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END8 December 2022

Nils Frahm: Music for Animals

Music for Animals Nils Frahm

Nils Frahm: Music for Animals
Released: 23 September 2022

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

Forrest Fang: The Lost Seasons of Amorphia

The Lost Seasons of Amorphia

Forrest Fang: The Lost Seasons of Amorphia
Released: 4 November 2022

Forrest Fang treats the mind as an area of activation – a dense meaning-space where each of us experiences subjective reality. Exceptionally rendered, his The Lost Seasons of Amorphia (68:48) offers an encounter with some superior realm of the psyche. Intricately balanced, invariably surprising, in a density of detail Fang plays the music of the world he knows. From lulling dreamscapes and somnambulant bliss to the vigorous whorl of sharply conceived moments his studio and its implements provide plenty of room for inventiveness. Each of the seven tracks seem like a drama unto itself. In an abundance of color and presence the sounds and notes tell us something about the space they are resounding through. Sensuously swollen shapes recede into a soft-focus mood under points of starlight clustering in vastness. Measured and finely modulated, scene after scene are calculated to colonize the listening mind. Some will hear melodies in the dancing, pulsing rhythms – as seductive percussion runs shift the shape of the palpitating drive – while others will be more attracted to the explorations of fabric and form, structure and tonality, timbre and pacing. In a unique intermingling of acoustic instruments and those more overtly electronic, patterned compositions float along an arc of lustrous synth tones and gently resounding gu-zheng, gongs and gamelan. Pushing through a dreamy, verdant realm we recognize this album’s sheen, unanimity and teeming complexities. So where does this music really come from? Is it from a region to our North, South, East or West? Is it from another world? …or from the future? The Lost Seasons of Amorphia is alternately dark and intense, dense and impenetrable, gentle and delicate, and ultimately conjures an atmosphere under which the truth of the composer is briefly known – as Forrest Fang continues to beautifully reveal himself to us one album at a time.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END10 November 2022

subtractiveLAD: Minor Deities

Minor DeitiesStephen Hummel

subtractiveLAD: Minor Deities
Released: 7 October 2022

Culminating the passions of a mind in motion subtractiveLAD (aka Stephen Hummel) commends to the world 11 pieces – 11 transporting fantasies from his Minor Deities (76:02). Stepping inside (where we will not contemplate the life of this artist, but rather the ideas that drive it) this release makes audible an internal frequency of truth. In a track by track breakdown we find that each one seems different in makeup. Yet something indescribable joins them together into a weave of complexly connected stories. Utilizing mesmerizing colors, patterns and textures Hummel conjures an electro-rush immediacy with craftsman-like proficiency and attention to detail. Charting a course of subtle emotions Minor Deities delivers a strange mix of sensations: apprehension, fixation, wonder, gratitude – slowed down into a fantasy of coiled up power. Dark and measured, borne by its own momentum, further in the unstable material rises in reckless motion. Ethereal choirs and strings offer certainty while elsewhere sinister chords swell in gentle sonic turbulence. From synth jams and whispering ambience to surreal stillness and tender melodic engagement, this album captures a range of beautiful, elusive moods. In one corner a rising sequencer run leads us to space, then disperses into stardust heavens. Another zone produces a fragile twilight atmosphere of fragility and repose. Taking flight in various imaginative manipulations of sound, lilting piano notes and heavenly vocalize enchant the dreamy drama – easing these electronic scenes in a remarkable chill. Music of this quality can move us toward something higher at the best of times, or at the very least exist as a reminder of our collective human potential, creativity, and spirituality. Minor Deities deserves that the act of listening be an act of intelligence – with the listener truly attending and adoring what they are hearing.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END27 October 2021

Robert Rich/Luca Formentini: For Sundays When It Rains

For Sundays When It Rains

Robert Rich/Luca Formentini: For Sundays When It Rains
Released: 30 September 2022

On For Sundays When It Rains (57:10) Robert Rich & Luca Formentini collaborate to elevate all those who will listen. Within these twelve chilled spaces imaginations grow. Our inner realm feels flooded with warmth and light, while the world around us turns steadily towards tomorrow. Their placid moods breathe dark then light. Speaking in clean chords and lilting melodies, the listener feels an honesty that few musicians are capable of calling forth. This album does not push against limits, but rather roams around easily inside of us – between the mind and the heart. In the interweaving of atmosphere, texture and mood notes of cloudy flute settle above reverberant grand piano. The subtle sweeps of contrast keep you attentive and charmed, yet For Sundays When It Rains is consistently inventive while it wanders through an enlightened field of form and invention. As delicate acoustic guitar rambles amid soft sighs of airy lightness, timeless tones of untold space consume idyllic scenes. Overseen by two rouge spirits, this release reveals a truth about Rich & Formentini. We must admire this duo’s ability to empty our thoughts of everything other than the music itself – as what appears to be just a few spare keys and chords conjures a remarkably detailed interior realm. In a high sonic style they access mysterious influences to form a singular stillness outside the neutrality of basic Ambient Music. Taking the listeners as well as the players into its confidence, this music seems formed over a night of balmy dreams and friendly visitations – as it waits patiently For Sundays When It Rains.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END29 September 2022

Alanis Morissette: the storm before the calm

the storm before the calm Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette: the storm before the calm
Released: 17 June 2022

In an age where even the space of thought is at risk, where speaking is held over listening, Alanis Morissette submits a bold, beautiful, musical mind-zone of an album. Her release the storm before the calm (106:38) hopes to challenge stories that are false with better stories – stories in which people want to live. These eleven starlit works mean to reach out and touch the night, yet go much further – extending well into the hearts and minds of all those who will lend an ear. Morissette brings to this adventure a background in popular music, which has been switched off to accommodate the more languorous compositional arc and open-ended, multi-instrumental soft jams that populate the storm before the calm. Joined in this project by several other musicians, along with Morissette’s wordless vocals and feeling flute we will notice an intelligent mix of processed guitars, seductive percussion, spacey organs, ambient synths, gentle piano, dreamy vibes, subtle electronics and a host of other exotic instruments – painstakingly combined into a substantial sustaining sphere of sound. Serenely sweet sonics travel so deliberately that our awareness of time seems to stretch. In measured motion each track builds. With long chords emerging out of an aura of reverberation we may imagine a vast expanse. Entrancing abstraction yields to a stream of transformations, with optimism and artistry fully present throughout every moment. While contrasting tones are carefully arranged to direct attention inward, the sections of higher energy attract the front edge of our senses. These expressively played strong moments give way to passages of slow burning brightness, and an argument for the future becomes clear. For those who feel like ghosts wandering a world that has grown alien, the storm before the calm will make sense. We listen to Morissette’s moving music, but hear her message. Lit by tomorrow’s sun, she tells of life under a different light – and an age of calm where every existence knows meaning and truth.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END15 September 2022

Ian Boddy & Erik Wollo: Revolve


Ian Boddy & Erik Wollo: Revolve
Released: 16 September 2022

Night occurs while our side of the planet is facing away from the sun. During the darkness it may be easier to view the moon above studying us here on the surface – and receive the potential and possibilities La Luna brings us. Also perfectly happy traveling their own orbits Ian Boddy and Erik Wollo have changed trajectory just long enough to make Revolve (51:38) – a studio set of climactic chords, bewitching themes and richly arrayed wonders of rhythm and pulse. In a compulsively detailed mix of moods and impressions this duo pulls toward a hard chill. Across eight tracks momentum rises and falls in measured motion. Swirling under a circulation of synthetic sound, harmonies play and progress in a concord of affecting chromatic steps. Passing through assorted effects, Wøllo’s lead lines are poignant, ethereal and elegant – conjuring zones and tones known to few of his guitar contemporaries. Supporting the swell and contraction of scale we find Boddy’s passagework underpinning the luxurious lyricism. While shifting sequencer patterns run through a series of imaginative progressions, heart-felt strains and refrains unfurl in a rising ribbon of silvery silk. The direction theses tunes take is ever upward, with each resolution redolent of the future this music promises. Their sonics feel less supplied than turned loose. In one place exuding an ambient melancholy, then further in hitting the listener hard with expertly marshalled beats and grooves, a rapt, expectant air of exuberance vents. As voluptuous melodies become embedded in spacey structures the energy level rises by scalar steps. The back and forth between Boddy and Wollo shows a reflective tenderness. This heart-first doubleton derives meaning from simple forms, vague vibrations, and the unknown energies collaboration may release. Their magnificent album has been so carefully constructed that by the time the concluding notes bring us back to ourselves we are ready and willing to truly listen. Revolve feels from outside our own time. It speaks to an era – an era that has yet to come.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END8 September 2022