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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Ambient

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

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

Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Tim Story: Lunz 3

Lunz 3

Lunz 3

Hans-Joachim Roedelius & Tim Story: Lunz 3
Released: 30 June 2019
www.curiousmusic.us
www.roedelius.com
www.timstory.com

Lunz 3 (69’23”) makes our collection of contemporary music one masterpiece richer. Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Tim Story do sound great on their own, but transcendent together. Through a unique intuition their collaboration leaves enough room not only for one another, but also for moments of tenderness and light. It is a dream team-up that is by turns searching enough to elicit some head-scratching, yet gutting enough to bring a listener to tears – sometimes in the span of a single composition. In the yawn of years since the issue of the original Lunz (2002) this duo has strived to become more worthy of their craft. Lunz 3, bathed in the autumnal light of time remembered, is partly a studio re-imagining of the earlier tracks, but to some extent a fresh new endeavor. Building on ideas and themes from the prior release, Roedelius and Story easily re-inhabit the gentle gravity of their Ambient Chamber Music. The musical gestures encountered here again feel straightforward and uncomplicated. By combining vague classical influences with weightless spacemusic, they conjure up a safe zone – an odd area where the notes may stay the same but their meaning is ever changing. With the pianos, cellos and violins engaging in lovely melodic substance, an ethereal sonic invention adds instruction-less puzzles. Bringing fragrance into the listener’s solitude an imaginative assortment of samples, gentle distortion and other detailed effects move these 18 key-centered pieces, by root progressions, each to their own perfect resolution. With wit and wisdom in every tone Roedelius and Story realize their quiet, hand-played works. Fundamental is the thought that people may be reached, that beauty can make a difference. Due to its expansive promise their music seems inexhaustible – as the musicians and their listeners are constantly seeking more from it. Lunz 3 opens a rare space for peace, thought and warmth. It is as powerfully effective as instrumental storytelling gets – flowing with the solemn, blissful insistence of life itself. From a slow chill and friendly sweetness, to the feeling of leaving Earth, or even the sense of coming home, for the duration of this album we get to live in a realm that we can make sense of.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 September 2019

Jeff Pearce: Skies and Stars

Skies and Stars

Skies and Stars

Jeff Pearce: Skies and Stars
Released: 13 September 2019
www.jeffpearcemusic.com

Jeff Pearce has a way of making unique experiences transferable. Skies and Stars (59’57”) is his dramatic reflection on the night sky, and possibly even the forces that have placed him there beneath it. Celebrating the first lights of evening onward his music widens the aperture on the heavens as it tightens its hold over our attention. With its three tracks of lush layered guitar orchestrations this album seems of an endless energy. Under a cavernous reverberation metal wires vibrate and bend, then breath and bloom into atmospheres, textures, and passages of interiority. Each silvery string on Pearce’s guitar has a story to tell… a different episode of time in which the listener and the music become the same through the seemingly endless decay and regeneration of all things in the Cosmos. This music gives few answers, preferring to dwell on the enigmatic. With its daunting intervals and shiny core, Skies and Stars is shrouded in a misty mystical digital signal processing. Through the clever use of loop pedals, long echoes and the splitting and shifting of sonics a dreamy cloud of harmony is realized – yet with always a few tones still lurking in a vast darkness. Trembling with emotion, the music conveys a timeless yearning. This musician seeks permanence, not transience – but the magic of each of his work’s many musical moments vanishes as soon as we pay them any notice. Fans of this style of Spacemusic will know that from there to here is never a straight line. In an era of fidgeting, Skies and Stars offers an arc of unbroken concentration. As the world seems about to slip and tip off its axis, Jeff Pearce is making music for whatever is beyond the horizon of this failing realm. Listening past its ample exploratory marvels, this album offers a kindness, a gentle warm familiarity, rendered into a beautiful keepsake.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 September 2019