Spacemusic Reviews

Kubusschnitt: The Core

The Core

Kubusschnitt: The Core
Released: 4 February 2022

The Core (68:19) by Kubusschnitt is a huge, wild invitation to extend your imagination. Its symbolism is complicated. Somewhere in the astronomical precision of this rousing machine-music are the spirits of three musicians. Andy Bloyce, Tom Coppens and Ruud Heij reveal their identity across four tracks of synthesized brilliance. Reminding us of the infinity within, The Core looks back in spirit to the time of the Berlin-School of EM. Belonging to an electronic world where sounds do not have a tellurian analog, their music touches the unprobed regions of the mind. Boundless and scenic, synth leads track melodic lines above a motoring sequencer mystery. The pulsing of midrange notes echo in locked-in tone patterns. Minimalist cycling, running at the speed of thought, draws the listener ever inward. Flights of strings rush, hover and fade into desolation – covered by an arresting undercurrent of murmuring drones. In the end, the informed listener will realize that they are emerging out of a soundscape that is just as much alive as they are – but in a totally different way. If you go towards this realm with an open heart and an honest reverence, you will be impressed with what it can reveal. The Core, and music of its like, has a complex relationship with the future – because there, somewhere ahead, is from where it seems to emanate. At its most potent, this music is an exploration of identity – that of the listener and musician alike. When heard well, its mystery never leaves you.

STAR’S END/Chuck van Zyl – 24 February 2022

Craig Padilla: Discovery of Meaning

Discovery of Meaning

Craig Padilla: Discovery of Meaning
Released: 18 February 2022

Each time Craig Padilla tends to the ingenious spark within, it grows stronger, setting afire the gifts of his imagination. The more dedicated he is to the process, the better the release, and the greater his contribution to the world. With an indefinable electric quality that sets his solo music apart for his many collaborations, Padilla’s Discovery of Meaning (71:38) confers with the spirit to reveal an inner essential light. This is a work difficult to abandon to the background. Sounds flare, then submerge us in shadow. Glowing with a private ineffable fire Padilla plays from the heart. When vibrant and variable textures give way to the tumble and spin of sequencer patterns, the continuous unraveling revels in a high energy excitement. It is here that a gift for melody is highlighted. A kind of narration, the direction of his soloing is always forward – into the future. From the sculpted and soft to the ambiguously toned, Discovery of Meaning at times uses negative space to delineate form – which puts the listener on intimate terms with the present moment. An ethereal human harmony gently undulates and hangs in the air – bringing a beautiful animation to an otherwise Electronic Music. After otherworldly female vocalise is heard sustaining in the soundspace, one of the voices speaks a spell of circularity – how the before and after may not always bracket the now. It feels so good to experience the sonic reality of this album. While most musical ventures cater to the largest, widest possible commercial market, this one aspires to reach, not wide, but deep – to the most essential part of the person. We can think about this music as much as we want, but while it is moving through the air we must feel it – as it reaches the ear, and so permeates the mind. It supposes that the mind is still big, that thoughts are still vast – and offers no option to think small. It is meant for the world, not as it is, but as it should be. After a proper listen to Discovery of Meaning, it will be hard not to hear its strange magic everywhere.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END10 February 2022

Erik Wollo: Sojourns

Sojourns Erik Wollo 2021

Erik Wollo: Sojourns
Released: 4 February 2022

Over his many years of music-making Erik Wollo has developed a striking, elegant vocabulary – which explains the lasting wonderment of his work. Sojourns (62’05”) casts ten lush arrangements brimming with promise. An extension of secret thought, here the most dramatic shifts are of the emotional kind. With melodies as immaculate as ever the liquid articulation of electric guitar arches upward in a studied sensitivity. The ascending and descending progressions of scales play out in a staggered staccato of sequencer patterns. The pulse, sometimes hesitant, remains alert, and Sojourns travels fleetly even while weighted in detail. A faint underlying rhythm drifts from the sonically spectral to the expressively enigmatic. A prowling arpeggio echoes in hollowed-out harmonies mysteriously suspended between major and minor. Further in, the withdrawn atmosphere gives way to the tempestuous, as the mood swings softly from one piece to the next. Fragile and hesitant, leisurely and contemplative, then bursting with exuberance, these compositions are among Wollo’s most clearheaded. As the materiality of the instruments disappears, we forget all about the smooth, shimmering synthesizers, and the steel strings of the guitar – about the tools it takes to produce such a sound. The cooly controlled performance and studio atmosphere gives way to a beautiful dream logic – a kind of beauty which always passes too quickly. These messages of personal expression speak to those who still listen. From out of a profound electronic imagination comes the subject of intimacy. This project is jubilant and exploratory, and maintains an irresistible momentum. On many moonlit journeys Sojourns will be the album you reach for first.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END3 February 2022

Arjen Schat: The Extragalactic Sessions Pt 2 & 3

The Extragalactic Sessions 2 The Extragalactic Sessions 3

Arjen Schat: The Extragalactic Sessions Pt 2 & 3
Released: 5 November 2021 & 3 December 2021

Arjen Schat has a great deal in common with astronomers; neither are really sure about what they are looking for. The Extragalactic Sessions Part 2 (59’17”) and The Extragalactic Sessions Part 3 (59’58”) are searches through The Universe, as well as the imagination, in the honest and true spirit of exploration. This series of three (thus far) volumes stands as a complete statement of a single subject. Each album offers its own grouping of prolonged meditations on the mystery of forms. Mining minimalism for its beauty and decorative potential, Schat does a great job of demonstrating the inexhaustible ingenuity of a musician using his imagination to survive reality. Each of the nine realizations build toward a destination not imagined at the outset. Beginning with no material other than the spark of thought, electricity powers his instruments in a logic of minimalism, a force of emotion, and the materiality of sound. A freewheeling affair, The Extragalactic Sessions wind out in scattered snatches of melodic ideas. The lines of sequencer patterns skip and echo in an unfailing energy – in a sense of restoration pulsing through space. Thoughtful and as tightly coiled as ever, notes fly in and out of the mix, rising and receding in deft operation. Whenever an impending precipice of sound arises, an ethereal form hovers and holds fast with it in the air. An eclipse-like tone pervades most of these two volumes – for an audience transfixed by voids before and within them. The mood outside may be of a world on the brink, yet inside our electronic, sonic realm the music is delimiting – offering deeper continuities, and enriching actual lives. While the invention of the clock has given the human enterprise the regular collective beat and rhythm of the machine, the motor motion of synthesizers drives an insuppressible energy of the mind. Capturing the way the inevitable chaos of the present unrolls into the future, with The Extragalactic Sessions Arjen Schat sets new standards of ambition. To listen to this music is to luxuriate in its sound – and possibly to connect to it, and so to one’s own self.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END27 January 2022

Hollan Holmes: Emerald Waters

Emerald WatersHollan Holmes

Hollan Holmes: Emerald Waters
14 January 2022

Hollan Holmes adds aural energy to the transferral of ideas. His album Emerald Waters (74:35) is an enthralling space of the imagination, and draws one to the play and shades of their own interior. Across 11 tracks the dance of tones up, down and through their scales maintains a unique buoyancy. In striding calibration the lines of synchronized sequencer pulse twist and turn, rise and fall, lighten and darken. Though it progresses firmly forward, then may suddenly change course, Emerald Waters is always heading assuredly toward its destination. In the kaleidoscopic electronic advance of lustrous chord banks harmony resolves in vibrant wisps of sound. Echoing runs ring out into a light filled space, but then the sonic setting shifts. In the headlong drive of spiraling, gliding notes the motor-motion follows a curving arc of restless invention. The spinning energized masses build larger cycles from smaller ones – further deepening the mysterious mood. Yet, while engine-room patterns may thicken and lighten, each charged, twinkling arrangement faithfully greets us brightly. The current Holmes is drifting with provides plenty of opportunities for exploration. Call it “dream fuel” or “head music”, his works are dependably listenable, and aspire to move the listening mind in the best way possible.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 January 2022

Panic Girl: Washed Ashore

Washed AshoreMartha Bahr

Panic Girl: Washed Ashore
Released: 14 November 2021

On Washed Ashore (40:46) Panic Girl (the Electronic Musician Martha Bahr) invites us into a spacey, colorful dream world. Her showcase mindspace is carefully alien, as it devises secret, unseen realms for the bright, receptive listener. Across four harmonious abstractions Bahr transmits the tingle of gradual upward motion. While imaginative expressions intertwine, bracing fields of synthesized sound slip between rhythm and atmosphere. As voltage controlled considerations interlock in the logic of notes in repeated series, the layered patterns congeal into a kind of undulating texture. The advancing star showers modulate into blissed out ambience, with each track seeming to wonder and wander its own energy field. Embracing density and a kind of perpetual musical motion, Washed Ashore provides many meditative moments. These gently moving forms arise from Bahr’s pleasant performance passages. Her dedicated calm labor live sings the song of the synth. Both dreamer and builder, she conceives an expression, then sparks it into being – showing us that, if electricity is considered the source of all EM, then it is as much the kind from the wall socket as from the currents of the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 January 2022

Ian Boddy: Modulations II

Modulations IIIan Boddy

Ian Boddy: Modulations II
Released: 5 November 2021

To reimagine a poetical, electrical experimentation for the modern era, Ian Boddy configures his modular synthesizer system to produce an artful interplay of raw and refined tones. A counterpoint to his more melodious work, albums like Modulations II (91:44) are meant for those in an experimental frame of mind. Moving stealthily through his music, Boddy instantly brings the listener in – fascinating us with a spectacle of sound, and leaving us to wonder what will be sprung upon us next. In six tracks of world building Boddy crafts his own sounds, and tells his own story. Close listening will be rewarded as this technique is so meticulous, and approach and perspective so unique, that a full and distinct abstract expression is achieved. Discharging audio from electricity, tenebrous particles swim in space. In this voltaic realm, where dragons growl low and ghost chants ring in the air above, hidden hierarchies do crackle. Whenever Modulations II beams with sunlight harmonies, soon follows a blurry mass of roiling questions and charged sparks. Long builds of a portentous timbre resolve and release in the darkness – groping toward a muted fissure in reality. The pulse and rhythm of the machine harnesses a circularity of notes – radiating with each tight turn of the wheel into widening arcs of mechanized regularity. The sequencer lines echo and motor strength, traveling this collection of tones and textures between sonic storm and soothing sigh. The tricky backdrop sputters, winds out, then whispers a song of circuits dreaming. The wonderment of music and modulations – which may be realized from a properly patched up system of warm wires, transistors and knobs – may arrive during Modulations II, but lasts only briefly… because once he gets where he is going, Ian Boddy quickly keeps moving – further out.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END6 January 2022

Transponder: Terminae Space & Astral Expanse

Terminae Space Astral Expanse

Transponder: Terminae Space
Released: 20 July 2021
Transponder: Astral Expanse
Released: 16 November 2021

Don C Tyler & Steve Pierce make the kind of music that buries itself in your subconscious. As Transponder they envision a Space-laced, ethereal doorway into mind and mood. The two releases from 2021 obey an electronic logic. Both Terminae Space (62:25) and Astral Expanse (63:58) speak directly to modern listeners, while fully honoring their source. Referencing the synth dominated textures and motoring patterns of the Berlin-School, this duo etches details in their work without sacrificing shadows. Flickering like starlight, synths float, bloom and collapse in cosmic yearning. As each piece progresses, the complexity rises, and more details are revealed. Where the restless motion slows, generous stretches of charged synthetic zones are allowed. Each track is short enough for us to remember it whole: the sequencer spiral, the moving melody, the control chords – as well as the recollection of where we were and how we felt when we first heard it. The tone and atmosphere of these albums recruit neural regions, while fighting psychological decay – and so we do not need a secret code to enjoy Terminae Space or Astral Expanse. They aspire to play a role in our lives. It is safe to dream big, especially while on the shared wavelength of these two colleagues. In incremental revelations Transponder realizes music as vibrant as The Universe their recordings celebrate.

STAR’S END/Chuck van Zyl – 30 December 2021

Forrest Fang: Forever Cascades

Forever CascadesForrest Fang

Forrest Fang: Forever Cascades
Released: 10 December 2021

The music of Forrest Fang refuses summation and invites contemplation. No one possesses or inhabits sound the way as this man does. A product of thinking in pure meanings his Forever Cascades (67:12) stimulates a category of thought that occurs without words, images or symbols of any kind – and yet can converse perfectly with the inner workings of every listener. Fang the multi-instrumentalist has here produced ten tracks that imagine a realm just beyond that of the everyday. These detailed aural surroundings are rousing to the informed, and inviting to the uninitiated. Yet, we should give up on finding ourselves represented anywhere in the complexity of this music, and rather just focus on how it makes us feel. As diverse as all the tones, textures, atmospheres and energy settings are, it should be obvious that these ten compositions, while all on different routes, are headed for the same destination. Where one composition moves like a swift silvery ghost, the next will be as still as a whisper. Passing through subdued tones the expressive arc of Forever Cascades rises to a brighter register, or just as easily it may roll over us like a storm. Continually awakening, absorbing and moving inward, this album also lights out in expressive fanciful flights. Whether pushing the outer boundaries of Ambient Music, or summoning a lost world of the New Age, this work excites the ears as much as it mends the mind. If the art of music is about transporting the audience, then Forrest Fang is an unrivaled guide. His talents elevate Forever Cascades to a level distinctly above common Contemporary Instrumental Music – as its humbling force aspires to transform the distances between people into an intimacy with the whole world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 December 2021

Paul Ellis: Panoramas 2

Panoramas 2Paul Ellis

Paul Ellis: Panoramas 2
Released: 21 September 2021

Paul Ellis‘ journey of self-realization continues on Panoramas 2 (65:11). The second album of this trilogy delivers the most empyreal moments thus far. Throughout his free-form excursion into sound and atmosphere, Ellis is perfectly sure of what notes to hit. With his robust interior world moving ever outward, this release does not unfold before the listener so much as it enfolds us into its quest for meaning. In the more abstract passages Panoramas 2 bypasses the conscious sensibilities for a direct connection to that which is beyond words. With no signposts or mile markers, we become lost among the neural regions. In gorgeous swirls and upward scales the music portrays a spirit of becoming, while further in shivering chill currents pass netherward – past the control of known forces. In sustaining synth chords and ardent melodies Ellis stirs up an expression of elemental strength. His Panoramas 2 lends sonic energy to the language of ideas in a remarkable flow of sensation and reflection. Arousing a category of thought that occurs without words, images or symbols of any kind, we are left to find meaning in the sounds we hear and the textures we feel emanating from these resonant dimensions.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END16 December 2021