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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Berlin-School

The Soviet Space Dog Project: The City and the Stars

The City and the Stars

The Soviet Space Dog Project: The City and the Stars
Released: 20 June 2022
sovietspacedogproject.bandcamp.com

Your brain patterns may have to be compared to those of the composer to know if you understand this music. With his excellent The City and the Stars (92:07) Andy Bloyce, under the alias The Soviet Space Dog Project, presents yet another transformative encounter with electricity. Life is nothing if not electrical, so making music with this form of energy is most proper in the search for the meaning, joy and flourishing that is ultimately the central aspiration of the arts. The alien beauty of these five tracks suggests transfer to another, more cerebral sphere. Beneath a measured, collected verve The City and the Stars runs full-speed ahead into a half-lit realm. In translating electronic currents into aural textures chords move from deep-toned and mysterious to light and radiant – melting the experimental mood under a sudden warmth of understanding. In a blend of transparency and secrecy the Berlin-School soundfield intertwines with cycles of electro swishes, bleeps and clicks, and ethereal modulated effects – all of it grounded by the fullness of a motoring bass riff. As echoing sequencer notes spark in undeniable daring across the lonely light-years of contemplative minds, diverging harmonies move us into a higher orbit. Where atonal tension rises, the narrative swiftness of rounded synth leads counter such sonic invention – all in service to finding that ever elusive marked musical moment of recognition. Listeners will not be criticized for assuming The City and the Stars was the work of a brilliant 18 year old just now discovering what they — and EM — can do. Throughout his decades long fascination with Kosmische Musik Bloyce continues to share with us a fervid inner self and path toward transcendence. As it pushes out into the space of possible thoughts we find this music, while made with machines, sounds fully human. Its ambition is to remind us of our collective potential, creativity, and spirituality – and allow us, if only briefly, to imagine something of our cherished, infinitesimal share of The Universe.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 January 2023

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Paul Ellis: Five Bliss Machines on the Infinite Stage

Five Bliss Machines on the Infinite Stage Paul Ellis

Paul Ellis: Five Bliss Machines on the Infinite Stage
Released: 4 November 2022
www.groove.nl

Five Bliss Machines on the Infinite Stage (78:01) does not court headlines. Here Paul Ellis and his Spacemusic brain reset our idea of what is possible from contemporary Electronic Music. Decidedly different, across the five tracks there is a sense of the future speaking back to the past – without becoming completely mired in it. In places thrillingly alien, then submitting glimmers of clarity this release moves assuredly from shimmering sonic jolts and high wattage surrender, on down to a secret breathless intensity. Combining a refined musical intelligence with deep artistic convictions Five Bliss Machines on the Infinite Stage resolves into a great sounding heady album of ideas. It is energizing and invigorating in an unconventional way, which is how the music is able to so well reach you emotionally. As we listen we feel Ellis’ synthetic textures creep into our room and over our skin. With little in the way of rhythm or accepted structure, an extended ambience pervades the space. While demonstrating an impressive melodic agility and tonal variety, its richness of phrasing and sense of fantasy serve to elevate Ellis to that of an unplaceable presence within his music. Yet, this work is obviously his. Hang onto this thread as each realization falters and advances, breathes and discharges – all somewhat touched by the madness of sound. Does Paul Ellis daydream about timbre? Experience delusions of drones? or fantasies of aural encounters? About more than just the world he is inhabiting, Five Bliss Machines on the Infinite Stage is about a realm that he is moving toward. It is an exclusive excursion through the mind of one of our community’s most respected practitioners. Please listen carefully as something new, beautiful and honest emerges.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END15 December 2022

Nils Frahm: Music for Animals

Music for Animals Nils Frahm

Nils Frahm: Music for Animals
Released: 23 September 2022
www.leiter-verlag.com
www.nilsfrahm.com

Works by Nils Frahm always feel more from the heart than from the wall outlet. In a transformative encounter with electricity his three CD/four LP set Music for Animals (186:43) presents ten remarkable tracks of Ambient Spacemusic. Building wonder and suspense within an atmospheric system of minimalism, the air of this release is serious, but not dispiriting. Below its subdued sense, punctuated by passages of radiance and light, the meaning behind Music for Animals steals into the audience through the sides of the head. Subtly propulsive, then still, beautiful and strange, in translating electronic currents into sonic textures Frahm’s chords move from deep-toned to light and radiant – melting an experimental mood under a sudden gravity. Underpowered sequencer lines hold space and reduce the mechanical-motor pulse into something more secret, lean and potent. Above the rounded machine patterns floats an ethereal glow of quietly yearning synths. Transported from another purer realm these arrangements counter the shallowness of the mainstream – and pose that life is nothing if not electrical. Every zone is mood chilling, yet heart warming. Such is the beauty of Frahm’s music that each moment is an enigmatic delight. The tone that comes so naturally to him floats somewhere between dreams, memories and the fragments of a time yet to come. Music for Animals does everything we ask of great music: it enlarges our world, expands our attention outward, and opens up our hearts and minds. For musicians like Nils Frahm EM is about mobility, mobility of expression. In its many meetings in recognition, along dimensions that cannot be articulated with mere words, the realizations illuminate an inner reality, but long for real life.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END17 November 2022

Cosmic Ground: Isolate

Isolate

Cosmic Ground: Isolate
Released: 23 September 2022
www.cosmicground.de
www.tonzonen.de

With new technology comes the promise of styles and expressions that we have never heard before. Under the name Cosmic Ground Electric Orange keyboardist Dirk Jan Muller has for over a decade been amassing and deploying synthesizers beneath the beacon first lit over 50 years ago during the Berlin-School era of EM. Supplementing our sense of the possible this style of music, and the gear used to produce it, offers the potential for a remarkable range of revelations. With a strange beauty that borders on the forboding Muller submits his seventh studio album Isolate (73:14). The depth of each of the six electronic journeys is striking – with each realization providing a spellbinding sense of a place in space. In this full-speed ahead trip behind the beautiful forever of Kosmische Musik the listener encounters all that Spacemusic can be. Energizing and invigorating, emotionally piercing yet thrillingly alien, Isolate will exhaust those who cannot surrender to it. In the headlong drive of spiraling sequencer runs patterns of notes ascend in an echoing motor-motion. Settling into a careful clockwork, saturated Mellotron strings bestow a heightened sensitivity to the cosmic covenant. As creative energy moves from the musician’s interior to that of the audience, bold dissonances ring and spark across an outburst of dramatic imagination. From desolate soundscapes of darkening drones and chilled fallout fields, to the brooding sweep of sustaining sci-fi zones, Isolate easily pulls listeners into its specific sonic realm. This genre was, in ages past, all about the future. These days it is about survival. Synthesists dream about tones, and wake up thinking about them – which connects the artist to the story of the sound, and to what their music should be. But among us fans the act of listening is an act of trust. Along the upward arc of such resolute works of perpetual becoming we rely on Cosmic Ground, our keeper of mysteries, to lead us further – and to not displace too many of us during our drifting, dreaming voyage of the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 22 September 2022

[‘ramp] happy days are here to stay

happy days are here to stay

[‘ramp]: happy days are here to stay
Released: 29 August 2022
doombientmusic.bandcamp.com

Whenever a label named “Doombient” releases an album called happy days are here to stay (73:15) we might wonder, can the end of the world be that far off? The irony emitted by such an incongruous view and title is the stuff of Stephen Parsick‘s favorite mania, and how he processes the world. His work under the name [‘ramp], with its shifting myths of sound and unrelenting territory of timbre, emerges from a place of wonderment and integrity. While the self-aware nostalgia of happy days are here to stay brilliantly conveys a Berlin-School enlightenment, as well as the mysterious mood and aura of discovery from this era, we must ponder what Parsick is not telling us. Across eight tracks a spirit of infinity seems alive – taking flight with enough force to place each listening spirit safely into Earth orbit. In exhilarating lateral shifts come simplified lines of ordered notes and rich colors of sound. Although of a monumental quality this realization may be heard better as an intimate chamber drama possessing an expansive cosmic overlay. In subduing the impulse for embellishment a quiet longing of soft Mellotron flutes hovers above a spare soundfield – an elemental simplicity softening the controlled riot of pumping sequencer patterns below. As finely tuned as anything by [‘ramp] happy days are here to stay is dense, prismatic, mesmerizing, and capable of imaginative leaps. But with this ironic title, it may be trying to catch the current moment… when actually the moment it succeeds in capturing is from a long ago age of truth and hope for the future. Complete brain engagement from the listener is not required, but it would help. Full of Spacemusic’s transformational promise, cosmic yearning and diverting abandon this music trusts you to have not outsourced your thinking. As the musician is revealed to the world through their actions, through their art, we should not miss even one split second of this aural adventure. Because with intimacy exhibited at this level, sometimes we learn more than we should.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 September 2022

Chuck van Zyl: Skyspace

Skyspace

Chuck van Zyl: Skyspace
Released: 7 August 2022
chuckvanzyl.bandcamp.com

On 10 June 2022 an informed audience assembled within Chestnut Hill Skyspace in Philadelphia for a unique concert with noted Electronic Musician Chuck van Zyl. Skyspace (73:13) presents the complete continuous set. The concert realization Last Light was made live in the moment before an affectionate, informed audience. As these conditions are known to reveal an innovative spirit, we find the musician and listeners experiencing this extraordinary music together in the act of it being made. Energized equally by the pulse of the Berlin-School and the hope of the New Age, the remarkable setting and welcoming company brought out a substantial, expressive and meaningful performance.

In order to fully enjoy Skyspace one must accept the fleeting essence of this live improvised recital. Chuck van Zyl’s perspective on live performance remains particularly singular. An enactment of self-discovery his unschooled spark produced an undeniable dramatic energy throughout the venue. This exquisitely crafted concert, meant for the extraordinary open-roofed space that looks out onto the night sky, allowed this artist to do more than simply share his work. Set against the mystical grandeur of the heavens just above the heads of the audience, Chuck van Zyl was able to search for and share something of his true being.

Addressing the dreamer inside all of us Skyspace begins with bold dissonances. A spare sequencer pattern emerges, barely, amidst cross-modulated tones, synth string tritones, and a roiling Mellotron choir. As the wandering notes organize into an orderly pulsation, fluttering effects generate trailing spacey references. Once the rhythm becomes more mechanized additional lines emerge. The cycling tones interweave, overlap and wander across the inevitable arc of this extended set. In a passionate outburst of dramatic imagination melodic lead lines and key changes add a narrative force to this expansive nocturnal adventure.

In an act of shear concentration Chuck van Zyl oversees the ceaseless adjustment of his system of instruments. In refusing to work with a laptop or other kinds of pre-recorded, pre-programmed, pre-set resources his approach remains innovative, maybe even radical in our digital era of music making. In this space where compelling forces converge and combine – this mutually reinforcing circle of validation – it is only after a trial such as this one that this musician can become aware of himself, of what he is capable of, how far he has come, and how far he can go. Please lend your heart to this album. If you can, Skyspace will leave the trajectory of your thoughts surely changed for the better.

Skyspace was released by Synkronos Music on 7 August 2022 to coincide with the Chuck van Zyl on-air concert for Star’s End Space Camp 2022.

  • From the Press Release 7 August 2022

Martin Sturtzer: Epsilon Eridani

Epsilon Eridani Martin Sturtzer

Martin Sturtzer: Epsilon Eridani
Released: 20 July 2022
www.phelios.de

With Epsilon Eridani (40:55) Martin Sturtzer shares his LP length window on the cosmos. Charged with a brain chilling energy this most majestic machine music involves all sorts of human choices and interventions. Across its three tracks the pitch-dark universe seems to become lit by a flicker of electronic grace. From dense sounds carrying an air of displacement to undulating fields of synthesized chords, Epsilon Eridani expands and contracts in a slow motion of round sounds and tamed timbre. We may imagine a set of concentric spheres – echoing sequencer patterns progressively revealed – as we move further along this sonic detour from linear thinking. Delving deeper into the the second half of this release we find tonal differences dominating the realm. Through the placement of contrasting harmonies this piece expresses texture, atmosphere, and all else that eludes the spoken word. Throughout all his substantial spacey interludes Sturtzer encourages the listener to follow the music in all its unfolding detail. In his idea of what may exist between the stars we should experience an unfamiliar feeling of lightness, like being on another planet where the force of gravity is only a fraction of the earth’s – a world where the low hum of possibility is constantly reverberating.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END21 July 2022

Klaus Schulze: Deus Arrakis

Deus Arrakis

Klaus Schulze: Deus Arrakis
Released: 1 July 2022
www.spv.de

Part dream engineer, part sonic philosopher, in his earliest efforts Klaus Schulze utilized a new instrument (the synthesizer) to realize a new music for a new age. His atmospheric explorations of timbral and temporal space, of extended durations and considered harmonic structures came to be referred to as (for lack of a better term) Space Music. Untethered to traditional disciplines this new era of expression opened up space and then moved through it like nothing before. Released posthumously, his Deus Arrakis (77:28) is yet another superb release in a long line of albums inhabited by flowing synths, delimited imaginings and gradual revelations. Marked by an unmistakable spirited energy, the three lengthy pieces of Deus Arrakis develop under ethereal textures and spiraling effects. The deft cello-bourne melodies of Wolfgang Tiepold and extended vocals by Eva-Maria Kagermann heighten these compositions with a luxurious feel. Restless variations expose concealed connections as the stream of transformations encourages neural firing in the brain. As sprawling sequencer lines pulse ahead, Schulze’s imaginative scoring and simmering intensity evokes limitless horizons. Fantastic in their construction, endlessly complex in effect, the cycling patterns motor on – whirling by in a magical motion of syncopated notes. Always working at a scale that transcends the listener, he showed us the difference between being merely close to the music and being inside it. A heroic explorer, Klaus Schulze’s reach is long. If we learned anything from his body of work it is that the mind is bigger than its thoughts – an idea that will keep us engaged for many years after his music has stopped.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 July 2022

Skoulaman: Mundus in Motu

Mundus in Motu

Skoulaman: Mundus in Motu
Released: 24 April 2022
www.grooveunlimited.nl

Who does not love being transported while listening to music? …especially when the journey takes you across a diverse terrain and through many intriguing moods. On Mundus in Motu (74:46) Skoulaman (Dutch Electronic Musician Hans van Kroonenburg) applies his creative spirit to this end. Its seven tracks, studiously varied, allows our mind to unwind. Leading us to a place outside ourselves, the music seems to be emanating directly from this musician’s being. A jewell box of a release Mundus in Motu takes on a certain shape in our memory. On his quest for momentum, van Kroonenburg deliberately dwells in the assured pace of his superbly syncopated sequencer patterns. As harmonic forms advance and recede, the free movement of drama widens and expands. Subtle contrasts of cool melodic hues push and pull at the listener’s attention, while the warm currents coursing through this music hits our ears all at once – as if everything gathered in the head and heart of the artist has emerged in a totality of sound. Arranged in exciting, inviting ways this music takes place in a smarter, gentler world than the one in which we live. Though polished and sure Mundus in Motu is also full of heart and wild touches. Coming from someplace beyond the spoken word, in generous stretches of charged synthetic zones, down to its soft, easeful spheres, this release is fully and effectively imagined. Listen to it straight through, because you would not want to miss the surprises or the pleasure of discovering this work. Please close your eyes, and open your ears, and dream bigger than you are.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END2 June 2022

Brendan Pollard: Cycles and Pulses

Cycles and Pulses

Brendan Pollard: Cycles and Pulses
Released: 6 May 2022
brendanpollard.bandcamp.com

For his first album back after months off resetting his music studio Brendan Pollard delivers a release that is somewhat less than an all-out sequencer celebration than it is a carefully cultivated atmosphere of deliberation. Full of hidden connections and secret encounters, his Cycles and Pulses (65:08) is an epic in five-parts. Its ambitious scope is tender and reaching, then stormy and searing – the sound field reducing down to a lithe tensile thread, then expanding out into wider, wilder dimensions. Rising into the pleasures of pulse his Berlin-School inspired works gain momentum in cycles of note motifs echoing energy beneath hovering ambient shadows. As commanding melodies flee past shimmering sonic shapes, the structured delirium resolves into a solemn hymn to humanity. Converging in darkness Mellotron strings roll over corroded drones. While glittering accents and fluttering modulations swirl above a motoring pattern of tones, sustaining organ chords enter and chill the electronic current. Throughout over an hour of exploration Cycles and Pulses is in a constant state of motion. Its spare, controlled style unites intrinsic conflicts and vast landscapes in framings as haunted as the are provocative. Overcome by rolling swells and peels of sound, powerful patterns and hushed harmonies, the listener surrenders to Pollard’s spacey spell. In complete command of this style he communicates in code. From wildly impulsive, down to the more cerebral, encrypted messages grow abstract and questioning – easily delivering exhilarating, propulsive synth devotionals on a celestial scale. Our world is big, but the realm of space and sound is even bigger. Pollard’s form of expression is infinitely mutable, its structure open, yet orderly – allowing for innovation and variation. The mind is its own place, which is where Cycles and Pulses takes up residence. The re-birth of wonder, and the insistent reclamation of our humanity may be among its highest productions.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 May 2022