starsendradio

Spacemusic Reviews

Category: Synthesizer

Chuck van Zyl: Live on Star’s End 10.06.19

Live on Star's End 100619

Live on Star’s End 100619

Chuck van Zyl: Live on Star’s End 10.06.29
Released: 23 February 2020
www.industryeight.com
chuckvanzyl.weebly.com

Guiding listeners from the safe place of what they know to an active awareness of what can be is the job of a good DJ – and of a good musician too. During his ongoing 40 year tenure as host of the weekly radio program Star’s End, Chuck van Zyl has been commissioned with the task of leading an audience – the proficiency of which may also be found in his musical realizations. So inspired by the music he was spinning on-air, Chuck van Zyl began making his own Electronic Music works – with a synthesizer he still uses to this day. Live on Star’s End 10.06.19 is the second in a series of live-to-air radio concert releases, and features over 75 minutes of the live Spacemusic he made in the WXPN performance studio during the private Salon Concert and live-to-air broadcast of 5/6 October 2019.

In this music Chuck van Zyl gives voice to the character of his existence. It is a proclamation of his alive-ness, by way of an in-the-moment inventiveness. A complex multi-leveled album Live on Star’s End 10.06.19 utilizes the full dynamic range of sonic possibilities. Moving truly between an electric unrestrained intensity on down to shivering chill currents, the juxtaposition of the primitive and the delicate lends tension to the drama. Working the dials, searching out the sound, groping for the pulse – in whirlwinds of intertwining sequencer lines, and the gorgeous exploration of tone color, form and atmosphere – he coaxes magical moments into the sound space.

Chuck’s live concerts show the identity of his instruments as equally as they do the identity of the artist. Making music in an enormous present, his live improvisations find Chuck attempting to transcend, not an instrument, but a system of instruments – a constellation of synths, sequencers, echoes and reverbs all in service to a potent musical vision. An expressive power, the right situation of the venue and the heedful is capable of releasing unsuspected energies. With the body activated and central nervous system firing the joy of playing this music is unmatched.

If the moral track of the Universe arcs upward, then this music must be part of that eventuality. Just as the optimism of the weekly broadcasts of Star’s End (in contrast to the present moment) seem a notion leftover from the previous century, so will albums like Live on Star’s End 10.06.19 chip away at the inherent dissonance at the heart of modern life. Although the subject of this album may be specific, its implications are cosmic.

Press Notes/STAR’S END20 February 2020

LIsa Bella Donna: Tramontane

Tramontane

Tramontane

Lisa Bella Donna: Tramontane
Released: 26 October 2019
www.lisabelladonna.com

The first sonic impression of Tramontane (50’27”) arrives with a rumble of white noise. A deeply absorbing album, its listeners are completely taken over by a wondrous atmosphere. Wrapped in the skilled musical invention we have come to expect from our most innovative Electronic Musicians, Lisa Bella Donna breathes in a musical freedom that allows her to experiment without abandoning her strengths. The sounds found on Tramontane seethe and roil in a deep real cool – all in service to a skilled musical intent. Each of the two tracks, each a singular flowing thought, asks us to tune into our quieter frequencies. But being introspective does not mean that this work has to be vague. In its drift toward a soft-focus landscape many touching, quiet moments are indeed realized – but the ambient spell cast by this gemlike album is occasionally broken by an enlivening keyboard lead. These bewitching thought-zones arc through their magical moments in a beautifully transporting performance, both restful to the intellect and comforting to the spirit. By continually combining and recombining a vivid range of timbres into substantial sonic textures and cosmic aural colors, this artist leaves us dwelling in vivid states of wordless quietude and opalescent shine. Recordings of a natural wilderness environment mingle with synthesizer pads and detailed electronic modulations as the mood pushes into the far-flung reaches of thought. The deliberate pacing, the sense of consonance surrounded by space, the rush of warm rounded chords all make for a fascinating listening experience. Most competent musicians can easily produce heat. Lisa Bella Donna produces light. A work of sustained ambiance Tramontane conveys the enigmatic yet simple essence of her world apart.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 February 2020

Juta Takahashi: Pleochroism

Pleochroism

Pleochroism

Juta Takahashi: Pleochroism
Released: 31 December 2019
www.neotantra.co.uk
www.jutatakahashi.com

Juta Takahashi is strong enough to dream. In his music we do not re-locate, but rather we de-locate. The CD Pleochroism (62’06”) strengthens our hearts, as it stills our minds. Its music resides outside worldly realms – allowing us to step easily into sustaining zones of cerebral contemplation. As whispering synthesizers drift into silence, we find each of this album’s four electronic hymns to be a study in harmonic contrasts. Under a cloud cover of digital reverberation string triads sound out in the way moonlight sometimes shimmers. Beams of music, refracted through the spirit of the player, swirl elegantly throughout the sound space. Weightless notes bloom across a range of color and mass – in a process understood only on their own terms. Chords drift, slip and lift in a sweet reverie – as softer sounds prevail and coax the night to stay a few moments longer. Fitting easily into the New Age or Ambient Music categories, Pleochroism is a lush counterpoint to the lesser works of these classes. Each track seems to expand continuously over its duration – flowing gently through a range of sculpted textures and sustained moods. Pastoral and silvery then dark and dense, these slowly shifting realizations open up space then fill it with sound – as deep sonic pleasures lead to reassuring calm. In a time most concerned with the mastery of the world out there, listeners to Pleochroism may transcend the day-to-day – and find contentment dwelling in the universe found in here – within ourselves.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END6 February 2020

Radio Massacre International: M21/The Rhodes Less Travelled

M21

M21

Radio Massacre International: M21/The Rhodes Less Travelled
Released: 14 October 2019
www.radiomassacreinternational.com

In a world in which everything may be known, Spacemusic does remain a mystery. This portion of the musical spectrum may be too vast for some, but not for the likes of Steve Dinsdale, Duncan Goddard and Gary Houghton. Their long-lived live band Radio Massacre International has executed a great number of successful experiments in this discipline. Drawn together more in cooperation than in competition, to achieve each of their concerts this collective of improvisers calls on personal resources none are certain they possess. The double CD sets M21 and The Rhodes Less Travelled present this trio in some of their finest moments – with M21 spotlighting the 7 May 2011 show at St Clement’s Church in Manchester, and The Rhodes Less Travelled featuring out-takes from this event’s luminous rehearsal sessions. Making works meant to move the mind from still chill to smoldering state, RMI‘s encounter with their audience sets up the possibility for transcendence. Where intertwined sequencer riffs mix, shift and divide in a twisting double helix of echoing synthetic tones, further in RMI confronts a dissolving world of perpetual gloom – and ascends to the sonic stasis of gentle twilight realms, then on to melodic and harmonic fog clearing clarity. With their synthesizers, sequencers, Mellotron, Rhodes piano and electric guitar RMI performs the Berlin-School form to realize an even remoter music. Dinsdale, Goddard and Houghton live in the flow of the moment. As their bodies become activated by what they are hearing, their central nervous systems fire and a mysterious drama is built. Spacemusic runs deep in the fabric of these three. Their music is spontaneously composed, and so the act of performing live is constantly evolving. As they attain this otherwise unreachable experience, the atmosphere generated remains mysteriously ever in the near future. Yet, the retreat into wordlessness, the struggle against inevitable decay, and its desolating states are no match for the calm and quiet of an old electric piano set against a background of electronic night spirits – giving hope that maybe one day the profound peace RMI knows out in space will also be found here on the Earth.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 January 2020

Rene de Bakker: Our Gift

Our Gift

Our Gift

Rene de Bakker: Our Gift
Released: 1 June 2019
www.groove.nl

Our Gift (76″04″) is the ambitious solo effort by Rene de Bakker. Part of the Dutch synthesizer ensemble Beyond Berlin, on this release both the musician and audience discover what he is capable of left to his own devices. Our Gift presents six tracks of brilliantly intricate sequencer patterning. Transpiring in an electrical heat this music will throw off sparks. In an effortless braiding of high-concept electronic music and echoing notes each realization conjures a distinctive spacey mood. Polymetric pulses yield complex interlocking, repetitive motifs – and deliver a potent sense of motion. From the beat of the heart to the tick of a clock, larger cycles build from smaller ones. Rene de Bakker commands a striking range of electronic color and texture. Some works maintain just enough keyboard notes to sketch a melody, but where ever tension is fully wound up the leads tower fast and true. Flowing across a fascinating range of textures and moods one may drift into this album. However, Our Gift is an excellent example of smart brain beat Spacemusic, and so requires our attention. Spending time with it is never less than intriguing, and will leave us with a lasting sense of possibility.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 January 2020

Neuland: Neuland

Neuland

Neuland

Neuland: Neuland
Released: 22 November 2019
www.neuland.net

The self-titled debut by Neuland may be based on the 1970s Berlin-School, but it narrates from the future. Neuland unites two of Germany’s most prominent and established synthesists: Peter Baumann and Paul Haslinger. The pairing brings out the best each has to offer. Baumann & Haslinger have a great deal in common. They both independently rose to icon status – catalyzing the contemporary synth community – through their work with Tangerine Dream and in significant solo projects. On Neuland two monuments to our scene offer fresh insight into the energetic realm located somewhere above Spacemusic but just below Prog-Rock. Fortunately for intelligent listeners their pursuits are beyond that of the commercial audience. Freely exhibiting a musical vision and technological talent this duo lights up the neural pathways – and leads us on a substantial listening experience. In a swirl of synthesizers a tumbling latticework of echoing notes dance along scales of minor key textures. Sequencers fire like mental mechanisms – to better align thought and mood toward a more positive current. These neatly built pattern exercises provide a hurtling onrushing quality. As electronic harmonies rise and fall, in light and dark tones, an unexpected beauty emerges. In their building, slow-burning spacey anthems lush harmonies sigh and whisper a celestial concord. Chords change keys and the sound fills out. While being completely instrumental, the music somehow manages to speak in a human vocabulary. With each ribbon of melody unfurling, the drama of the song unfolds. By playing this album you are agreeing to hear a story. Rigorously composed and realized, these 15 tracks across two CDs attest to Neuland‘s tendency to interact with the world in the image of their dreams and nightmares. Animated by the power of melody to convey emotions this work stands strong against the cynicism that tears at the fabric of modern life – and reminds us that we all still have our own feelings, questions and fears. This debut is a vivid mind trip on headphones – and knows that the deeper we go within ourselves, the better we may connect with the rest of humanity.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END2 January 2020

Chuck van Zyl: Recitals 3

Recitals 3

Recitals 3

Chuck van Zyl: Recitals 3
Released: 21 December 2019

www.facebook.com/synkronosmusic
chuckvanzyl.weebly.com

Since 1986 Chuck van Zyl has been a man finding his moment, in any live space that will hold him. The double CD Recitals 3 presents music recorded at several 2018 performances. His shows were documented with an ordinary two-track recording device, and, after months of review, two 60+ minute sonic journeys were produced and released as Recitals 3.

In most live improvisations a player is trying to transcend their instrument – but live concerts for Chuck van Zyl are an attempt to transcend a system of instruments. Finding the truest version of himself on stage his wish is that, according to the musician, “the you inside you will know something about the me inside me”. Making the music happen in space, as if touching the notes, molding them and shaping them within time itself offers a great quality of expression. Recitals 3 arrives with high expectations and from the start it delights and transports. The live concert, the flickering shadow of the soul is where moment by moment this music was realized. Musicians know that it takes someone else to hear the truth in their work, and it is in the concert venue that Chuck van Zyl promises to uncover the secret of his own operation.

Disc 1 (71’39”) includes music from live performances for MUSIC WITH SPACE, Johnny Brenda’s and NEEM Fest 2018 and moves from the dolorous to the ecstatic in a balance of opposing tensions. As if upon the workings of some powerful engine the music moves deliberately in sequencer steps rather than abruptly in leaps. Entrancing cyclical motifs and subtly spun melodic fragments pivot in front of harmonies and phrases and so make the repetitions feel new and novel, yet confidently familiar. In his vast poem of electricity van Zyl threads reciprocal shades of soft-hued tones, dazed sonic introspection, icy reverie, and lunar lullaby into a kaleidoscopic suite of interstellar melody and electronic communion. In sputtering sparks this work sounded crisply on the mild air of the concert space – while further in, the rolling clicking-clock ticky-tock pulse will unwind your mind. A symphony of thought, The Weakening Eye of Day fascinates the mind, captivates the heart, and stimulates the imagination.

Disc 2 (76’05”) features extracts from the abstract passages of five performances, and hopes to bypass the conscious sensibilities for a direct connection to that which is elemental within the listener. Like a meteor seeking a lost sun this passage spends its force searching. Inside the lowest midnight a thousand dreams softly burn. Through shivering chill currents, we pass the control of known forces. Like something falling through darkness, this moonlight swirls in the color of night. Notes collide, collude and combine. Each movement comes at you in a ramble of melody, a search of harmony, a flight of timbre. With chords moving in contrary motion, and opposed by industrial sound effects, the listening ear is pulled through the shadows to light. Throughout To the Close and Holy Darkness Chuck van Zyl develops a poetic idea, suggests a scene, creates a mood. Even as its accord of sounds, so sweet and pleasing to the ear, is opposed by dissonance, we may hear a unity in the arrangement and the message it conveys.

Communing at these concerts the soundscape forms itself around us, and so we may feel human together – the bright tones communicating a sense of repose and clarity and capturing a wide range of deeply felt interior resonances. The music found on Recitals 3 displays the glimmer of imaginative energy that has graced van Zyl’s music for over 30 years. Conjoining disparate impulses it evokes cycles of collapse and renewal. Gorgeously colored, weighty in theme, style and construction this music reaches into the world of the surreal. As expected, this live album does feel newborn, yet ghosts are created on every track. In a culture where everything can be explained, the meaning of this music still eludes definition – because somewhere in its vast stretches of the unknown and the unanswered, there is something moving, something profound – is waiting.

From the Press Release – 17 December 2019