starsendradio

Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: ambient music

Robert Rich: The Biode

The Biode

The Biode

Robert Rich: The Biode
Released: 25 February 2018
www.robertrich.com

What will we be thinking about while we listen to The Biode (57’37”) by Robert Rich? Is existence a property? Or a state? How do we measure the modern world? What constitutes the self? A talent on a free course, Rich progresses, not in a straight line, but in alternate divergences from one side of creativity to the other. His work on The Biode re-awakens the discussion of music and the surreal. To the ear accustomed to soothing atmospheres, this album is a risk – as it deviates quite seriously from better known traditions. A great deal of its charm lies in its ability to confound and perplex. An exploration of new aims and tendencies, the ten tracks found on The Biode are each an exploitation of carefully chosen and contrasted tonal qualities. Rich’s harmonic lubrications are subtle, revealing the dim light of mystic musing. Instrumental tone colors are combined, yet each stands clear of the other – asserting a mutual independence. As a gathering of rhythmic threads arise and resolve in unconventional sequencer patterns and percussive structures, tiny snatches of melody pass like vain dreams – heedlessly into some other chord. From sweet, to pungent, to the primordial, a slow progression of pale hues test permitted concords and discords. Throughout this release Rich features his notable research into the qualities of timbre, into the effects of new combinations of tones. These imaginative modulations are highlighted as prominently as the more familiar reverberant flute solos, steel guitar leads and synthesized pads. The result is a wonderful zone of beautiful melodies and sonic grandeur, accented by glurping electronic utterances and an unsettling intonation. However scientific its conception may have been, The Biode proves very expressive. As faithful in detail as any of Rich’s best work, it represents the furthest progress yet in acknowledging the human subconscious, and the emotional and intellectual attitudes of the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 March 2018

Advertisements

Forrest Fang: Scenes From a Ghost Train

Scenes From A Ghost Train

Scenes From A Ghost Train

Forrest Fang: Scenes From a Ghost Train
Released: 30 January 2018
www.projekt.com
www.forrestfang.com

If what you are witnessing in the waking world leaves something to be desired, then why not leave for a while to visit with innovative musician Forrest Fang? His album Scenes From a Ghost Train (69’16”) moves our minds as well as it caresses our ears. Entering a higher sanctuary, an enchanting subtlety carries us into idyll. The vast designs found within Scenes From a Ghost Train imagine a realm where both forces of dark and light exist equally. In an awesome quiet of soothing sounds, trembling tones whisper in the dim hue of a minor key. Plunging into languorous chords, Fang carefully resolves their further course. As the late rush of rhythm breaks out we feel a strange power of motion. A primal force, tumbling in headlong descent, the sounds of percussion measure the expanse – and access the pulse living within us all. Becoming lost in the clouds, or bathed in moonlight, synthesized notes slowly progress – around and through those of acoustic origin. Then, with the onset of an ominous dirge, chilling shadows return. Wherever harmony seeks a lower foundation, a subtle, insinuating dissonance sets in. As a mystic air rises slowly in hollow intervals, within the theatre of the mind chronology becomes hazy. Again locating our place, piano notes resound through cavernous reverberation, only to be consumed by dense metallic clouds. A significant attribute of Fang’s music may be found in its combination and resolution of integral themes. So constant is the derivation of ideas on Scenes From a Ghost Train that we must imagine them all to be related. This master should feel the full worth of what has been achieved. The ultimate goal of the endeavor is not the strikingly new, but rather the eternally true… a musician’s journey that may help you to understand your own.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END15 March 2018

Howard Givens & Craig Padilla: Being of Light

Being of Light

Being of Light

Howard Givens & Craig Padilla: Being of Light
Released: 8 September 2017
www.spottedpeccary.com
www.howardgivens.com
www.craigpadilla.com

While the synthesizer ceremony which begot Being of Light (68’26”) may have begun in a studio, it concludes well out into The Universe. Howard Givens & Craig Padilla have met again in a fellowship of the imagination, and aspire to be their best selves. Building on a musical relationship established on their previous release Life Flows Water (2015), they continue to mine the possibilities of Spacemusic as the perfect tool for exploring the possibilities of the world. As the robust dialogue unfolds in weightless flight, we find it hard to resist a work animated by such free-form randomness. Passing through the night, diffuse emanations rise against a much larger backdrop. As starlight chords shine in a shadowy midnight, waves of rounded electronic figures produce tranquil zones for inward contemplation. Within mesmerizing drones, this album’s momentous moments slip by in a beguiling ease. Yet, thanks to its recurring synth string chord motion, harmony and contrast interplay to great effect. Making a gentle path through the sense of hearing, Being of Light presents four sustained atmospheres for fathoming our own mental mysteries. Issuing cool notes as in a round silvery beam, well-warmed keyboards seem determined to conjure joy. Measure upon measure of slowly changing, undulating chords advance and recede along a musical arc of vague dimensions. The slowly breathing tones summon interesting variations in mood and space. Synthetic pads rush together to form a still subtle layer, as further in the atmosphere charges with a wispy, bewitching haze of restrained, poetic minimalism. Signaling forward motion, the quiet patter of slowly repeating bass notes support well-placed guitar and piano, hovering just within our grasp – offering much-needed points of reference along an expansive aural journey. Givens & Padilla shape the listening experience by stretching and compressing time through the arrangement of sound, its density and timbral elements. In cool constraint, they dwell in restful sonic colors – luxuriant in their stillness. Any work flooded with this level of emotion is worthy of our respect. The refuge of music offers (those open to it) safety from the prevailing contemporary spiritual vacancy. Being of Light brightens, and the darkness seems chased away – which should be quite helpful while charting the inner map of knowing.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 March 2018

Hollan Holmes: Prayer to the Energy

Prayer to the Energy

Prayer to the Energy

Hollan Holmes: Prayer to the Energy
Released: 1 February 2018
www.hollanholmesmusic.com

Beyond mainstream contemporary music we know well that there are worlds both surprising and fascinating – yet it is still quite difficult to get people to visit them. Encountering the music of Hollan Holmes would surely leave the first time traveler wondering what took them so long? Prayer to the Energy is his sixth release. A double CD of high principles, it is yet another opportunity for Holmes to share his excitement for his highly personal style of EM with others. Much more than a collection of mechanical signals, Prayer to the Energy is an interpretation of the self – his and ours. Felt like a spark of warmth through the icy Universe, the astute listener will enjoy the details and geometry in its texture (that is if you are not first lulled into a blissed-out state of repose). Sound waves propagate and exhibit colors, textures and opacities both intricate and alluring. Confident melodic lines lead into near digital black, while further in an Escherian lattice of cycling notes echo out like the furies at work. Here the sequencer patterns act like a force accelerator – as swooning dabs of sound achieve a strong, contrasty, multi-tonal soundfield. Variegated in tone and atmosphere, Prayer to the Energy moves from densely packed benighted soundscape to the brightfield sound of layered analogue synthesizers. Presented with shimmer and gleam, brilliant chords build and haunt. Holmes regards his gear as a rich sphere of aesthetic possibilities – always applying his instruments in an imaginative and individual way. The 14 tracks found on Prayer to the Energy (the two most lengthy works were commissioned for STAR’S END) lead us through a delicate realm. We the people of this community have the unique ability to hear things in a way others cannot. It is important to share this privilege. In realizing his work Holmes has made a journey that few can understand – yet through the simple act of listening, of traveling through this music, it may be fully comprehended… and Holmes always makes this destination worth the trip.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 February 2017

Live on Star’s End by Fhloston Paradigm

Fhloston Paradigm: Live on Star's End

Fhloston Paradigm: Live on Star’s End

Fhloston Paradigm: Live on Star’s End
Released: 23 January 2018
www.kingbritt.com

Light is the language of the cosmos. Sound is the language of the mind. With his album Fhloston Paradigm: Live on Star’s End Philadelphia DJ/producer/musician King Britt contemplates non-narrative forms of thought in a true focus of all things sonic. His 60 minutes of discovery during the 30 July 2017 broadcast of STAR’S END was more a mental process than a performance – a set of choices which turned abstraction into feeling. During his live-to-air radio concert, synthesizers became tuned, ideas were conjured and space was explored – with the music unfolding in a continuous stream. Operating without any “adult supervision”, Britt was free to build an electronic environment based on the interplay of sounds and the whim of his mood. Listening in every possible way, listening without hierarchies, he settled into a purely intuitive live undertaking. It is impossible to rehearse for this type of event. One needs the immediacy of an audience, or at least the intimacy of a late night radio show, in order to realize anything substantial. Cast adrift from conventional analytical perceptions, we enter the cerebral realm. Fans from the mainstream may find their more typical listening skills useless. With no external framing (but for the occasional reference to his previous excellent studio album After…) Britt makes the experimental accessible. In an irreducible sonic concision sounds disperse along a diagonal. Encountering the different planes, and the forever oscillating patterns and cycles of themes, this work moves under jittery textures, above a softly rumbling backdrop. Swarming glittering points feed the churn of notes rising along oblique angles. One timbre blends into the next, as other figurations drift in from nowhere and fade out without warning. The modulations of tones, the constant adjustment to the fabric and character of sounds, the rise and fall of phonic forms, through it all we are guided by Britt – spontaneously in the moment. Fhloston Paradigm: Live on Star’s End is the result of a musician quietly and intelligently investigating space. With its reduced narrative content, and emphasis on texture and atmosphere, it possesses aesthetics no different from those found among all orders of electronic musicians. But Britt brings to this adventure a musicality and knowing that few others posses – and, to his credit, allows all this knowledge to serve his improvisations on a subliminal level. Clearly not content to rely on past glories, Live on Star’s End is indeed quite different from the more contemporary efforts by King Britt and his Fhloston Paradigm venture. This kind of sonic encounter encourages a deeper understanding of our self – for musician and audience alike. King Britt found a fuller expression in this studio, over these airwaves, into that night. In the heat of live improvisation a good musician does not melt, we become tempered – the devotional quality of the rite rendering the space sacred. Sound can convey a wide range of expression, indicating the musician’s restraint, vigor or willful abandon. In his STAR’S END session, King Britt delivers, with little fuss, a sprawling one-hour jam that will foretell the future no matter when it is heard.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 January 2018

Various Artists: Polarity

Polarity

Polarity

Various Artists: Polarity
Released: 31 May 2017
www.ultimae.com

Somewhere sacred between the musician and the audience is the DJ. Deciphering the secrets of a unique treasury, these types often vanish within our listening experience. Anyone can simply string together a number of decent songs, but a higher meaning may come from the expert pacing and placing of each track in just the right spot (with those of this craft finding the rush of mixing their first time every time). The anthology Polarity includes 26 tracks by a considered range of various artists across two compact discs. Arnaud Galoppe (also known as Focal) has been commissioned with blending these works into two distinctive extended moods. While Polarity is an excellently produced album throughout, fans of STAR’S END may be attracted to the disc labeled “Ambient Side” (a bit more than the equally well produced “Techno Side” CD). Galoppe, our sonic celebrant, excellently intertwines the stories of each of the two discs’ 13 artists and tracks. Spacing is the very groundwork of design, and this producer demonstrates his ability to build interesting environments – by bridging and binding opposing energies in the magical interplay between time, memory and imagination. A reduced narrative content simulates arrested motion, as a mystical dark light seems to hover over certain passages. In the surrounding zones where shadows become an essential part of the plan, Polarity further subverts dominant codes of music. Like underground explosions, distant rumbling foretells of a pulsing activity within. Hair-raising bass drops seem to harness the energy of electricity, as the mood changes just when we want it to. When synthesized modulations thicken the air, an easing harmony soon emerges out of the density. The methodical movement between light and dark, hot and cool terrain is impressive and effective. From the power of empty space, to energized riffs moving the body, Polarity provides an intriguing journey into electronic texture and sound – expanding and contracting continually under an atmosphere suggestive of all things cerebral. Even the recurring drum zones loop at the speed of dreams, and beckon thought. Anthologies are a good way to learn about new artists, but sometimes it is not necessarily the individual tracks the audience wants, but their mixture, and the more complex experience which may arise from a well-produced set. The DJ is that complexity. Making something bigger than the sum of its parts, Galoppe so enjoys the act of connecting two different songs through smooth transitions. Raising and lowering the energy level, from drifting gray calm to sparked beats and grooves (and many levels in between) the many musicians presented throughout Polarity play a significant role – one more that of source material than of author. But each are equally valuable, none better than the other, as taken together in this assemblage their individual meanings are amplified, and they each reach a place where none could go alone.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 January 2018

Saul Stokes: Local Crowd

Local Crowd

Local Crowd

Saul Stokes: Local Crowd
Released: 16 December 2017
www.databloem.com
www.saulstokes.com

The work of Saul Stokes is always somewhat of an identity statement. His many substantial releases never fail to relate how he is feeling, in both heart and mind. Appealing to our intelligence instead of insulting it, their best moments have a delicate beauty that stays with you. Stokes’ whirring intellect again finds focus in the eight tracks of Local Crowd (62’45”). This wonderful album bridges and bounds the opposing energies of crude electricity and accomplished art, and aligns perfectly with the beat and pulse beneath and behind everything. The sensitive ear of the sincere listener will acknowledge the live, vibrant timbres present at every level of Local Crowd. Using the studio platform, Stokes is not arranging for the dance floor, but for the place in the mind where sensory detail becomes thought. Listening consciously to the sound we find that there are two moods, with drums and without. While the precious pastels of divided oscillators enrich the arrangements in several sonic specifics, they also dissipate the force of well-timed snare hits. Unexpected bass progressions, and other devices of drive, refine and soften the throb of rhythm. In a harnessing of the mind of the composer, the most imaginative and productive of arrangements are still to be used for the delicate, more tender moments found on Local Crowd. Blooming synth notes sustain just beneath the lead line in expressive tone colors and flights of imagination. Stokes’ high vibrant main synth voice becomes fairly sparked with melody – as a harmless counter voice enhances the general mood of enjoyment. If we think of this music as electrical, a thing made of electricity, then we find it to be always remaking itself, changing in every instant, yet never changing at all. The limit of effect is merely the limit of the musician’s imagination. Versatile, alluring and inventive, with a fine ear for every novel discharge of the great modulators, Saul Stokes makes music for our time – and for all time.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END11 January 2018