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Spacemusic Reviews

Phobos: A visual Presence

A Visual Presence

A Visual Presence

Phobos: A Visual Presence (76’35”)
Released: 15 February 2020
phobosdrones.wixsite.com/phobos

It may be that the corporeal part of attendees at the 12 October 2019 Awakenings All-Dayer never left the town of Rugely, but during the Phobos performance certainly their minds did. David Thompson‘s set as Phobos gave the audience plenty of room to roam through mentally. The mind was permitted to go everywhere the richness of sound could take it – off on a wander charting the inner realm. The album A Visual Presence (76’35”) provides an opportunity for those not at this live set to experience the spacious sonic environment known only by those who were. At the glowing core of this quiet excellence are the trembling ambiguities of Dark Ambient Music. Throughout the moody flow of its sensory effects the unpredictable flaring and fading of tones, notes and room rumbling lows progress in weightless flight along curving contours. Within mesmerizing drones the digital, minimal and subliminal question the unknown wants of dissonance. Passing through night, diffuse sounds rise against a much larger backdrop. When finally the twisting tempest lulls, if you listen closely you may hear Thompson’s synthesizers telling their mind-chilling tale. Phobos’ style of music is a philosophical choice. This work’s incremental change amidst a vast scale finds its player trying to meet his audience on a human level, and so the six dark lessons found on A Visual Presence provide a lasting reverberation – because as you are left so far from anything, the silence after this CD stops spinning feels almost holy.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 May 2020

Jeff Pearce: Songs for The Gathering

Songs for The Gathering

Songs for The Gathering

Jeff Pearce: Songs for The Gathering
Released: 20 March 2020
www.jeffpearcemusic.com

The setting is a grand, although unrestored, church sanctuary in Philadelphia on Saturday 10 June 2000 where Jeff Pearce is set to perform a show. Along with his performance set he has on offer (produced especially for attendees) a limited edition six track CD called Songs for The Gathering. It was the perfect souvenir for The Gatherings Concert Series audience as it offered music from this formative era and remained out of print, becoming a collector’s item for a full two decades. Having now rediscovered (and remastered) this material, and added on two additional contemporaneous pieces, Songs for The Gathering (58’27”) has been given a proper re-issue – just in time to commemorate the porcelain anniversary of its first release, and also to remind us of the hope we all felt at the beginning of the 21st century.

Sending sound into space, each composition induces its own unique zone. Pearce’s six steel strings shiver under his light touch, with every tone challenging gravity’s pull. Each note builds on the promise of the one that came before, revealing a robust creative vision. Yet, in its inviting minimalism even the sparest of the tracks contain references to the cosmos. As sonic eddies form, slow yearning melodies reiterate at the rate and depth of a sleeper’s breath – and Songs for The Gathering deepens from the pleasant and consonant into the transcendent and moving. Arising from shorelines of unearthly radiance the mesmerizing impact of this music’s aural texture ventures to defeat space and time. Yet, when he commands it, this guitarist’s picking, looping and E-Bow echo techniques are exact and clear. In the dancing delicacy of arpeggio chords the spare procession of isolated notes articulate a soaring, confident energy – which settles down ultimately into a refuge of otherworldly beauty.

Songs for The Gathering is a lambent landmark from two decades ago, yet its bright message remains as meaningful as when it was first delivered. Written in a language and performed with a skill that has stayed with us across the 20 years since first hearing it, this music has been revived to help us through the times in which we now find ourselves. What can an artist expect to achieve in the shadow of disaster and doubt? For Jeff Pearce it has been quite a lot. In many a profound musical moment he has encountered glints of transcendence, and the hint of how things might have been in a less brutal world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 April 2020

K Leimer: A Figure of Loss

A Figure of Loss

A Figure of Loss

K Leimer: A Figure of Loss
Released: 24 April 2020
www.palaceoflights.com

Even after a decades long presence on the independent scene we still wonder who is this K Leimer? A Figure of Loss (66’25”) only adds to the enigma. An album meant, not for the mainstream but, for the listeners of the world, it deserves more than a schematic explanation. Teeming with a variety of harmonic tensions, shades and hues this work presents a profound and intimate sonic statement – as amidst all the shouting it is often the quiet voices which provide the most valuable lessons. From abstraction to a fleeting consonance A Figure of Loss is so exquisitely balanced that one scarcely notices its separate elements. Inhabiting the gentle gravity of Ambient Chamber Music it is performed in a measured motion – and may be approached by first noting its many strands of sound, and then the whole of its impact. The eight tracks flicker briefly alive, share their private melody and moody tone, then disappear, but not without leaving a mysterious human trace. In an understated manner, and with an ethereal sense of certainty Leimer observes well beyond the personal. By combining vague contemporary influences with weightless ambience he realizes a unique realm where meaning is ever established, then misplaced. In a low spark of imagination somewhere spare piano notes engage in lovely melodic substance. As the slow whorl of intermittent loops bring an imaginative assortment of samples, gentle distortions, and other detailed effects we follow each piece into its gentle space. All manner of digital treatment and interference tug at us from the edges, drawing our attention away from the safe center. As motifs dissolve, overlap and contrast, become lost, found, or blended, texture and atmosphere ascend to become the main medium through which any message is conveyed. Yet somewhere in its vague interior A Figure of Loss offers easy pleasures for the ear. With its subtle, finely focused energies flowing through every moment these dark electronic surroundings are more emotionally considered. We deal with the lies and times that shape our lives, as themes of grief’s fellowship grow, and blossom to unexpectedly moving effect. Without music like this the crudeness of reality would make our world unbearable. Its beauty is in the escape it offers into someone else’s soul, and Leimer always makes room for any and all who wish to enter.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 April 2020

Christopher Bissonnette: The Wine Dark Sea

The WIne Dark Sea

The WIne Dark Sea

Christopher Bissonnette: The Wine Dark Sea
Released: 13 March 2020
www.dronarivm.com
www.christopherbissonnette.ca

With his fifth solo release Christopher Bissonnette delivers eight tracks worth of earnest, inward-looking reflections. The Wine Dark Sea (48’15”) gives off a strong sense of interiority as it radiates the calm and color of quintessential Ambient Music. In this eerily beautiful world the mythic and contemporary coalesce into a higher realm of creative fulfillment – where we may feel the power of contemplative companionship, of listening and thinking together. Some tracks are chilly in their blankness, as if of some disembodied experience – yet others cling warmly to the ears on their way to seducing the heart. This work’s looming ambiance is derived from an expressive array of sonic shades. The Wine Dark Sea gleams with the glow of stringed instruments – processed, looped and subdued. As a restless energy is pulled through the sound space whispering washes of electric guitar sounds drift into silence. The hint of a piano note beneath reverberation foretells dabs of echoing electronic tones. Emerging from sustaining calm chords unforced notes rise to exert their own freedom. With this album Bissonnette is working equally as a musician and a philosopher. His otherworldly amalgams of approachable miniatures manage to escape the limitations of the human sized scale. The Wine Dark Sea touches our instinctive, inborn universals. It aptly conjures a pleasant zone within which one may easily drift through the cloudy levels beneath consciousness, eventually sending listeners back to themselves anew. Even when it is no longer playing, this music continues in the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END16 April 2020

Alluste: Aludra

Aludra

Aludra

Alluste: Aludra (70’57”)
Released: 23 February 2020
alluste.bandcamp.com

Piero Monachello hears voices, synthesizer voices. Under the name Alluste he realizes a vivid Electronic Music that reaches a place within us where spoken words do not. Noting that Spacemusic is the only language able to contain his creative aspirations, the album Aludra (70’57”) presents 10 tracks of incremental complexity. Quite comfortable to take in, it provides a soundtrack to new electronic destinations – and the wonderful realm outside of everything else. Aldura spends its tight, polished energy in climactic chords expanding above an arpeggio of fluttering notes – swirling together in a circulation of synthetic sound. While shifting sequencer patterns run through a series of imaginative progressions, heart-felt lead lines unfurl in a rising ribbon of melody. As if upon the workings of some powerful engine layers of bounding electro-blips thicken and brighten in echoing syncopation. The direction of the melody is forward, with every blissful resolution pointing to the bright future this work promises – and the optimism that is its most potent feature. Listeners to Aludra should know that they are going into a realm that is different from that of the everyday. As we enter this world of our own making we must trust ourselves with this music, and our ability to make something interesting, something worthwhile, something comforting, something better than where we are now.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 April 2020

Arjen Schat: LP2

LP2

LP2

Arjen Schat: LP2
Released: 29 February 2020
www.tresordargent.com
www.arjenschat.nl

Synth lovers awaken! The extraordinary Electronic Musician Arjen Schat possesses a distinctive understanding that music should be something that fills the sphere of the temporal dimension rather than a mere succession of multi-layered sounds. The two realizations found on his thoroughly re-playable LP2 (38’40”) have been founded on principals of the Berlin-School, yet renders anew the concept of timeless forward motion. These compositions draw us in along their many rhythmic strands, heard individually yet comprehended collectively – on a great journey through the mind space. Schat’s apparently endless gift for design, repetition and variation are on full display – with his LP2 effortlessly creating vivid ethereal feelings and associations toward the limitless. While its performance may be completely improvised, this music is always intentional. Played to entrancing effect the crisscrossing of fractured sequencer blips expands in echoing syncopation. Captivated at the interplay and intricacies of its manifold patterns and kaleidoscopic pulse there is room to imagine anything; as in one zone the warmth of the life force may be felt, moving further out puts us in the dead regions between stars. As minor key chords sweep across the sonic tapestry the tone darkens, lightens, and then holds in a vital synthetic fidelity. Providing a sense of certainty, creamy lead lines slip along heated scales and octaves – in the specific poetry of ideas borne on electrical current. Arjen Schat is called upon by a deep-rooted spirit of innovation to do this work. With its dreamy brilliance and spacey sonic logic LP2 is a sincere exploration into the mood and mystery of the Spacemusic genre. With strong core ideas and skilled execution, in this album listeners will find vast aural riches.

-Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END2 April 2020

Amongst Myselves: The Good Earth

The Good Earth

The Good Earth

Amongst Myselves: The Good Earth
Released: 24 March 2020
www.amongstmyselves.com

Steve Roberts continues the inclination to dream big. His works under the name Amongst Myselves are brilliantly crafted aural poems to all things telluric. Another precision built soundscape, The Good Earth (65’02”) has taken several years to fully realize. Its six tracks have a connection to the continent of Australia, which is where Roberts resides, but seems more a devotional work to the entire planet and the tender land which provides us with life. A curious mix of naturalist details and a fantastic sense of sound, this album may be admired as much for its simplicity as for its tangled sense of fury, solemnity and ambience. Granting the soothing that modern life does not, rather than merely suppressing symptoms, The Good Earth provides a lasting improvement in our countenance. Layers of sustaining warm notes slowly gather, build and recede in a lulling and harmonious infinite moment. In its swirling storm cloud chords and charged electronics we seem to hear this music in the same way we absorb sense data. Beneath the soft glow hovering above each composition, a varying layer of synthesizer consonance and imaginative modulations are grounded by detailed drones and plucked steel strings. In slow waves of sleep harmonizing neurons, bass notes writhe beneath breathing ambient spheres – re-ordering the mind in a restless meditation on atmosphere and texture. The collage of tones tunes the experience, from ground brown lows to clear blue high skies, and on into a sacred black. As vast as the soundscapes feel, we find that there are only two people in The Good Earth – the musician, and you the listener. Simultaneously beautiful and tragic, uplifting and haunting, Roberts hopes we will feel the weight and wonder of life, and the beautiful part we occupy in a much larger organism.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END26 March 2020

Vic Hennegan: Between the Spaces

Between the Spaces

Between the Spaces

Vic Hennegan: Between the Spaces
Released: 9 March 2020
www.vichennegan.com

If the art of painting is seen as a window into the world, then can Spacemusic be thought of as a window into the self? Working from a sense of wonder instilled at birth, Vic Hennegan realizes works that escape the limitations of our human sized scale. His release Between the Spaces (57’08”) is yet another chapter in the life story of one who is fully alive, and fully human. Hennegan’s approach to the core Berlin-School repertory is informed by a profound knowledge of the traditions from which his compositions emerged. Yet, what this album remains most faithful to is its creator’s creative impulse. Throughout the seven tracks of vivid electronic poetry Between the Spaces arranges sounds against one another in a most imaginative and expressive way. In one region the colors and contrast appear amped up, while further in dulcet melodies glide gracefully atop the wild tumult of open sequencer patterns. Where intersecting aural planes seem solitary, fragile and tenuous against the might of the wild night surrounding us, the direction of Hennegan’s line of melody is ever forward – always into the future. Minor key harmonies slowly sweep through space. Dense drones hold, then darken, and move the music’s mood. In an ascending surge we are lifted into infinite realms. But upon our revival we find a lulling peace. Departing more common thoughts, the listener heads for the deeper districts of the mind. In a world determined to alienate us from the sources of our strength, Between the Spaces provides a compelling case for staying strong against such forces. This CD conjures an enigmatic zone where great and elemental things prevail. Pulsing with the light of the gods this music attracts the ear as perfectly as it triggers the spirit – and the magical release of our thoughts.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 18 March 2020

James Murray & Francis M Gri: Remote Redux

Remote Redux

Remote Redux

James Murray & Francis M Gri: Remote Redux
Released: 17 October 2019
www.ultimae.com

Throughout its many quiet moments, on Remote Redux (55’06”) we find collaborators James Murray & Francis M Gri opening up and breathing in. Locating a power somewhere within the soft pastel peaks and dark portentous undercurrents their six tracks seethe, burn and roll. In places the music blurs, yet soon cools into a clear vivid frost. Wherever a current of restlessness emerges, further in the shivering quality of this album’s atmosphere crisply chills and stills. As synth voices combine with sustaining guitar strings we feel a shift toward spare, soft-focus Ambient Music. When granular textures are replaced by the smooth stillness of sustaining drones, the sensations emitted from Remote Redux will vary. The tones produced enliven and comfort and co-exist with more experimental moments. In the heartfelt interiority this duo may be imagined weaving threads of thin copper wire in which to connect us all together. Yet further out, rounded notes unfurl steadily in graceful caressing phrases. Gently vibrating chords sweep in brighter passages – as atmosphere and texture have taken us over completely. Murray & Gri are destined to always feel a little adrift. Their Remote Redux will indeed provide a tranquilizing effect on the listener, but one from which we emerge more present, grateful and less alone – and with the faith that we can make a better future. From a calm center, this pair speaks in the voice of tomorrow.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 March 2020

Hollan Holmes: Milestones

Milestones

Milestones

Hollan Holmes: Milestones
Released: 21 February 2020
www.spottedpeccary.com
www.hollanholmesmusic.com

From the digital valley to the analogue mountain the Electronic Musician Hollan Holmes has experienced many years of breakthroughs, discoveries and advancements. His CD Milestones (65’05”) notes this artist’s progress, yet also advances ahead of it. Producing music in storm as well as calm, through deep listening the 11 tracks will gain a magical release for our thoughts. With its deep purple tones and plush sonic reverie, his sound can be as companionable as a meteor burning its way through the atmosphere, or as lonely as the distances through which this object has traveled. Sequencer tracks, as open as they are forceful, advance in wild tumult – and lend strength to the already muscular compositions. As the soundscape darkens, dulcet melodies glide gracefully atop small waiting forms – stilled in the long cold between stars. Further in, the sense of receding space dissipates and Milestones becomes pleasant, soothing and restorative. The intelligent arrangement of intersecting aural planes further intensifies each composition. From an unsettling remoteness up to a stirring enchantment, the whirling force of texture and motion attracts the ear and triggers the spirit. Slowly unfolding in the dreamy brilliance of harmonic climaxes we hear a fully and effectively imagined work. Listening to Milestones beneath the dark arch of the sky above we can imagine escaping the limitations of our human sized scale. Although the Spacemusic genre is now quite mature, thanks to the practices of musicians such as Hollan Holmes it remains ever new. Through a gift for opening disused channels of thought in the listener, we may find a path back to the underlying sources of our strength – and reconnect with the sense of wonder meant to last our lifetimes.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END5 March 2020