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Spacemusic Reviews

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

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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

Bob Holroyd: The Cage

The Cage

The Cage

Bob Holroyd: The Cage
Released: 9 March 2018
www.bobholroyd.com

Everyone has a talent, but not everyone has something to say. So let now those with ears hear The Cage (59’57”) by Bob Holroyd. Relentlessly introspective, this album is about what it means for Holroyd to be alive right now. Patient and yet exploratory, the music may be as much a therapy for the musician as it is a pleasure for his listeners. While little of The Cage is truly new, the light it sheds most definitely is. As Holroyd seemingly runs an electrical field through a chamber ensemble, instruments lose their sense of place and become sonic forms – making every note piercingly bright, yet soft as velvet. Haunted and fragile, stricken strings establish a secret territory – a kind of twilight struggle between contrasting harmonies and unresolved emotions. His ambient zones work well to still the wheels, while further in textures thicken, a rhythm arises, and an anthem resolves. The Cage always takes the way of the thinker, even when it is pumping and pulsing soft beats and gentle grooves. This music for the quiet mind also grows softly – with layered violins, reverb drenched piano notes, delicate acoustic guitar, and all manner of digital treatment and interference. The quieter sections tug from the edges, pulling our attention away from their center. With its subtly heightened, finely focused energies flowing through every moment, this work decorates our condition with music. Holroyd is a remarkably protean composer, one at home in a wide range of styles. At all times he is the human centerpiece of The Cage – his hollowness, his most veiled, impossible longings, and more, all portrayed across 12 tracks of becalmed poetic brevity. Pushing the Ambient Chamber Music form forward with intellectual precision, artistic clarity, and stylistic confidence, any one of Holroyd’s finely tuned compositions prove it is possible to achieve a utopia with the materials we have at hand.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 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.

Various Artists: Krell Music

Krell Music

Krell Music

Various Artists: Krell Music
Released: 29 October 2018
www.auralfilms.com

The cheapest high in Electronic Music may be had by making unstructured noise. Typically, composers who partake in this kind of exercise are asking of the listener nothing more than, “I dare you to like this” – as only the author alone can appreciate their own impenetrable musical acts. While the works found on Krell Music (119’49”) may indeed pose challenges to the average music consumer, the concept enlivening this collection is of the first order – and excellently informs each and every piece with its mission.

The Krell referred to in the title of this anthology will be well-known to fans of Forbidden Planet, the beloved 1956 cult-classic of Sci-Fi cinema. As the story unfolds, we discover that The Krell were the once thriving alien race inhabiting the distant planet Altair IV – the only remaining evidence of their existence being their abandoned, monumental engineering achievements and equally impressive examples of art, culture, and music.

Krell Music features imaginative extrapolations of the brief example “Ancient Krell Music” presented in the film’s soundtrack – which was realized by EM pioneers Louis and Bebe Barron. Their music, which is heard throughout Forbidden Planet, lacks real-world references, so as to sonically represent the fantastic objects and beings discovered in the movie – yet still managed to serve conventional narrative demands. It is also credited as the first all-electronic score ever to be employed in a Hollywood film.

The reverence shown to the Barron’s by generations of Electronic Musicians borders on the religious, as their amazing efforts are often thought of as the starting point of a continuing, decades-long, amazing experiment. Their early “electronic tonalities” envisioned how EM evokes notions of the exotic Other, and reset every fundamental aspect in scoring a film. This is what outer space sounded like, and still sounds like over 60 years on.

Krell Music will confound anyone with an expectation of continuity. Each track, whether imagined out of the reference scene, or absorbed in the energy of the soundtrack as a whole, is missing any conventional access point. Without discernible rhythm, consonant melody, or even a tonal base, these realizations touch something deeply primitive that lives within us all. Telling their story simply through the manipulation of sound, the contributors have come up with compositions closer to the ideals of modern abstract painting than of music. Arranging sounds without any terrestrial reference, each track transpires into a surreal, unknowable atmosphere.

The instruments used to produce this music must gave gotten a real workout – as the sounds they emit cover a wide range of imaginative sonorities. From the nightmare texture of tensile sonics and arcane modulations, to gentle lullabies and the quiet humming of The Great Machine, the 26 musicians represented here all have their own individual idea as to what the music of the Krell meant and sounded like. This group has absorbed well the film’s meaning and place in history, and even more so the aesthetics of its music.

The collection of music presented here should be considered masterful. Krell Music works both as a stunning document of a fictitious lost alien civilization, and a 26 track soundtrack of unlovely, but not unloved music (for which your attention to all will be rewarded). Yet within all the clatter may be found a questing optimism. Because, as old as it is, the genre of Electronic Music is not yet done teaching us what it can do.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END8 November 2018