Spacemusic Reviews

Category: Soundscape

Desensitized: Chaos in Premonition

Chaos in Premonition Desensitized

Desensitized: Chaos In Premonition
Released: 21 October 2022

Dean De Benedictis and Deborah Martin are artists who look inside themselves deeply to create work which aspires to inspire higher thoughts in others. As the duo Desensitized their Chaos in Premonition (63:20) succeeds in this enterprise, but may take some getting used to. Deepening the relationship first founded on Hemispherica Portalis (2020) their second collaboration finds De Benedictis & Martin back together building nine additional original transportive fantasies of strange proportions and primeval ambience. The all-embracing sense of beauty and fragility remains, yet somehow this succeeding effort comes across more tenebrous. While one track will challenge with its vast weirdness, others will shock with their perfection. These highly self-styled soundscapes feature mesmerizing figures, forms and color – plenty of wonderful welcome details to grant you entry. Restless meditations shape sound into textures – the atmosphere combining and dividing in fascinating ways. As low drones roll out beneath faint synth chords a sustaining mood arises – resolving soon in an ambient sigh. Time seems suspended. Even under a ticking clock or sacramental drums there is very little in the way to mark rhythm or measure tempo, no landmarks or signposts to indicate direction, or certain tonal center to steady us – leaving the listener to find only themselves within this swirling sonic sphere. For some the effect is surreal, stretching the boundaries of the world while zooming in on the details that matter most, while for others Chaos in Premonition will offer a beautifully unanswered question – a realization which refuses to provide a definitive interpretation, but which we are fully equipped to comprehend. Anyone struck by the intrigue found while driven along paths darker than they foresaw will enjoy this release. Chaos in Premonition is a statement album from musicians with something distinct to say. Yet their work is never finished, only on hold, waiting to take flight again in their next creative session.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 October 2022


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

Chas Smith: Three


Chas Smith: Three
Released: 15 October 2021

A musician, a builder, and, most importantly, a dreamer, Chas Smith releases striking works of enigmatic proportions. Fully invested in making its own kind of magic in its own time his album Three (48:50) fills the air with an unremitting expressive force. As this music’s innate surrealism fully flowers, we venture into the musical terrain of a unique innovation. Listeners will need to be brave and just jump into his metalized universe. Conversing using, not any established language, but rather through the sheer manipulation of steel sound, Smith thoughtfully and purposefully bows, bangs, taps, raps, rubs and otherwise manipulates his hand-fabricated ferrous instruments. Producing a range of sustaining burnished tones – which mingle and layer into everything from imaginative soundscapes and floating textures, to thought zone drones and nightmarish metal fields – we sense a tremor of floating lustrous shapes in disconnected geometries. When the product of this metallurgic encounter surrounds shuddering, steel strings electric, the unsettled meditation grinds with an industrial intonation. Humming over the shifting shapes and expressive shades of sound, trivial tones reside alongside the apocalyptic in such proximity that they combine – and point toward something beyond itself. In what furnace did these dreams forge? Behind the toll of no earthly bell Smith’s Three goes on into its own vibrating wilderness, and invites the listener along on the journey. Traversing distances of thought, we follow this drama – where we may meet the spirits of Harry Bertoia and Robert Rutman – and their proclamations from the deep.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END21 October 2021

Three Point Circle: Proximity Effects

Proximity Effects

Three Point Circle: Proximity Effects
Released: 28 May 2021

It has taken a good long while for K Leimer, Marc Barreca and Steve Peters to reunite. Nearly 40 years after their last performance (and the 2020 release of those sessions on Layered Contingencies) Three Point Circle has set out again, this time with Proximity Effects (74’15”). Capturing a rawness and directness distinct from their solo efforts, the trio reconvenes under a familiar framework of extended improvisations. Unfurling in shimmering slow motion, their journey never ceases to entrance. The five tracks, each of their own particular power and mood, conjure a sensual stillness. The resulting album comes across as a statement of purpose. Proximity Effects reads well from a distance, but the closer we listen the more layers of meaning are revealed. Embracing sonic diversity in shapely harmonies and crafty ambience, a textural analysis finds ornamentation and richness gradually accumulating. Amidst numbed melodies that seem to struggle for air the narrative sometimes idles, but the transfixing mood remains fully intact. As silvery fluttering sounds resound above a mumbled flow of drones, notes surge forth from the subconscious depths. Cohering in the imagination, rather than the ear of the listener, maybe it is the psyche itself that is the subject of these billowing, slow-building realizations. Leimer, Barreca and Peters are telling stories with sound. Communicating in a language without words it is the arrangement of tones of different weight, gravity and value, and their placement according to function and meaning which has produced such an expansive and elegantly crafted work. Less reliant on motion than on atmosphere we find this Ambient triplex still functioning in an uncharted higher dimension – providing us with a soft place in a hard world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 July 2021

Steve Roach: Into the Majestic

Into the Majestic

Steve Roach: Into the Majestic
Released: 1 January 2021

Some people do not listen to Electronic Music, they merely think about it. Imagining what kinds of gear is being used and how it is all inter-connected into systems seems of greater interest to these types than negotiating the sonic depths and heavenly heights that good, spacey EM offers. Fans of synthesist Steve Roach have come to know the benefits of giving his work their attention. Leading us into a soft cosmos we find that, within any space that is given Roach’s musical presence, the normal physics of mass and gravity do not apply. The remarkable studio exploration he made during the 24 October 2020 livestream event will provide some focus for our lately wandering minds, as it tries to ease the tension between what is in the world and what is in us. Into the Majestic (73:59) presents the recording of this virtual happening, and is a welcome relief to sensibilities deadened by a year of scant encounters with concert music. Retreating into a world that he can control Roach opens with an expression of quiet hopefulness. Spectral synth strings overlap at variable distances. Freezing action at the height of its drama the forward march of echoing sequencer patterns transform the three dimensions into sound. The lines of ordered notes, ducking in and out of the shadows cast by soundfield textures, provide an aural energy for the language of Roach’s ideas. In variations of tone and chroma he explores the secret life of timbres – forming sounds that seem startled to find themselves conjoined. Into the Majestic realizes a zone that can be readily felt, but never physically touched. Attuned to dreams, spirits, starlight and moonbeams as much as it is technology, in the spare immediacy of the closing moments Into the Majestic approaches a resolution – ever churning in quiet reverie. This past year has found many of us navigating an unpredictable journey – and taking our blessings where we may find them. As creative energy moves from the artist’s interior to the audience, this album simulates the energizing in-person interaction of the concert setting – and adds another advancement to the flow of sensation and reflection that constitutes Steve Roach’s life in music.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END25 March 2021

Cosmic Ground: 0110

Cosmic Ground 0110 Dirk Jan Muller

Cosmic Ground: 0110
Released: 26 November 2020

From the smoldering intensity of Dirk Jan Müller comes another exuberantly imagined release by his Cosmic Ground Spacemusic project. Focusing on the practice and beliefs of this most cosmic of all genres he ventures through another chimerical dream of attaining the feeling and atmosphere of the original Berlin-School. With a strange beauty that borders on the forbidding his sixth studio album 0110 (68:04) blooms with heat and depth, and then portends doom – ultimately leaving us to search in imaginative absorption. Propulsive in the way a motor winds or a machine cycles, the first four tracks deploy minimalist sequencer patterns that build into dense harmonic forms. The interlocking spell of notes turn in a helix of echoing blips. The tension escalates, and releases in our minds as a cerebral forward motion. Spare and haunted, with electronic sputters that ominously circle in the upper regions, 0110 evokes a closed world – confined, anxious, yet, in its darker moments, thrilling. As we all struggle to keep pace with the machinations of fate, the fifth and final track descends into a sepulchral thrall. Instantly scene-setting, as this low dive reaches our ears and enters our head, the waking mind tries to make sense of a thing designed better for sub-conscious intake. Here Cosmic Ground renders the deadened emotions of 2020 down to a thoughtful stillness – a zone from where we may begin seeking renewal. A penetrating work, at its heedless heights 0110 wants to disconnect us from the plane of this planet. Along a spacey sonic rapture the story finds room to breathe. In its intimate mood of late-night conversations we find music that keeps us up past our bedtime. With its endless starscapes, empty fields and cold wastes reflecting human loneliness, Cosmic Ground shows how this music can take listeners that extra step into the composer’s experience. An heir to the Kosmische Musik movement of the 1970s, releases by Cosmic Ground are a frontline chronicle of the interstellar mind. Only when we become acquainted with its vacant zones and sonic abandon, its hopes, secrets and prophesies, and hear its tender complexities in the sideways drift of thought, will we finally find the face of night – the heart of the dark.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END3 December 2020

Tim Motzer: Inside



Tim Motzer: Inside
Released: 5 June 2020

In his younger years innovative guitarist Tim Motzer may well have been influenced by the classics No Pussyfooting, Evening Star or Discrete Music, but his many releases in the soundscape vein have always shied-away-from reproducing exactly the sound of these pioneering artists. If Motzer is channeling anything from the 1970s it is the forward-thinking spirit of innovation and the freedom to try new things that arose uniquely out of this period. His album Inside (61’01”) arrives in another, different era of transformation, one in which we have all been asked to re-think our lives. While Motzer admits that these days, many of us are spending more time indoors, his five tracks were realized for play, not really in our living rooms, but in a deeper interior space – a head-space.

It is the endless potential of live improvisation that puts this whole enterprise in motion. Under these conditions Motzer is arranger, performer, and accompanist all at once. In his rare world of spontaneous composition he achieves a beautiful, often dramatic cohesion. Does he make a plan beforehand? Yes, he plans to start playing and hear what happens. Initially made as a gift to individual friends and colleagues, it was soon discovered that others outside this circle were also moved by these works. Their fanciful wisps and sustaining mists ease the mind, as well as does the slow dance of dreamy, breathing tones fortifies the heart. These pieces should not unsettle the listener with difficult questions – rather, they are offering the certainty that their notes go good together, and, once the journey is complete, resolve in a soft, sure landing.

Traveling on drifts of shimmering steel strings, reverb laden phrases softly emerge into the sound-space, then recede. Where electric guitar solos rise in ever strengthening leads, a rolling slow flow of calm and color radiates below. The expressive array of sonic shades and whispering washes clings willingly to the ears – eventually sending listeners back to themselves anew.

The current consciousness of mortality has provided Inside with a soulful heft. This creative act of contemplative companionship, of listening and thinking together through music provides a refreshing edge that favors life. While the world outside erodes, Tim Motzer restores the space inside. But his arc of melancholy bends toward an awareness… something that is invisible, but palpable – which accompanies us spectrally, in the back of our minds, well Inside.

-Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 August 2020

Noveller: Arrow



Noveller: Arrow
Released: 12 June 2020

The late solo sets by Noveller have been before amped up crowds waiting for St Vincent or Iggy Pop to take the stage. Producing music in a register much different from that of the more contemporary main acts, her performances effectively had those assembled abandon their inner sense of chaos and surrender to engulfment. Rallying and renewing this live work mixed sonic invention with an air of familiarity – so that the audience’s interior world would, for a time, slow, still and supplant the reality outside of it. On her studio album Arrow (40’30”) Noveller (Sarah Lipstate) embodies the stern principles of the rock guitarist as immediately as she does the innovative spirit of Spacemusic. The combination of steel strings, slides, picks, pedals and miscellaneous boxes and gizmos blossoms into euphoric arrangements of glowing ghostly ambience and withdrawn textural states. Asking the imagination to enlarge, so as to approach the scale of Arrow, its breathing atmospheres and otherworldly vistas reflect on this musician’s creative force. To realize these eight sonic vignettes the music required an intensity of concentration, and yielded no wasted space. With more neurons firing in the brain, more ideas will rise in the mind – storms quiet, centuries blur, an undertow tugs. Loaded with lush looped and layered guitar orchestrations this release possesses an endless energy. Lamentation and rage resolve into consolation and redemption – artfully refracted by Lipstate’s shivery strumming, and the delicate wash of rounded metallic timbres and murmuring drones. While Ambient Music is only abstractly a genre, Arrow proceeds with all the weight of a symphonic statement. In shades of slow melodic gestures and recurring chords we hear the beauty of our fading future. But her music resists oblivion and conveys resonant questions – as certainly as sound in the air can be an expression of the soul. Lipstate is fixing a broken world …one soundscape at a time.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 July 2020

Robert Rich: Offering to the Morning Fog

Offering to the Morning Fog

Offering to the Morning Fog

Robert Rich: Offering to the Morning Fog
Released: 24 May 2020

Propelled by a striking new inspiration Robert Rich heads for the dreamlands. Sailing in the direction of dawn he realizes an Offering to the Morning Fog (67’52”). Content are those who tour this realm. A lavish aural voyage this album unfolds at a right roaming pace. Progressing along a slow-moving arc it builds a sense of tonal otherness that is enticing, inviting and subtle. As this release has been composed within an alternate system of tuning, one might expect the effect to be disquieting. To his credit, here Rich uses this unique technique to conjure six works of wonder – sometimes curious and questioning, but always meant to ease, not challenge his advanced listeners. Offering to the Morning Fog invites us to dream. With breathing drones and undulating tones the ebb and flow of Rich’s slow flute lines circulate through cavernous reverb. The measured use of glissando guitar adds a sinuous shimmering shine wherever it arises. But beneath this lightening plain electronic sound sources materialize in a lingering portent. It is these brief heartless voids and unsettled regions that so fix and fascinate Rich. Declaring a twilight sound space he summons a daybreak where infinity is nothingness and the unknown impels his craft. Offering to the Morning Fog is the perfect balm for an age that demands art and music penetrate surfaces and depict a more complex truth. So although your heart and mind will be unfolding in a thousand different directions, please do not forget to look for yourself inside this beautiful landscape. And please know that, as the long night passes with the cleansing sunrise always comes the promise of a new and better day – at which time there is no better moment to concede that it is the contrast of light and dark that give each other their meaning.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END25 June 2020

Hèléne Vogelsinger: Contemplation



Hèléne Vogelsinger: Contemplation
Released: 12 June 2020

Although it seems that most musicians spend their time in the pursuit of being heard, Hèléne Vogelsinger seems to have taken some preliminary steps in pursuit of hearing her audience. Expressing herself in a way aficionados will appreciate, Contemplation (42’09”) is a release perfect for our time. Providing seven nimble synthesizer escapades, as well as a rival vision of what Electronic Music should sound like, this album lights up the dark space in a winsome way. Finding ongoing inspiration from her instrument the pieces on this album come about in the act of playing them. Vogelsinger takes notice of the sound output of her modular synthesizer system and shapes it into a captivating poem of electricity. Conjuring kinetic joy sequencer patterns echo, expand, and gently recoil through the sound space. As the warm circuits of technology emit layers of easy harmony, the tones of a clarinet or human voice stabilize consonance along a sensitive musical arc. While most resolving notes land softly, some are left marooned in the ether – floating lost in reverberation, eventually fading into velvet night. Each of the many parts of this innovative machine music interweave and meld into the fully and effectively imagined realizations found throughout Contemplation. Vogelsinger’s sonic identity deals with the ideas of light and dark, hard and soft, vastness and intimacy, all balanced by a musical intent touched by a profound cosmic yearning. Electronic Musicians do not write their music, they live it… and so Vogelsinger gets it right… and gets it right on behalf of the listener too. Her music gives us an experience of certainty, a structure we trust, a way things should go – and brings us to a realm outside of everything else. This facility is such a very powerful thing in a world where most of us do not have the tools to express the fullness of who we are. With her Contemplation, Vogelsinger shows us her self, and gives us the world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END11 June 2020