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Spacemusic Reviews

Category: Spacemusic

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

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Chronotope Project: Lotus Rising

Lotus Rising

Lotus Rising

Chronotope Project: Lotus Rising
Released: 23 November 2018
www.spottedpeccary.com
www.chronotope-project.com

Fully and effectively imagined, Lotus Rising (58’56”) opens up a warm and beautiful space, then moves slowly through it. Recording under the name Chronotope Project multi-instrumentalist Jeffrey Ericson Allen takes time to take in the grandeur of existence – with music that moves from darkness to light along a spaceward tracking arc. His works slowly unfold just as easily in the dreamy brilliance of harmonic climaxes, as they do darkly in the thickening air of a room-shaking rumble. With its celestial choirs, glowing synths and delicate atmospheres, the eight tracks on Lotus Rising contain a fair amount of Spacemusic drama. Once the sequencers kick in the listener is treated to a delightful acceleration in energy – but not enough to disturb the contemplative and expansive nature of this album. Repeating patterns seem to bubble up – providing sleek propulsion across shimmering sonic landscapes – then coalesce and metamorphose, drifting away as the spacey lines meet, combine, and evaporate. Blurry chords extend above imaginative electronic modulations – just beneath the misty aura that surrounds each sound. Each a singular flowing thought, these works ask us to tune into the quieter frequencies. But being meditative does not mean Lotus Rising has to be vague. With its easy cosmic intimations it guides your psyche to stillness through searching probes from the warm heart of Electronic Music. From mysterious and remote to ethereal and heavenly, the eight silvery tracks on Lotus Rising are quieting to the mind. This album’s drifting approach – warm in tone and pleasantly melodious – gives this music a welcoming atmosphere. From textures of desolation, and still chill zones, to vigorous workouts of charged musical charm, Lotus Rising provides a rich, fully formed musical environment we will want to visit over and again.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END10 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

Spyra: Dunst

Dunst

Dunst

Spyra: Dunst
Released: 20 October 2018
www.groove.nl
www.derspyra.de

With music by the celebrated German synthesist Spyra, we know we will be traveling down the kind of road where we will not be using our eyes to navigate. His album Dunst (71’541″) features a vague air of cosmic mystery. The unpredictable swerves and drifts of its six tracks provide a wealth of dramatic potency and musical color across each intriguing sonic journey. Expanding in all directions yet still possessing a cerebral inwardness, the weight of this music will rouse its listeners – enough even to become aware of themselves. Dunst features many of Spyra’s signature stylings, such as lush synthesized strings, dramatic harmonic shifts and striving electronic beats. Weaving beautiful lead lines amidst complex interlocking patterns and repetitive motifs he realizes an irresistibly likable Spacemusic. While Dunst reworks Spyra’s cosmic/chillout hybrid of syncopated patterns and intelligent percussion accents, he also boldly relies on other more abstract concepts to further his musical ideas. In one moment we are feeling a strong galloping pulse, then further in comes the purring beauty of sustaining electrical tones. Its shimmering surfaces and consonant harmonies feel welcoming, yet Dunst‘s transposing sequencer notes echo ahead – beckoning us to the open road. With each new Spyra CD we experience a new cycle of intimacy. He almost always gives us the spacey and the dancey, some easy ambiance drifting into deep sonic dives, then a heart-felt melody over machine rhythms… but never the same way twice.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 December 2018

Manuel Göttsching: E2E4

E2E4

E2E4

Manuel Göttsching: E2E4
Released: 1983
www.manuel-goettsching.com

On Saturday 12 December 1981 Manuel Göttsching sat down in his studio and recorded some music. After about an hour he had realized something that he imagined would be nice to listen to on an upcoming airline flight. A few years later this piece was released under his own name through the In-Team label as E2E4. To those more familiar with Göttsching’s Cosmic Music, Berlin-School and Space-Rock roots, this new work took a while to be accepted. With its shuffling beat box rhythms and simple, repetitive sequencer pattern E2E4 seemed to have more in common with Disco Music than it did with Space Music. But once forward thinking radio programs aired it, and club DJs started spinning this disc for the dance floor, more and more musicians began sampling riffs and copying the style – and the status of E2E4 grew to mammoth proportions. What commenced as an easy going musical jaunt, inducing bewilderment among established audiences, E2E4 was embraced by a new generation of people and ideas. As the pulsing relentlessly builds up – working its magic on the mood of the listener – the cyclical rhythms and electronic tones probe the recesses of the unconscious. The spirited energy of E2E4 will have all the lights in our heads lit at once – like an engine coming to life; messages flying, ideas flowering, charges of electricity whipping across the brain, leaving our selves luminescent, awake and alive. The shards and stray threads of mental activity eventually recede, as the closing scenes of E2E4 are enlivened by Göttsching’s wonderful electric guitar soloing. To this day this album manages to feel fresh and inventive rather than stale or studied – an outcome not part of an overarching artistic strategy. Göttsching simply knows that in a work of art there must be something more than what is called force. There must be distinction and a rarity of feeling. In creating music that combined the elements of improvisation with structured composition, he is a genuine innovator – a complicated hero whose humanity is profoundly irresistible.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END   7 December 2018

Saul Stokes: Expansion

Expansion

Expansion

Saul Stokes: Expansion
Released: 17 November 2018
www.saulstokes.com

Hopefully you will hear the music of Saul Stokes‘ before you will need it. His work is known to have a positive effect on the imagination (which we all would benefit from), but it can also pierce the gloom. An acknowledgement of the gift of life and the realization of existence, the nine exuberant tracks found on Expansion (145’13”), are each on their own journey through a specific world of poetic imagination. While the listening experience of most EM is that of pure sensory input, encountering this album feels quite different – quite like stepping into a lofty, friendly conversation. Synthesizers may be the machines behind the music, but here Stokes is the engine. This man, and his mortal motor, fills every corner of Expansion with a radiant intensity. Partly in reaction to the digital disconnection of our time, the meticulous nature of Stokes’ production values clashed with the desire to make music more spontaneously – so each piece presented here is simply played out live in Stokes’ studio directly into a recording device, and then placed as is on Expansion. But as listeners we are advised to just lie back and lose ourselves in the drama of electricity transforming into sound, and sound into music. Even for those with mainstream tastes, Expansion is potent and adventurous enough to be engaging. From the warmly distorted leads spiriting through billowing harmonies, to the complex rhythm patterns that weave through them, Expansion suffers no shortage of special delights. A pleasant mix of Stoke’s trademark motorik riffs, shimmering synths, and low octane beats, this work presents an overlit, futuristic electronic realm. Out of a landscape of lunar vacancy rises vivid, syncopated grooves – which punctuate smooth electronic accents, and other ethereal sonic forms. Decorating our condition with music, this release asks nothing more than our quiet attention – how radical. Saul Stokes knows something, and he knows that we know it too. His music gets us to some mental place that we would normally be cut off from. Stokes finds in the power of music the ability to introduce order into the harshness of the physical world and still follow the way of an all-embracing, undying life of the spirit. Even with so many concerts and albums to his credit, we never feel we have enough of him.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 November 2018

Saul Stokes: The Gatherings 16 November 2013

The Gatherings 16 November 2013

The Gatherings 16 November 2013

Saul Stokes: The Gatherings 16 November 2013
Released: 17 November 2018
www.thegatherings.org
www.saulstokes.com

A sonic world is waiting for you. A place where the wild past meets the power and the beauty of the future, and is accessed simply with a ticket to The Gatherings Concert Series. Among the finest examples of this phenomenon are the inspiring concerts made by Saul Stokes. Often referred to as a “sonic innovator”, Stokes bridges and bounds the opposing energies of crude electricity and accomplished art – to realize music that aligns perfectly with the beat and pulse beneath and behind everything.

His album The Gatherings 16 November 2013 (86’37”) features the unedited entirety of his performance. The sensitive ear will acknowledge the live, vibrant timbres present at every level of his numerous live performances. Using the altar at St Mary’s Hamilton Village, Stokes is not arranging for the dance floor, but for the place in the mind where sensory detail becomes thought.

If we think of this music as electrical, a thing made of electricity, then we find it to be always remaking itself – transforming in every instant, yet continually preserving its conception. The limit of effect is merely the limit of the musician’s imagination. From moody and psychological to juicy and exuberant, Stokes revels equally in tightly arranged progressions and timeless amorphous drones. Buzzing lead melodies provide a lovely voice in which to deliver a renewing message, while gentle beats and grooves speed up, then slow down – moving these compositions beyond squishy IDM and into the realm of intriguing thought experiment. Unique tones, novel arrangements, comprehensive synthesis and Stokes’ joyful intensity provide fuel for the listener’s mental adventures.

This work could not have been realized outside the intimacy of the live environment. The immediacy of the moment, the consistent pattern of change and the spark of inspiration all act upon Stokes, as he produces continuous currents of sound for his spellbound audience. This venue, and its patrons, have become known for revealing to musicians what they are capable of – and believe that a new idea in music is worth the challenge to make it. The music Saul Stokes made at The Gatherings now has a second life as an album release. The Gatherings 16 November 2013 was made live, in the heat of the moment, before an enthusiastic, informed community. As these conditions are known for revealing the creative spark, we find both the musician and his listeners experiencing this extraordinary music together in the act of being made.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END15 November 2018


Proceeds from the sale of The Gatherings 16 November 2013 by Saul Stokes go to support the efforts of CIMA of PA, the IRS recognized, non-profit, all-volunteer organization which oversees The Gatherings Concert Series in Philadelphia.