starsendradio

Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: ambient music

LIsa Bella Donna: Tramontane

Tramontane

Tramontane

Lisa Bella Donna: Tramontane
Released: 26 October 2019
www.lisabelladonna.com

The first sonic impression of Tramontane (50’27”) arrives with a rumble of white noise. A deeply absorbing album, its listeners are completely taken over by a wondrous atmosphere. Wrapped in the skilled musical invention we have come to expect from our most innovative Electronic Musicians, Lisa Bella Donna breathes in a musical freedom that allows her to experiment without abandoning her strengths. The sounds found on Tramontane seethe and roil in a deep real cool – all in service to a skilled musical intent. Each of the two tracks, each a singular flowing thought, asks us to tune into our quieter frequencies. But being introspective does not mean that this work has to be vague. In its drift toward a soft-focus landscape many touching, quiet moments are indeed realized – but the ambient spell cast by this gemlike album is occasionally broken by an enlivening keyboard lead. These bewitching thought-zones arc through their magical moments in a beautifully transporting performance, both restful to the intellect and comforting to the spirit. By continually combining and recombining a vivid range of timbres into substantial sonic textures and cosmic aural colors, this artist leaves us dwelling in vivid states of wordless quietude and opalescent shine. Recordings of a natural wilderness environment mingle with synthesizer pads and detailed electronic modulations as the mood pushes into the far-flung reaches of thought. The deliberate pacing, the sense of consonance surrounded by space, the rush of warm rounded chords all make for a fascinating listening experience. Most competent musicians can easily produce heat. Lisa Bella Donna produces light. A work of sustained ambiance Tramontane conveys the enigmatic yet simple essence of her world apart.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 February 2020

Juta Takahashi: Pleochroism

Pleochroism

Pleochroism

Juta Takahashi: Pleochroism
Released: 31 December 2019
www.neotantra.co.uk
www.jutatakahashi.com

Juta Takahashi is strong enough to dream. In his music we do not re-locate, but rather we de-locate. The CD Pleochroism (62’06”) strengthens our hearts, as it stills our minds. Its music resides outside worldly realms – allowing us to step easily into sustaining zones of cerebral contemplation. As whispering synthesizers drift into silence, we find each of this album’s four electronic hymns to be a study in harmonic contrasts. Under a cloud cover of digital reverberation string triads sound out in the way moonlight sometimes shimmers. Beams of music, refracted through the spirit of the player, swirl elegantly throughout the sound space. Weightless notes bloom across a range of color and mass – in a process understood only on their own terms. Chords drift, slip and lift in a sweet reverie – as softer sounds prevail and coax the night to stay a few moments longer. Fitting easily into the New Age or Ambient Music categories, Pleochroism is a lush counterpoint to the lesser works of these classes. Each track seems to expand continuously over its duration – flowing gently through a range of sculpted textures and sustained moods. Pastoral and silvery then dark and dense, these slowly shifting realizations open up space then fill it with sound – as deep sonic pleasures lead to reassuring calm. In a time most concerned with the mastery of the world out there, listeners to Pleochroism may transcend the day-to-day – and find contentment dwelling in the universe found in here – within ourselves.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END6 February 2020

Marconi Union: Dead Air

Dead Air

Dead Air

Marconi Union: Dead Air
Released: 29 November 2019
www.marconiunion.com
www.justmusic.co.uk

Nobody goes there anymore, it’s just too crowded… According to Marconi Union, the principality of Ambient Music has ceased to be. After ten albums from a few miles west of this location the Manchester-based trio has declared the genre of ignorable music to be done in by over population. A well-known/popular band, yet always in possession of a real humanity, Marconi Union wonders about their own mystery. Their release Dead Air (55’40”), an album of seven wordless atmospheric tracks, creates its own wondrous soundscape as it goes. Behind these arrangements are Jamie Crossley, Richard Talbot and Duncan Meadows. With subdued rolling sonic waves and ethereal textures they conjure a beautiful and tender inward space. Softer sounds prevail, as the output of guitars, voices and keyboards are pushed into ever more thoughtful realms. Multi-layered and lulling the works found on Dead Air are deceptively simple. Accessible, and at the same time elegant and smart, they provide luxury even in the most spare moments – and co-exist peacefully with the life around them. Gently navigating through these thought zones with care breathing washes of warm chords are contrasted against well-placed electronics and subtle loops. The embracing sound of steel strings, electric piano and the human voice – delicately filtered, distorted and re-imagined – blur between their indistinct boundaries. Although each piece briefly forms its own distinctive condition, the overall effect is unifying. This music has always been considered by the mainstream as being “out there”, yet its true home is “in here”… inside us… deep within the listening mind. The rounded drones, reverberating notes and humming ambiance generates moods beyond the abilities of common Instrumental Music. In such a crowded field, listening to Dead Air feels like entering a secluded garden within a forest – where the dream we dream together may become reality.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 January 2020

David Parsons: Chakra

Chakra

Chakra

David Parsons: Chakra
Released: 8 November 2019
gterma.blogspot.com

From the calm center of David Parsons comes an expression above existence. Through the specific language of his music he shares with us a discipline, a devotion that most people usually keep private. Chakra (63’25”) provides seven tracks for the quieter, more inward pursuits – and gives the moments we pass listening to it greater significance. Entering its weightless realm we feel received, accepted. Throughout its primitive polish and coarse refinement the human self remains audible. An enigmatic, deep album of methodical pacing and ceremonial intensity Chakra does not lead the listener, but stays with us well into the deeper dream. Electronic textures grow, thicken and gently shift, as harmonics become dense, then fall away into a smooth ribbon of sound. Expanding drones slow the plane of daily existence, as failing hums and buzzes give way to riffs of percussion which carry through the linear path of time. Chiming metallic tones ring above the tapping of synths and clicking of keys. Where breathy sounds seep into one composition, the chant of sequestered monks is released in another. Taken all together these elements convey the enigmatic yet simple essence of this world apart, and may even evoke the metaphysical dimension at the center of the player. However pleasurably adrift in this state of continual expansion, the listener is held inside an intriguing sonic palette – an experience notable for its profound impenetrability. The mind, the soul, the heart, this work touches all three. Chakra is not situated in the past, nor in the future. Within this most vivid sound field every listener is at the center of an infinite circle – with David Parsons declaring himself throughout.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END16 January 2020

David Helpling: Rune

Rune

Rune

David Helpling: Rune
Released: 22 November 2019
www.spottedpeccary.com

David Helpling tells stories with a cool skill. We should take to listening to his release Rune (67’55”) just before bed, because it feels built of pre-dream sweetness and of that familiar longing for adventure. Its eight tracks weave their way into your mind – each providing a pleasurable atmosphere within which to dwell. Both deeply felt and elegantly played Rune is disarming in its subtle tonal shifts. Taking a calm stance, from his electric guitar Helpling elicits works of languorous introspection. Exploring the possibilities of playing his instrument through the endless delay of digital processors he designs a rich and varied palette of textures and tones – which makes for a constantly renewed musical interest. Along with the looping riffs, sustaining leads and studies in slide guitar Helpling also deploys grace-filled vibrating metal chords and shimmering steel string structures flung toward the sky. Riding the tides of sonic seas, this work shifts in currents of harmonic motion. Textures thicken, and we become enthralled in the revealing depths of solemn and unfrequented regions. Helpling’s imagination carries these performances, which are often beautiful, even breathtaking. Rune will be well-received by the ears and hold fast to the heart. Beneath his album’s slick surfaces there is an insistent humanity – an understanding of the greater whole of which his music is a part.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 28 November 2019

Hotel Neon: Relic

Relic

Relic

Hotel Neon: Relic
Released: 10 September 2019
www.hotelneonmusic.com

Hotel Neon has always made subdued ambient music with a measured intensity. On Relic (36’27”) they pull from emotional depths and faded memories to shape an album coated in nostalgia and withdrawn creeping textures. On tape the music is an exercise in idea building, on stage it is sheer bliss. The slow burning style of spacey sonics radiates outward, even as the effect works its way toward the glowing inner workings of the listening mind. In five twilit scenes Relic provides a quietly moving impact. The tones the trio produce are processed, delayed, distorted and looped – creating complex harmonies and timbres not usually associated with ordinary electric guitars and keyboard. The vibrations emanating from rubbed, plucked or excited steel strings swirl and morph and assume a new identity. In spare, rare piano notes Hotel Neon extend their poetic ambitions. Under a kindred midnight these fully charged pieces retain a solid formality. Gauzy but gleaming below layers of reverberation a delicate music shows off the ethereal power of sound. As night falls, the guitars call, low in the lowlands and high on the hills. From heights descending notes fall fast, while ascending sounds take more time to reach us. Tones too big for the ear enter through the chest, to touch the heart – then retreat into silence. Following the thread in our head, the emotional intensity of our Relic will open within.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END14 November 2019

Kelly David: Meditation in Green

Meditation in Green

Meditation in Green

Kelly David: Meditation in Green
Released: 23 August 2019
www.spottedpeccary.com
www.kellydavid.com

Kelly David is exploring the Earth, and discovering that it is far bigger than he imagined. The release Meditation in Green (58’03”) allows us to project ourselves into his luxurious, long-view. Those open to the seduction of electronic drama and its beautiful symbolism will be substantially rewarded. Utilizing a variety of pristine field recordings, and layering them with gentle percussion and evocative synthesizer surfaces Kelly David produces passages of mystic bliss – where reverberant chords move like slow clouds on the horizon, and glowing tones flex and fade off into a buzz of jungle. From ethno-grooves to Forth World dreamscapes, the arc of this fantasy for synths, samplers and landscapes recedes and expands as the music flows across a leafy, watery and often intense sonic terrain. Some tracks add a ceremonial rhythmic propulsion, but we will recognize that most of Meditation in Green is pushing slowly through a dreamy, verdant realm. This work’s series of seven interludes build tension through minimal means, driving one to consider the larger questions of what it is to be alive. The listening experience is sensuous enough to become lost in, but so vivid that we might encounter ourselves somewhere along our travels. In its textured roar, wilderness sounds, ethereal atmospheres and thunder claps we find an escape from the broken world. The screens of our modern times offer so much to look at, from the trivial to the sublime. Yet, Meditation in Green proves to be a move vivid experience than any random feed could possibly offer. To give his perspective on the world and its ancient governing powers this artist’s vision reaches us through the act of listening, to be interpreted within the theater of our minds.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END17 October 2019