Spacemusic Reviews

Node: Singularity


Node: Singularity
Released: 17 March 2023

For some reason this music was left behind. Captured in studio sessions live to two-track way back in December 1994, these works by Node (Ed Buller, Flood, Dave Bessell and Gary Stout) have been revealed 29 years after their realization on Singularity (67:00). Six tracks, each with a foundation solidly in the Berlin-School, it furthers a form of 1970s music whose power has never been fully comprehended. Engaging from start to finish Singularity is tightly plotted and vividly rendered, and feels innovative to this day. In the dangerous company of electrical current and synthetic sounds we walk close with our dreams. While Node always exhibits a meticulous sense of control, this album does provide a few wild shifts. Withdrawn, then indelibly, impossibly cool, broken chords stride forward – with surreal details multiplying as the story gradually darkens. Radiating a blissful, wistful chill, the audience is repeatedly positioned for the moment when sequencer statements emerge, engage and motor outward. Building on themselves, the cycling, heated notes become expansive and staggering in their sweep. Amidst the rattling pattering play of tones we encounter a pulsating pattern energy animating the arrangements headlong into where shadows play. Often emotionally potent, such moments resound marvelously on their own. A seeker’s soul makes each of the musicians in this quartet a fine vessel for big ideas. Singularity does what all great works of art do, it makes space for contemplation. In the listening brainscape, nerves that fire together wire together – blessing us with a lasting relationship to truth and reality.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 March 2023


Chuck van Zyl: Live on Star’s End 2021-2022

Live on Star's End 2021-2022 Chuck van Zyl

Chuck van Zyl: Live on Star’s End 2021-2022
Released: 18 March 2023

Across three discs Live on Star’s End 2021-2022 (196:30) presents the Chuck van Zyl live to air concerts of 7 February 2021 and 7 August 2022, plus his 26 March 2021 performance for SoundQuest Fest 2021. Each occasion built on the one that came before, and offered meaningful opportunities to advance his craft, further his artistry, and venture into a new sonic frontier.

In discharging audio from electricity works by Chuck van Zyl sing the song of the synthesizer. Searching through the cosmos, as well as his own imagination, he plays in the true spirit of exploration. Each of the realizations documented on Live on Star’s End 2021-2022 builds toward a destination unknown at the outset. Beginning with nothing more than the spark of an idea, the wall outlet powers his instruments, while the logic of improvisation, the force of emotion, and materiality of sound provide the direction and form. This album supposes that the mind is still big, that thoughts are still vast, and offers no option to think small. After a deep listening it will be hard not to hear this strange magic everywhere.

Throughout this epic release we find a machine pulse propelling scales of notes. Radiating with each tight turn into widening arcs of mechanized certainty, sequencer lines solidly motor on. An unconstrained affair, the music winds out in cycling patterns of melodic invention – skipping and echoing with a determined energy. Thoughtful and as tightly coiled as ever, notes fly in and out of the mix, rising and receding in practiced precision. The assembly of tones and textures, somewhere between sonic storm and soothing sigh, stutters, sputters, then whispers a tale of electronic circuits dreaming.

From the sculpted and soft to the ambiguously toned, at times these live sets use negative space to delineate form – placing the listener on intimate terms with the present moment. With an ethereal human harmony hanging gently in the air, a beautiful animation is brought to an often impassive music.

Live on Star’s End 2021-2022 will be difficult to abandon to the background. The coolly controlled concerts conjure a rare dream logic – a kind of beauty which always passes too quickly. Yet, from these monumental acts of invention comes the theme of intimacy. In his unforced experimentation Chuck van Zyl discovers hidden affinities. From the raw and power packed on down to the subtle and dulcet, these works recall the spirit of the Berlin-School – and the charged sparks of an exploratory, voltaic realm.

Live on Star’s End 2021-2022 was released by Synkronos Music on 18 March 2023 to coincide with the Chuck van Zyl concert for Passages – Ambient Channels and Crossings.

From the Press Release – 18 March 2023

Steve Roach: Rest of Life

Rest of Life Steve Roach

Steve Roach: Rest of Life
Released: 10 March 2023

For those of us who know the midnight shining through our windows, and hear it beaming over our radios on STAR’S END, there are the releases of Steve Roach. Quietly captivating, his Rest of Life (134:03) reaches the radiant receptivity to all things sacred found within enlightened audiences. Moving our minds in a familiar outward direction this album is thoroughly inspiriting, yet perpetually on the verge of sleep – that unique in-between realm which glows in the twisting and turning of mind and music. The six tracks are each a wonderful expression of ambience, texture and Roach’s potent sense of drama. Space is created, then filled with ever evolving sound. Shifting soundscapes and prone drones, then a gentle mental sequencer pattern, all expanding beneath reverberant synth notes – combine perfectly, and somehow build a distinctively ethereal atmosphere. Providing listeners with an impressive range of shaded moods and muted tones, we surrender to the stillness only rarely. Showing as much spirit as skill in the formation and execution of this dreamy realization, we also discover an artist striving towards perfection. By contributing to the world’s store of beauty Roach may enrich any space filled by Rest of Life. It plays like it belongs among the stars, but we will always discover the best parts of this work vibrating serenely inside our own selves.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 March 2023

Jonn Serrie: Elysian Lightships

Elysian Lightships

Jonn Serrie: Elysian Lightships
Released: 27 January 2023

While getting off the planet usually require tons of machinery, those of us guided by Jonn Serrie will only need his album Elysian Lightships (38:45). Its six tracks, each a spellbinding symphony of cosmic ideas, radiate a blissful skillful coolness. Its subtle shifts in tone generate a restless energy, creating a distinctive atmosphere of synth-wrought textures and nebula dreams. This inspired music is luminous and graceful, polished and refined, mystical and critical, as it quietly stirs wanderers in a splendor of expression. Like a meteor making for a lost star, or a probe traveling through darkness Elysian Lightships uses its duration to search. Whenever thoughts quietly burn, chilled currents pull us beyond the control of known forces. Electronic tones emerge, fuse and resound – rumbling beneath galactic reverberation. As slow melodies trek to harmonious concord, chords extend outward, and listeners are pulled through the shadows into light. Where poetic ideas suggest a scene, sonic intrigue creates a mood, and the spacetime continuum is strikingly transformed. Eluding superficial thought for a direct connection to the essential realm within Elysian Lightships reaffirms this veteran celestial navigator’s singular ability to transform our listening place into the furthest reaches of space. With all bearings erased Serrie’s decades-long journey into sound resumes here in a beautifully flowing and transporting drift.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END2 March 2023

Arjen Schat: The Extragalactic Sessions 4

The Extra Galactic Sessions 4

Arjen Schat: The Extragalactic Sessions Part 4
Released: 23 December 2022

Conveying an inner-life in the scale of outer-space Arjen Schat offers another superbly imagined installment in his continuing exploration of Electronic Music, and that which lies beyond our planet’s celestial sphere. The Extragalactic Sessions Part 4 (57:24) is utterly enchanting. Technically flawless, yet more than a mere engineering exercise – emotionally charged, but both exact and expansive, it is an intricate construction of extra-terrestrial intrigue. This brilliant, quietly tumultuous work permits the music to unfold in a myriad of ways. Slow and inward, then tense and complex, The Extragalactic Sessions Part 4 traverses enigmatic distances along a cosmically charged spaceway. Throughout his five tracks Schat has never sounded more confident and in command of detail and scene-setting. Sequencer patterns, expanding and receding, meandering then driving, running headlong to distant stars, are adorned and warmed by slow lead melodies. As muted string harmonies ride cresting sequencer patterns a precisely tooled and tuned wonderment calls to us from the outer reaches. Here, stretching out as synth-smith we find Arjen Schat enjoying the special sense of discovery that comes to the well-traveled. There is no one right way to think about this music. Interpretations are as diverse as the audience, and range from an admiration of the minimalistic precision of pulsing patterns and phasing forms, to engaging with an expressive machine beauty – or slipping simply into a poetic electric galaxy dream of vastness. After four volumes, listeners should be able to identify the artistry involved in something this difficult to create – and feel aglow from their repeated encounters.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 February 2023

Erik Wollo: The Shape of Time

The Shape of Time

Erik Wøllo: The Shape of Time
Released: 20 January 2023

Erik Wøllo believes that the greatest calling lies in contributing to the world’s store of beauty. Throughout a celebrated career he has displayed a radiant receptivity to this labor. The Shape of Time (62:30) is more than just ten tracks of ethereal music – they are symphonies of thought, miniature manifestos of reason, odes to the realization of existence, and pulsing with an aliveness quite real. With an extraordinary musical elegance and generosity of spirit, his work furtively constellates into masterworks of Spacemusic. Realized with an artist’s fervor for expression, The Shape of Time plays out into a world that will only be the richer for having heard it. As meaning blurs into music, we are drawn into the nocturnal landscape of the mind – where ultimate truth resides. Dark spheres of harmony congeal and spark against steel stringed electric guitar melodies writhing under half-built stars. Prowling in the lower range, dramatic gestures rise in calculated rhythms and nuanced variations. Conspicuous extensions, beginning all contained and subdued, ascend – scaling the heights of the angelic realm. A turning of texture over time, free of profanity, fear or frenzy, we bask in a golden hour consonance. Cloudlessly calm, with chords, phrases, and single notes suspended like brushstrokes of color on a white canvas, The Shape of Time is a thoroughly enlivening listening experience. Flawlessly constructed, and written like a dream, this album rises from mere luminous rumination to continents of sound set in shivering tonal plains. Brimming with beautiful moments, the cumulative effect is powerful. In his precision-tooled drift the serene allure of Wøllo’s work charms all those who attend. He is a world maker – an inventor of a richly appointed fantasy realm. May his music descend into your heart and elevate your soul – so that you may not remain idly numb to the wonders of this world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 February 2023

Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen: Weathering the Storm

Weathering the Storm

Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen: Weathering the Storm
Released: 17 February 2023

Craig Padilla and Marvin Allen are forecasters of a new and better tomorrow. Weathering the Storm (61:13) is their third collaboration of guitar and synth sonic statements – where again ambient space seems to become a physical location. Revealing itself across eight tracks this release conjures a range of aural atmospheres and complex climates. As ever changing layers of lush synthesized sounds and tight sequencer runs enlarge the listening space, tight guitar leads rise, fall and focus along a ribbon of electric melody. With each passing piece we become exposed to different intensities of mood and variations in tone. From bright motion-filled sonic landscapes and blissed-out plush textures, to overcast hollows of twilight realms, Padilla and Allen guide us safely through their well-crafted thought zones. Moving between the soothing, the unsettling, and the fiery, Weathering the Storm coaxes raindrops of melodic narrative from storm clouds of harmonic drama – playing out as a thousand beautiful dreams burn softly within. Whenever the maddening muffled beating of drums moves us passed the control of known forces, sputtering sparks of cycling note patterns restore us to the engine-room of the mind, and its shades of soft-hued introspection. Like wind walking quietly away from the tempest Weathering the Storm tells us that behind the clouds something incredible is waiting to be known. Made with human hands and hearts it is an album from two of the well-lived, well-loved, and well-played.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END 2 February 2022

Christian Wittman: Music for Unknown Worlds

Music for Unknown Worlds I Music for Unknown Worlds II Music for Unknown Worlds III

Christian Wittman: Music for Unknown Worlds I II III
30 April 2022
14 July 2022
5 October 2022

Christian Wittman speaks in timeless, celestial statements about our place in The Universe. His Music for Unknown Worlds I, II & III seems to be asking us to consider the furthest reaches of space, as much as it wants us to examine what is happening inside our own thoughts. So extraterrestrial are these releases that the more careful members of this audience may hear the night sky filling their listening space. In these moments of sonic wonder a little of mankind’s awareness shows itself. Moving our minds in the familiar outward direction of the best Kosmische Musik Wittman conveys a restless invention. His immunity to harmony, melody and rhythm allows these albums to exemplify the truest expression in pure manipulations of sound. With the delirious, doomed Universe as his subject, ideas condense out of the mental cloud to form music. The thrill of their provocation, the unpredictability and undeniable daring exercise many an aural eccentricity. Teeming with potent indeterminacies, intimate dimensions emerge in a nocturnal glamour and untamed beauty. Music for Unknown Worlds I II III is infused with enthusiasm and delivers Electronic Music that stays with you. Further in, otherworldly synth emanations, like gravel wrapped in velvet, transform into smooth tonal textures – dwindling from atmospheric heights and establishing an ever-evolving spatial scale. Yet, human moments do seep into this music of machines. A real, if exhausted tenderness carries forward this high enterprise. Yielding to emotional currents within, Wittman ultimately conveys a tender sensitivity. His work, like his reasoning, is always in motion. From the quietly anguished, to the outsider’s sense of longing and abandon, his thinking is too dreamlike to be described – and so he makes music to transmit his beliefs.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END26 January 2023

Isostatic: The Forest Abides

The Forest Abides

Isostatic: The Forest Abides
Released: 15 November 2022

Covering a wide sonic terrain, from luminescent beauty to anonymous landscapes, The Forest Abides (57:25) by Isostatic (alias Sean Costello) offers edge to edge motion. Each track, a singular flowing thought, asks us to tune into the quieter frequencies of music. These eight works unfold distinctively in the dreamy brilliance of slow harmonic climaxes, then vaguely in the thickening air of electronic dusk. With little in the way of discernible rhythm to meter distances, nor melody to accompany us on our trek, The Forest Abides shivers in stretches of atonal textures, sparkling effects and ascending atmospheres. Transcendent, yet tethered to Earth, across this release harmony and timbre reinforce each other on a nuanced journey into sonic and terrestrial vistas. Murmuring drones brighten then blacken against pristine field recordings as Ambient whispers stir soft chimes. Faint bells casting about above luminescent chords provide a slow contemplative pace, while further in breathing synth strings shift from dark keys to light. The experience is quiet and contemplative – and meaningful to those open to such declarations. In most places consoling, but occasionally questioning, The Forest Abides means to move the listener out of the dissonance of the everyday, and into bewitching thought zones of telluric richness.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END19 January 2023

The Soviet Space Dog Project: The City and the Stars

The City and the Stars

The Soviet Space Dog Project: The City and the Stars
Released: 20 June 2022

Your brain patterns may have to be compared to those of the composer to know if you understand this music. With his excellent The City and the Stars (92:07) Andy Bloyce, under the alias The Soviet Space Dog Project, presents yet another transformative encounter with electricity. Life is nothing if not electrical, so making music with this form of energy is most proper in the search for the meaning, joy and flourishing that is ultimately the central aspiration of the arts. The alien beauty of these five tracks suggests transfer to another, more cerebral sphere. Beneath a measured, collected verve The City and the Stars runs full-speed ahead into a half-lit realm. In translating electronic currents into aural textures chords move from deep-toned and mysterious to light and radiant – melting the experimental mood under a sudden warmth of understanding. In a blend of transparency and secrecy the Berlin-School soundfield intertwines with cycles of electro swishes, bleeps and clicks, and ethereal modulated effects – all of it grounded by the fullness of a motoring bass riff. As echoing sequencer notes spark in undeniable daring across the lonely light-years of contemplative minds, diverging harmonies move us into a higher orbit. Where atonal tension rises, the narrative swiftness of rounded synth leads counter such sonic invention – all in service to finding that ever elusive marked musical moment of recognition. Listeners will not be criticized for assuming The City and the Stars was the work of a brilliant 18 year old just now discovering what they — and EM — can do. Throughout his decades long fascination with Kosmische Musik Bloyce continues to share with us a fervid inner self and path toward transcendence. As it pushes out into the space of possible thoughts we find this music, while made with machines, sounds fully human. Its ambition is to remind us of our collective potential, creativity, and spirituality – and allow us, if only briefly, to imagine something of our cherished, infinitesimal share of The Universe.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 January 2023