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Spacemusic Reviews

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Arjen Schat: AS

AS

AS

Arjen Schat: AS
Released: 1 September 2018
www.arjenschat.nl

Prior to spinning AS (44’29”) by Arjen Schat, try to imagine that this music is not residing on your digital player, but rather that it is waiting for you in some safe celestial space. Everything sounds better under starlight, and so from out of the galaxy deep this music will seem exquisitely formed. A heroic explorer, Schat’s reach is long. Representing either urges in the brain, or a sense of moving through an interstellar expanse, AS is loaded with pulsing synthesizers migrating in synchronized, echoing patterns. Along currents of dancing notes, each sequencer line reinforces the next – while full-throated lead lines rise like a strange hollow singing in our hearts. Designed to propel the listener endlessly through a trackless void, this album seems to confidently create its own space as it flies – however searching, tremulous and immeasurable this fascinating sonic realm may be. Carrying the light and line together we can almost feel the heat coming off of Scaht’s instruments. Yet, in this wonderful journey of four tracks, he manages to take us where his machines alone cannot. Who is it that knows how to navigate through the storm? That would be the person who has caused the storm. Being on your own, one can go deeper – and in his music Schat takes full advantage of this freedom. The sheer artistry displayed throughout AS is so expertly accomplished that we listeners cannot help but be seduced. It is remarkable how many fresh reserves of musical energy Schat teases out of such a well-established genre. Energy sparked by creativity is full of potential, and AS confirms that Spacemusic thrives when it provides an alternative to the doldrums of that which is common. This music is free to witness its own history, but has it lived up to the ideals that framed its founding? Possibly. If Schat can do everything right, control the chaos of electricity, move sound in the proper direction and place, he just might make something perfect.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END11 October 2018

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James Murray: Falling Backwards

Falling Backwards

Falling Backwards

James Murray: Falling Backwards
Released: 14 September 2018
www.homenormal.com
www.jamesmurray.info

Real life is enough for most people. Thanks goodness that James Murray is not like most people. His album Falling Backwards (47’05”) edges into our awareness, and warms us up in a most welcome way. His instruments, an extension of his consciousness, do not just make sound – they are part of the spirit of this musician. Realized with a kind of cursive grace, the seven tracks show strength in their stillness. As parts of the mind are held back by language, so it may be that in his organization of sound we find Murray’s conceptions and emotions becoming concrete and communicable. From a palpable unease and the whisper of spirits, to electronic shadows and magnetized clouds, Falling Backwards provides a better expression in the harmony of tones. Each piece begins as an impression within the composer’s head. As vivid aural tints form a handsome contrast, the movement of sonic forms becomes active and charged with electricity. Working with the understanding that sound expresses something in itself, Murray indulges his arrangements with lush ornamental pads and sterling, swirling lines of vaporous, recurring notes. Everything in his turbulent sonic landscapes is in motion, yet we never seem to move very far from the dreamy dark holler from where Murray remains in repose. To some Falling Backwards may remain a blur, but to others of us – who hear the interior hum of drama in each and every moment – we cannot help but imagine the futures we will dream about while under its influence.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END4 October 2018

Various Artists: Elements and Particles

Elements and Particles

Elements and Particles

Various Artists: Elements and Particles
Released: 19 October 2018
www.din.org.uk

It has been said that a scholar collects, and so with his Tone Science series we find Ian Boddy (of DiN Records) continuing a fine job of just that. Now let us welcome Elements and Particles (60’23”), the second anthology of nine musical realizations that have never before been. The raw material of this art is electricity, which is forged into sound and music by dreamers and builders. Their wordless structures offer everything from technological complexity to the simplicity of a prayer. The artful sonic organization of the works found on Elements and Particles can stem only from a developed instinct. Timbre has always been a secondary consideration in music, yet in the field of Electronic Music it is the key medium of artistic spiritual intensity. In a genre this wild and ungovernable, each piece exerts its own specific force on the imagination. In an ever-fading atmosphere, the artists presented on this collection are shaping the character of sound in a thousand small ways. Finding their internal guidance the nine come alive to transform gently vibrating tones into a commotion of motion. As the worrisome low trill of LFOs gives way to a formless vacuum, another track goes bone deep cold. When chaotic modulations upset the spirit level of our minds, conventional access points recede – and we are left with only the sensation of hearing. There are also places of unspeakable beauty. In this innovative modular synthesizer realm, oscillators may sing of the quiet power behind their volume, with tempered circuits humming in ascent. Chirping rhythms echo lines of melodious machine patterns, and scatter above the round warmth of slower purple notes. In metallic voices and synthesized verse this gear can reference its technological founders, but in this worship we only diminish a power meant to amplify humanity – to further advance our state. The nine musicians represented on Elements and Particles always choose the light – as their lives are meant for discovery. With each new musical endeavor they dare to be more human. We may be considered mad by those who cannot hear the music – yet for all those who understand, it is a wonder beyond all dispute. But as steady as we are in our pursuit, we must wonder… what is this strange compulsion that drives us to create? We all do live this question, and must live into its answer.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END27 September 2018

Ombient: The Wings of Halphas

The Wings of Halphas

The Wings of Halphas

Ombient: The Wings of Halphas
Released: 19 September
www.ombient.com

Ombient has heard night eating the world, and converted this energy into sound. Taking the listener into null space the extraordinary Electronic Musician Mike Hunter observes an odd parade of angels and demons that check in and out of his nightmarish sonic space. Adding to a restless and vast body of work now comes The Wings of Halphas (59″00′). It will do us no good to leave a light on while this piece plays, because if timbre is thought of as the color of sound, then this album is black enough to absorb the light of any respectable listening area. Here the idiosyncrasies of Hunter’s gear are cleverly enlisted, so you are advised to ready your sub-woofers for the ensuing sound system workout. With crackling circuitry searing electronics, the conventional access points of rhythm, melody and harmony are closed off – as The Wings of Halphas presents an experience of sounds, tones and organization that will be completely unfamiliar to any audience. In Ombient’s uncontained void, distortion is a welcome character. With its ripping texture, and red zone saturation, it bestows a sense of surpassing limits – in service to this composition’s ever-present feeling of lost abandon. The fire of a rumbling furnace draws air in hissing discontent, to issue the leaden fumes of this grinding industry. Raw chords inhabit the cellar, cowering before the grinding oscillators and crumbling modulations occupying the upper air. Something more than drones and tones inhabit this seemingly unending track. Probing, bitter, sharp, emotionally charged, yet burning cool The Wings of Halphas expresses more than the surface reality of sound. It digs down below – because from out of the subterranean realm does come the inspiration for this kind of music. In Ombient’s demanding world dense auricular forms do frustrate our dreams of escape – so conjured by a particular, inquisitive mind. Like waking from darkness, into a dark time, we wonder if we will ever find our way out? But for all its devils and darkness, this realization came into being out of the simple pleasure of making music, of following where the creative process leads – in hopes of working the minds of both the player and the listener.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 September 2018

Max Richter: The Blue Notebooks (2018)

The Blue Notebooks (2018)

The Blue Notebooks (2018)

Max Richter: The Blue Notebooks (2018)
Released: 11 May 2018
www.deutschegrammophon.com
www.maxrichtermusic.com

Max Richter‘s second album The Blue Notebooks (40’36”) was first heard on broadcasts of STAR’S END shortly after it was released in 2004. From the first listen it was felt that here was a work with enough cinematic scale to warrant a film of its own. Almost 15 years onward we find that music from this album has indeed been used to great effect in a number of television and movie releases. The composition On the Nature of Daylight may be found as part of soundtracks for Arrival, The Innocents, The Face of an Angel and Shutter Island. No less than four versions of this piece may be found on the Deutsche Grammophon two CD re-issue of The Blue Notebooks: the album version, an orchestral version, a slightly more textural entropy mix, and finally a version which ingeniously integrates Dinah Washington’s moving vocal from her 1959 song This Bitter Earth (which closes out the seven tracks found on this edition’s 30+ minute bonus disc). The Blue Notebooks also presents readings from Franz Kafka and Czeslaw Milosz by actor Tilda Swinton – interspersed amongst movements of delicate piano, booming pipe organ and weeping string ensemble, and often embedded within the sounds of a typewriter in use and environmental recordings. Visceral and dreamlike in its sonic power Richter’s work embodies a bold assertion of humanity, in a desolate, empty land that seeks forever to blot it out. In his enthusiasm for the forces that bind us together we hear an open heart. Effortlessly elegant, with a raw vulnerability The Blue Notebooks makes us believe in things we have long forgotten. We must hope to be worthy of the grace the composer of this work has received.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 September 2018

Steve Jansen: The Extinct Suite

The Extinct Suite

The Extinct Suite

Steve Jansen: The Extinct Suite
Released: 6 March 2017
www.stevejansen.com

We are attracted to people who will share something of themselves with us. Steve Jansen does so extraordinarily throughout The Extinct Suite (55’46”). Letting go of his need for fixed answers, Jansen seems to be living his way into this work – to become new to himself in ways that matter. His continuous, extensive, wordless structures are so beautifully rendered that Jansen easily pulls us over to his side. At times moving at a muted, measured pace, tones fight gravity – as music enters from a strange wayward place. Searching through the rubble of memory, a series of unresolved chords further advances a disconcerting state. As Jansen’s internal guidance directs this music through its moods and atmospheres, ensemble instruments sustain alongside synthesizers and samplers. Noticing a digital debris vignetting the drama of piano notes and building cinema strings, we find a bewitching quality of sonic stillness. Quiet sections settle as does the dust that hides the glow of a rose, while further in the bending of starlight holds ethereal voices in an upper realm. Smoky textures fill a formerly vacant spot, with an unbothered keyboard driving scales of notes above. Silvery flute lines breathe along a dulcet arc, countered later by metallic drones and a listless ambiance. As each theme, form and motif emerges, sustains and resolves, it should be understood that no matter how puzzling or diffuse, the only way for the audience to get through this realization is to give our selves over to it. Expertly rendered in a most fragile theater of time The Extinct Suite helps us become vulnerable to the beauty of existence. Jansen manages to bring the listener into his world – which is often a gorgeous realm. In a kind of cursive grace he travels down a number of mental musical corridors, never leaving anyone behind. Sound has always been a secondary consideration in music, yet throughout The Extinct Suite it is of primary concern. Lacking limits, this album is a continuous delight to the ear, and to the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 6 September 2018

Alluste: Alien Worlds

Alien Worlds

Alien Worlds

Alluste: Alien Worlds
Released: 24 May 2018
alluste.bandcamp.com

Piero Monachello is a propulsive musicmaker, and knows well how to keep the listener engaged. As Alluste his sequencers fire like the neurological mechanisms behind the mind’s functioning, and help better align thought and mood toward a more positive current. His Alien Worlds (61’18”) may be based on the 1970s Berlin-School, but it narrates from the present. Each work emerges and develops as in a slow gathering of hot blood. Still marveling at the beauty of synthetic sounds, the veteran Monachello sparks reactions and arouses emotions across eight tracks of brain beat Spacemusic. One does not listen to this music so much as drift into it. In a swirl of throwback synthesizers a tumbling latticework of echoing arpeggio notes dance along scales of nocturnal minor key chords. Lush harmonies sigh and whisper their celestial concord, as piano keys play out dramatically under digital reverberation. Full string sections may add warmth and fullness to one composition, as quickly as an ethereal vocal will leave us in a trackless void on another. Animated by the power of melody to convey emotions Alien Worlds stands strong against the harshness and cynicism that tears at the fabric of our world – and reminds us that we all still have our own feelings, questions and fears. While being all instrumental, Alien Worlds somehow manages to speak in a human vocabulary – requiring us to be beholden to something other than our own opinion. If you play this album, then you are agreeing to listen to Monachello’s story. There is a spirit that this music catches you up in, yet it is meant only to serve us – and that which stirs in our deepest of hearts.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 August 2018