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Spacemusic Reviews

Category: Synthesizer

Cosmic Ground: Cosmic Ground 5

Cosmic Ground 5

Cosmic Ground 5

Cosmic Ground; Cosmic Ground 5
Released: 25 October 2019
www.cosmicground.de

Atmosphere is the intention of works by Cosmic Ground. While most music made with electronic instruments provides abstractions in sound (leaving the listener lost amidst unresolved questions of existence) this project by prog-rock keyboardist turned space explorer Dirk Jan Müller continues to engineer expressions useful to those embarking on their own intimate aural adventure. The CD Cosmic Ground 5 (75’23”) presents eight tracks of Müller’s excellent Berlin-School inventions – each building out from spare beginnings into cool textural proportions. With its chilled synth pads pulling our mood into dark realms, the sound assembly soon gives way to echoing sonic effects seething above urgent sequencer throbbing. Inside these pulsing machine poems the motoring patterns circle and crest dramatically – their interlocking rhythms shifting with each new design. Continually throughout Cosmic Ground 5 the abyss widens, and, as a vast planetary choir mysteriously descends, fills with drama. With its mechanical reiterating riffs the cascading notes shift and divide in a twisting double helix of charged electrical tones. Once these propulsive fabrications reach their fullest spark, a coursing synth work stills the journey – flaring and sending us off to probe other coordinates. For riders of the empty plain Cosmic Ground 5 is the perfect soundtrack. Between its palpable sense of alienation and our yearning for meaning in The Universe we may hear the real force that moves things.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 November 2019

Chuck van Zyl: Spacetones

Spacetones

Spacetones

Chuck van Zyl: Spacetones
Released: 26 October 2019
www.groove.nl
chuckvanzyl.weebly.com

Chuck van Zyl has a way with beginnings… and with endings… and often with middles too… His 31 March 2018 performance at the E-Day Festival at De Enck in Oirschot, The Netherlands was an abundant story of, not just his trans-continental travels, but also the culmination of his years long journey as a musician. The concert space is the crucible in which van Zyl dispatches his thought experiments – and Spacetones (68’48”) provides the document of the spontaneous compositions and in-the-moment improvisations which transpired over the course of his festival live set. Pulling the audience forward with the inexorable logic of sound, the concert’s mythic beginning gives way to excited sequencer notes motoring on in echoing perfection. The patterns go brighter, then dim, transpose, add on and subtract out notes in the syncopated minimalism Berlin-School fans have been fascinated with for decades. Gliding along the spaceways, these pulsing passages present spirited effects of rhythmic flight. Slow chords hold forth while echoing note cycles peal out below animated keyboard leads. With electronic harmonies rising and falling in passages of dark and light, an unexpected beauty emerges. When the listener becomes swallowed up in Mellotron stringed soundtracks and layers of portentous synthesizer drones, energy flares are deployed in a menacing enchantment, and elevate the structure of the album, and the concert – always at the speed of thought. Accomplished in its narrative complexity and drive Spacetones is a wondrous evocation of the virtues of live EM. Beneath the enigmatic cool of the deep space traveler, this musician may indeed be generating heat – but at every moment is asking the listener to please, “come along with me”. Throughout Spacetones we are listening to someone with a real passion for sound and atmosphere. It is a sweeping vision of what live EM is and what it may do for us. But in spite of all the current emphasis on the specifications of equipment and gear, or the harrowing stress of playing this kind of live concert, in truth this music is simply the story of the state of a man… going from the one heart on stage, to those out in the audience.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END24 October 2019

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

Various Artists: Cosines and Tangents

Cosines and Tangents

Cosines and Tangents

Various Artists: Cosines and Tangents
Released: 18 October 2019
www.din.org.uk

For those contributing tracks to Cosines and Tangents, music is a more precise way to communicate. This volume, the third in the Tone Science series, presents nine works – every one made using a unique modular synthesizer system. Each component within these cases and cabinets is a discrete part chosen and arranged according to the taste and direction of the individual artist. Filters, oscillators, mixers, ring modulators, envelopes, and other even more esoteric pieces provide an unprecedented flexibility in sound design and music making. They are systems that are not fixed in the way conventional instruments are, and attract an interesting mix of musicians and engineers. Represented on Cosines and Tangents are a compelling cross-section of talented people from out of this body. From the raw power of Berserker by Redshift, to the intellectual vigor of Cyclosporum by Robert Rich, then down to the unpeople space of En-Edge by Radek Rudnicki, on up to the gentle mental popping pulse of Round #2 by Benge, this collection, in turns, offers the feeling of coming home, followed by the sense of leaving Earth. Overtly synthetic, these realizations all confer a particular electrical power – in hopes of awakening possibility in listeners. As there is no one perfect way to perform this music, we are well served by the select imaginations uplifting this group. Threading between the forces of chaos and order Cosines and Tangents produces a fascinating energy – a trait which has yet to be fully explained. However, what may be explained is why the field of Electronic Music has over these many years remained so innovative, so ahead of its time. This is plainly so because its practitioners have not forgotten the first principle of their work… the expressive manipulation of timbre – and remained true to a faith… that just as the soul animates a person, so timbre animates a sound.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END10 October 2019

Bart Hawkins: 21 Pulse Eclipse

21 Pulse Eclipse

21 Pulse Eclipse

Bart Hawkins: 21 Pulse Eclipse
Released: 27 September 2019
www.spottedpeccary.com

21 Pulse Eclipse (73’30”) unsettles the digital dust. This debut by Bart Hawkins unwinds our minds with eight tracks of gray matter vibrating tones, textures and experiments. His is an unusual realm of different musical laws, and music from this zone will reveal as much about the composer as it does about the listener. 21 Pulse Eclipse resounds in the abyss between dreams. Its lack of reference points may bother some, while in others this feature will be welcomed – for all the questions it will provoke. In its provision of a great many forbidding, fugitive sounds, this work may seem to offer an overfull emptiness. Its stacked layers of oscillations and modulations produce an undulating audio field. The denser areas of sound may be perceived as disjunct, non-directional and dissonant, while just across the landscape a cloud-like mass of harmony slowly drifts closer. With little in the way of a tonal center, a consonance may arise out of the random pulsing of two oscillators – an exercise which offers insight into the relationship between sound and the psyche. With no frame of reference to anything in the natural world, Hawkins’ realizations remind us of a more complicated existence. Hair raises from the skin as electrical charges build up. When uncertainty becomes the effective state, time disconnects, and an unexpected beauty emerges. For all the emphasis on the machinery of Modular Synthesis truly 21 Pulse Eclipse comes from the tradition of music as a product of human thought. Whether considering composition, performance, listening, or appreciation the constraints and capabilities of consciousness play the greatest formative role. Our response is completely internal. Upon its absorption this release shows signs of deepening the mystery of our condition – and so renew one’s sense of wonder.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END3 October 2019

K Markov: Interactivity

Interactivity

Interactivity

K Markov: Interactivity
Released: 24 September 2019
www.synphaera.com/exosphere

In playing Interactivity (65’33”) you are agreeing to listen to K Markov‘s story. Expressing a mood, an atmosphere, a tone, in a numberless variety of subtle sonic shadings, he travels through space like a rocketeer blasting past planets. Polished, rigorous and sober this release is influenced by the 1970s Berlin-School, yet it narrates from the present. Each of its five tracks emerge in a slow gathering of ominous growls – putting the audience inside the action. The amorphous texture of Interactivity initially fills out our space with dense forms. These timbre experiments provide an unexpected excursion. As drifting drones roll out their charged current, the potent, primitive force of sound itself expresses power. Above a storm of sequencer patterns, rushing synthesizer chords mix with lead lines and bristle with electrical current. These pulsing passages are spirited performances of melodic and rhythmic flight. Slow melodies hold forth above a venting mass, while echoing note cycles peal out amidst animated keyboard leads. With electronic harmonies rising and falling in passages of light and dark, an unexpected beauty emerges. Beneath the enigmatic cool of a deep space traveler, this musician generates heat. When tonal content melts into a muted metallic ringing, modulated effects bring on a darkening chill. Here too Markov captures angelic harmonies, amid mined subterranean frequencies. The structure of Interactivity sets the pace of thought. Out past the storms of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, and the other gas giants, past where the planets end, we may find – among the stars – that there is a meaning to this work. It urges us to be more, not to just want more. Animated by the power of music to convey emotions it stands strong against the cynicism that tears at the fabric of modern life.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END26 September 2019

GROBEK: GROBEK I

GROBECK I

GROBECK I

GROBEK: GROBEK I
Released: 22 July 2019
grobek.bandcamp.com

GROBAK is the duo of Jorg Erren and Christian Steffen, who take part in an annual off-season synthesizer jam in the village of Ouddorp on the North Sea. Each of their Wintertime rituals yields a wealth of new music, made proper after additional weeks or months of editing and re-imagining. The tone of their album GROBEK I veers from quietly electronic and textural, up to the kinetic and the reckless. Moving in the mad poetry of its energized, nodding notes, up through echoing, tumbling sequencer patterns, this album then again backs down – veering between the two realms in an easy flow. Calmly hypnotic, the pulse of this music tries to align the conflicting energies of the mind. Yet, within the overlapping mobility of circling and spiraling notes, the excitement, emotion and mystery of this work is expressed. As bold synth melodies search for accompaniment, the current of sound builds, recedes, then resolves into an adagio of synthesizer strings. Every minute of GROBEK I seems filled with something that demands our attention. With its interlinked shifting arpeggios the sound of a wildly spinning engine softens to that a more harnessed propulsion. The atmosphere is lean, transparent, surging – like currents journeying through a limitless expanse. Raw, dark and dreamy, we feel the potency of every note. GROBEK I is a studio album which vibrates with restrained intensity, yet remains fully energized by the free-form nature of the recording process. In its mix of anthemic melodies, harmonic landscapes and motorik rhythms the listener will find a steady sonic pleasure – as each of its nine tracks glitter with its own charm and electricity.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END5 September 2019