starsendradio

Spacemusic Reviews

Category: Soundscape

Tim Motzer: Inside

Inside

Inside

Tim Motzer: Inside
Released: 5 June 2020
www.1krecordings.com
www.timmotzer.com

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

Arrow

Arrow

Noveller: Arrow
Released: 12 June 2020
www.badabingrecords.com
www.sarahlipstate.com

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
www.robertrich.com

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

Contemplation

Contemplation

Hèléne Vogelsinger: Contemplation
Released: 12 June 2020
www.modularfield.io

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

Jeff Pearce: Songs for The Gathering

Songs for The Gathering

Songs for The Gathering

Jeff Pearce: Songs for The Gathering
Released: 20 March 2020
www.jeffpearcemusic.com

The setting is a grand, although unrestored, church sanctuary in Philadelphia on Saturday 10 June 2000 where Jeff Pearce is set to perform a show. Along with his performance set he has on offer (produced especially for attendees) a limited edition six track CD called Songs for The Gathering. It was the perfect souvenir for The Gatherings Concert Series audience as it offered music from this formative era and remained out of print, becoming a collector’s item for a full two decades. Having now rediscovered (and remastered) this material, and added on two additional contemporaneous pieces, Songs for The Gathering (58’27”) has been given a proper re-issue – just in time to commemorate the porcelain anniversary of its first release, and also to remind us of the hope we all felt at the beginning of the 21st century.

Sending sound into space, each composition induces its own unique zone. Pearce’s six steel strings shiver under his light touch, with every tone challenging gravity’s pull. Each note builds on the promise of the one that came before, revealing a robust creative vision. Yet, in its inviting minimalism even the sparest of the tracks contain references to the cosmos. As sonic eddies form, slow yearning melodies reiterate at the rate and depth of a sleeper’s breath – and Songs for The Gathering deepens from the pleasant and consonant into the transcendent and moving. Arising from shorelines of unearthly radiance the mesmerizing impact of this music’s aural texture ventures to defeat space and time. Yet, when he commands it, this guitarist’s picking, looping and E-Bow echo techniques are exact and clear. In the dancing delicacy of arpeggio chords the spare procession of isolated notes articulate a soaring, confident energy – which settles down ultimately into a refuge of otherworldly beauty.

Songs for The Gathering is a lambent landmark from two decades ago, yet its bright message remains as meaningful as when it was first delivered. Written in a language and performed with a skill that has stayed with us across the 20 years since first hearing it, this music has been revived to help us through the times in which we now find ourselves. What can an artist expect to achieve in the shadow of disaster and doubt? For Jeff Pearce it has been quite a lot. In many a profound musical moment he has encountered glints of transcendence, and the hint of how things might have been in a less brutal world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 April 2020

Amongst Myselves: The Good Earth

The Good Earth

The Good Earth

Amongst Myselves: The Good Earth
Released: 24 March 2020
www.amongstmyselves.com

Steve Roberts continues the inclination to dream big. His works under the name Amongst Myselves are brilliantly crafted aural poems to all things telluric. Another precision built soundscape, The Good Earth (65’02”) has taken several years to fully realize. Its six tracks have a connection to the continent of Australia, which is where Roberts resides, but seems more a devotional work to the entire planet and the tender land which provides us with life. A curious mix of naturalist details and a fantastic sense of sound, this album may be admired as much for its simplicity as for its tangled sense of fury, solemnity and ambience. Granting the soothing that modern life does not, rather than merely suppressing symptoms, The Good Earth provides a lasting improvement in our countenance. Layers of sustaining warm notes slowly gather, build and recede in a lulling and harmonious infinite moment. In its swirling storm cloud chords and charged electronics we seem to hear this music in the same way we absorb sense data. Beneath the soft glow hovering above each composition, a varying layer of synthesizer consonance and imaginative modulations are grounded by detailed drones and plucked steel strings. In slow waves of sleep harmonizing neurons, bass notes writhe beneath breathing ambient spheres – re-ordering the mind in a restless meditation on atmosphere and texture. The collage of tones tunes the experience, from ground brown lows to clear blue high skies, and on into a sacred black. As vast as the soundscapes feel, we find that there are only two people in The Good Earth – the musician, and you the listener. Simultaneously beautiful and tragic, uplifting and haunting, Roberts hopes we will feel the weight and wonder of life, and the beautiful part we occupy in a much larger organism.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END26 March 2020

Kelly David: Meditation in Green

Meditation in Green

Meditation in Green

Kelly David: Meditation in Green
Released: 23 August 2019
www.spottedpeccary.com
www.kellydavid.com

Kelly David is exploring the Earth, and discovering that it is far bigger than he imagined. The release Meditation in Green (58’03”) allows us to project ourselves into his luxurious, long-view. Those open to the seduction of electronic drama and its beautiful symbolism will be substantially rewarded. Utilizing a variety of pristine field recordings, and layering them with gentle percussion and evocative synthesizer surfaces Kelly David produces passages of mystic bliss – where reverberant chords move like slow clouds on the horizon, and glowing tones flex and fade off into a buzz of jungle. From ethno-grooves to Forth World dreamscapes, the arc of this fantasy for synths, samplers and landscapes recedes and expands as the music flows across a leafy, watery and often intense sonic terrain. Some tracks add a ceremonial rhythmic propulsion, but we will recognize that most of Meditation in Green is pushing slowly through a dreamy, verdant realm. This work’s series of seven interludes build tension through minimal means, driving one to consider the larger questions of what it is to be alive. The listening experience is sensuous enough to become lost in, but so vivid that we might encounter ourselves somewhere along our travels. In its textured roar, wilderness sounds, ethereal atmospheres and thunder claps we find an escape from the broken world. The screens of our modern times offer so much to look at, from the trivial to the sublime. Yet, Meditation in Green proves to be a move vivid experience than any random feed could possibly offer. To give his perspective on the world and its ancient governing powers this artist’s vision reaches us through the act of listening, to be interpreted within the theater of our minds.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END17 October 2019

Robert Rich: Tactile Ground

Tactile Ground

Tactile Ground

Robert Rich: Tactile Ground
Released: 15 January 2019
www.robertrich.com

Robert Rich remains as content as ever reveling in his remarkable and imaginative designs. After initiating the audience into the bewildering mysteries of his art, he awakens particular responses. Again treating sound as a material to express ideas and feelings, his Tactile Ground is the realization of that which eludes language. A sonic landscape contoured by wonder, we may imagine the musician as an organism. With its recordings of the natural world, surrounded by strange modulations and washes of harmony, we arrive at a most unexpected setting. In some green Eden, or a primordial realm, it feels like these motifs have preceded the human race. With no discernible rhythm, it becomes difficult to maintain our bearings while within Tactile Ground. Sensations vary over 15 tracks and two discs. Where a slight but noticeable restlessness begins, further in the shivering quality of its atmosphere becomes unapologetically bleak. As granular textures are replaced by the smooth, stillness of sustaining drones, brighter passages support the spare, elegant notes of a grand piano. Beautiful tones do emanate from Rich’s steel guitar, slithering and sliding in slow serpentine glissando. Breaths of bamboo flute float through a glorious reverberation above a torrent of churning, murmuring synthesizers – and in this manner Tactile Ground creeps slowly along. Having found that his musical expressions affect other people, Robert Rich does them consciously and intentionally to produce that effect – and so his music is born. As we evolve into creatures with powers which at present we do not possess, we may come to understand fully how sound created thought, and how thought creates music. Until that time, the human mind requires a basic coherence and system, and once given systematic coherence can grasp ideas of ever increasing complexity. Yet, even given this, it will not be possible for us to know the meaning of Tactile Ground until traveling its complete course.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 February 2019

Robert Rich: The Biode

The Biode

The Biode

Robert Rich: The Biode
Released: 25 February 2018
www.robertrich.com

What will we be thinking about while we listen to The Biode (57’37”) by Robert Rich? Is existence a property? Or a state? How do we measure the modern world? What constitutes the self? A talent on a free course, Rich progresses, not in a straight line, but in alternate divergences from one side of creativity to the other. His work on The Biode re-awakens the discussion of music and the surreal. To the ear accustomed to soothing atmospheres, this album is a risk – as it deviates quite seriously from better known traditions. A great deal of its charm lies in its ability to confound and perplex. An exploration of new aims and tendencies, the ten tracks found on The Biode are each an exploitation of carefully chosen and contrasted tonal qualities. Rich’s harmonic lubrications are subtle, revealing the dim light of mystic musing. Instrumental tone colors are combined, yet each stands clear of the other – asserting a mutual independence. As a gathering of rhythmic threads arise and resolve in unconventional sequencer patterns and percussive structures, tiny snatches of melody pass like vain dreams – heedlessly into some other chord. From sweet, to pungent, to the primordial, a slow progression of pale hues test permitted concords and discords. Throughout this release Rich features his notable research into the qualities of timbre, into the effects of new combinations of tones. These imaginative modulations are highlighted as prominently as the more familiar reverberant flute solos, steel guitar leads and synthesized pads. The result is a wonderful zone of beautiful melodies and sonic grandeur, accented by glurping electronic utterances and an unsettling intonation. However scientific its conception may have been, The Biode proves very expressive. As faithful in detail as any of Rich’s best work, it represents the furthest progress yet in acknowledging the human subconscious, and the emotional and intellectual attitudes of the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 March 2018

Robert Rich/Markus Reuter: Lift a Feather to the Flood

Lift a Feather to the Flood

Lift a Feather to the Flood

Robert Rich/Markus Reuter: Lift a Feather to the Flood
Released: 12 April 2017
www.robertrich.com
www.markusreuter.com

Robert Rich & Markus Reuter are well-known for their many musical journeys – from the back of beyond to the brink of the mainstream. On Lift a Feather to the Flood (66’00”) they mainly explore tonality, and many of its subtle shades and moods. With Rich at the grand, and Reuter breathing out atmospheres and textures from his touch guitar and synth, this duo realizes eight subtle thought zones meant for pondering and questioning – more so than assurance and confirmation. On Lift a Feather to the Flood we do find the dignified, stately procession of reverberant piano notes walking thoughtfully through a cloudy haze of digital mist. But the most potent pieces are made with an ear for light, motion and surface – compositions that we must reason our way through. It is in these deepest moments that we may feel this album’s personal tone. As they work in this unique frequency, using melody and harmony likes signs and symbols, Rich & Reuter lean into the Avant-Garde. Locating tone is their mission, and the production of these rarefied ambient zones touches a distinctive, inquiring energy, and maybe even a bit of our fear of the unknown. This work does seem to be searching, just for the stimulation of it – with Rich & Reuter sharing their deep wondering about music, humanity and life. This duo knows about this music’s secret mind, and in their dreamy, drifting, lulling, pulling sonics, we approach something like the actual flow of consciousness.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 18 May 2017