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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Chuck van Zyl

Noveller: Arrow

Arrow

Arrow

Noveller: Arrow
Released: 12 June 2020
www.badabingrecords.com
www.sarahlipstate.com

The late solo sets by Noveller have been before amped up crowds waiting for St Vincent or Iggy Pop to take the stage. Producing music in a register much different from that of the more contemporary main acts, her performances effectively had those assembled abandon their inner sense of chaos and surrender to engulfment. Rallying and renewing this live work mixed sonic invention with an air of familiarity – so that the audience’s interior world would, for a time, slow, still and supplant the reality outside of it. On her studio album Arrow (40’30”) Noveller (Sarah Lipstate) embodies the stern principles of the rock guitarist as immediately as she does the innovative spirit of Spacemusic. The combination of steel strings, slides, picks, pedals and miscellaneous boxes and gizmos blossoms into euphoric arrangements of glowing ghostly ambience and withdrawn textural states. Asking the imagination to enlarge, so as to approach the scale of Arrow, its breathing atmospheres and otherworldly vistas reflect on this musician’s creative force. To realize these eight sonic vignettes the music required an intensity of concentration, and yielded no wasted space. With more neurons firing in the brain, more ideas will rise in the mind – storms quiet, centuries blur, an undertow tugs. Loaded with lush looped and layered guitar orchestrations this release possesses an endless energy. Lamentation and rage resolve into consolation and redemption – artfully refracted by Lipstate’s shivery strumming, and the delicate wash of rounded metallic timbres and murmuring drones. While Ambient Music is only abstractly a genre, Arrow proceeds with all the weight of a symphonic statement. In shades of slow melodic gestures and recurring chords we hear the beauty of our fading future. But her music resists oblivion and conveys resonant questions – as certainly as sound in the air can be an expression of the soul. Lipstate is fixing a broken world …one soundscape at a time.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 July 2020

Ian Boddy: Modulations

Modulations

Modulations

Ian Boddy: Modulations
Released: 19 June 2020
www.din.org.uk

Throughout Modulations (132’02”) Ian Boddy throws off some sparks. A musician who explores freely in spite of the risk this clutch of live tracks transpires in a kind of continuous arrival. Managing a select system of instruments these concert pieces reveal an aural landscape of unearthly radiance, yet also offers advanced listeners strange stretches of confining emptiness. Across six composed and passionate performances Boddy’s technique is exact and clear. Wherever delicately dancing tones and swirling textures take hold, elsewhere the spare procession of an isolated harmony, and distorting darkness, descends into the murky dimensions of an unpeopled realm. Sonic eddies assemble to realize a refuge of unearthly beauty, yet further into Modulations we may too be confronted with the starkness of the world as it is. At once adrift and alive to shifts in momentum and direction these improvised musical works emphasize the interior space. In the non-space of the mind pearly high tones and rounded ringing whirls herald the release of perfect sequencer cascades. These spring-loaded grooves unwind and recoil in a crisp, easy buoyancy on the upbeat tracks. In a carefree air they fuse and flow through coarse attacks and engaging note patterning. But for every ceaselessly alluring sound-space there is another frozen in some bleak waste. Exchanging its manic intensity for a more measured focus Modulations slows from its majestic roar, down to a subterranean murmur. In shadowy and semi-abstract expressions of timbre and atmosphere we chill and thrill to a range of unexpected gestures and signals. This masterful maneuvering lends the work a prevailing sense of certitude, as well as the occasional unexpected bite. There are those who wonder… where will we find the frontier of Electronic Music? And there are those who know… it is anywhere Ian Boddy can plug in his synthesizers. While lost in the electronic wilderness he is far from our modern conditions of anxiety and desire. The intentional blankness of this state of dis-connectivity offers a surprising tenderness – a soft declaration from a zone that refuses to be utterly lost.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END2 July 2020

Robert Rich: Offering to the Morning Fog

Offering to the Morning Fog

Offering to the Morning Fog

Robert Rich: Offering to the Morning Fog
Released: 24 May 2020
www.robertrich.com

Propelled by a striking new inspiration Robert Rich heads for the dreamlands. Sailing in the direction of dawn he realizes an Offering to the Morning Fog (67’52”). Content are those who tour this realm. A lavish aural voyage this album unfolds at a right roaming pace. Progressing along a slow-moving arc it builds a sense of tonal otherness that is enticing, inviting and subtle. As this release has been composed within an alternate system of tuning, one might expect the effect to be disquieting. To his credit, here Rich uses this unique technique to conjure six works of wonder – sometimes curious and questioning, but always meant to ease, not challenge his advanced listeners. Offering to the Morning Fog invites us to dream. With breathing drones and undulating tones the ebb and flow of Rich’s slow flute lines circulate through cavernous reverb. The measured use of glissando guitar adds a sinuous shimmering shine wherever it arises. But beneath this lightening plain electronic sound sources materialize in a lingering portent. It is these brief heartless voids and unsettled regions that so fix and fascinate Rich. Declaring a twilight sound space he summons a daybreak where infinity is nothingness and the unknown impels his craft. Offering to the Morning Fog is the perfect balm for an age that demands art and music penetrate surfaces and depict a more complex truth. So although your heart and mind will be unfolding in a thousand different directions, please do not forget to look for yourself inside this beautiful landscape. And please know that, as the long night passes with the cleansing sunrise always comes the promise of a new and better day – at which time there is no better moment to concede that it is the contrast of light and dark that give each other their meaning.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END25 June 2020

Miles Richmond& Peter Grenadr w/Steve Roach

POV2

POV2

Miles Richmond & Peter Grenader w/Steve Roach: POV2
Released: 19 June 2020
www.pov-music.com

When the accumulated trauma of modern life gets to be too much, there is POV2 (51’14”). The absorbing take-me-away release so many of us need right now, its effect is dreamy and disorienting in the best way possible. The true force behind this project is the chemistry between Miles Richmond (guitars) and Peter Grenader (various electronics). This duo directs the talents of sonic identities Thighpaulsandra (piano), Theo Travis (alto flute), Martin Shellard (guitar) and Steve Roach (synthesizers) to realize another sonically shapely inventive album. Atmospheric, bracing and effortlessly cool POV2 maintains an impressive focus and momentum through its five tracks. Gently swirling outward the playing is fluent and gorgeous. The designs of the compositions are elegant and gripping – moving as easily through the air as they do into your heart and your mind. Here and there we can make out a reverberant piano, an acoustic guitar, or a chord played on a synthesizer. But these works are so exquisitely balanced in their manipulation of the sound space that one scarcely notices their separate elements. Inside even its lowest midnight is a sincere interiority. Primary structures of minimalism become vivid, then darken into a quiet suspense. Where tensile electric guitar solos reoccur in ever strengthening cycles, rolling ambient loops and washes flow slow in the infinite permutations of theme associated with this approach to music. Characterized by the reiteration of extended phrases and extended sound generation, fragments of flute melodies travel on currents of shimmering steel strings, while reverb laden notes softly emerge and recede. Aligning with the values of good Spacemusic POV2 enables a mental state that runs counter to that of the domain outside of the self. The promise of escape from the sad, the bad and the ordinary is central to the restorative concepts of this manner of music. Lovers of this style know well that Ambient musicians are world-builders of the mind. But just imagine that their principles were also used by the builders of the physical world. With movement being made towards the betterment of humankind, all of us could feel content in the thought that what was possible might still be done.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 June 2020

Hèléne Vogelsinger: Contemplation

Contemplation

Contemplation

Hèléne Vogelsinger: Contemplation
Released: 12 June 2020
www.modularfield.io

Although it seems that most musicians spend their time in the pursuit of being heard, Hèléne Vogelsinger seems to have taken some preliminary steps in pursuit of hearing her audience. Expressing herself in a way aficionados will appreciate, Contemplation (42’09”) is a release perfect for our time. Providing seven nimble synthesizer escapades, as well as a rival vision of what Electronic Music should sound like, this album lights up the dark space in a winsome way. Finding ongoing inspiration from her instrument the pieces on this album come about in the act of playing them. Vogelsinger takes notice of the sound output of her modular synthesizer system and shapes it into a captivating poem of electricity. Conjuring kinetic joy sequencer patterns echo, expand, and gently recoil through the sound space. As the warm circuits of technology emit layers of easy harmony, the tones of a clarinet or human voice stabilize consonance along a sensitive musical arc. While most resolving notes land softly, some are left marooned in the ether – floating lost in reverberation, eventually fading into velvet night. Each of the many parts of this innovative machine music interweave and meld into the fully and effectively imagined realizations found throughout Contemplation. Vogelsinger’s sonic identity deals with the ideas of light and dark, hard and soft, vastness and intimacy, all balanced by a musical intent touched by a profound cosmic yearning. Electronic Musicians do not write their music, they live it… and so Vogelsinger gets it right… and gets it right on behalf of the listener too. Her music gives us an experience of certainty, a structure we trust, a way things should go – and brings us to a realm outside of everything else. This facility is such a very powerful thing in a world where most of us do not have the tools to express the fullness of who we are. With her Contemplation, Vogelsinger shows us her self, and gives us the world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END11 June 2020

Jarguna &Henrik Meierkord: Tapestry Flow

Tapestry Flow

Tapestry Flow

Jarguna/Henrik Meierkord: Tapestry Flow
Released: 29 May 2020
www.projekt.com
www.jarguna.com
www.soundbread.se

Whenever you are feeling homesick for the faraway, play Tapestry Flow (74’58”). This elegant collaboration between jarguna (multi-instrumentalist Marco Billi) and (contemporary cellist) Henrik Meierkord provides a journey well-worth joining. Rich and sometimes heaving with detail this album embraces a great spirit of openness, energy and exploration. Within its evocative and dark sound space minor-key melodies moan from Meierkord‘s strings – while, marooned in the ether, Billi‘s textures float in a bracing and effortlessly cool atmosphere. Made up of eight separate tracks, each its own unique expression, Tapestry Flow grows slower and more meditative as it slips ever deeper into dreaming. Lulling in a calm kindness this carefully arranged experience coaxes us along in a lovely current of languid cello leads and blooming synthetic flora. In a wild tide of sound full of vastness and intimacies the listener is constantly being invited inside. Utterly absorbed by its facility to transport we take well to these searching aural adventures on a darkening plain. But, being meditative does not mean Tapestry Flow has to be vague. With its easy cosmic intimations and renewing thought zones it guides the psyche to stillness. Yet, this duo still manages to imbue their work with enough drama to satisfy more experienced listeners. From its textures of desolation and still chill zones, to a charged musical charm, Tapestry Flow offers many profound musical moments; moments to strain against the pull of larger forces, and stand and reflect on our strength and solidarity. This truthful music, tinged by emotion and a beautiful yearning in its playing, seems to emanate from some other world. That it comes from somewhere in our present provides a much needed flicker of hope.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 4 June 2020

Jesper Pedersen: Three by 15

Three by 15

Three by 15

Jesper Pedersen: Three by 15
Released: 21 May 2020
www.slatur.is/jesper

With Three by 15 (45’00”) the Icelandic Electronic Musician Jesper Pedersen takes something silent and formless from his inner world and converts it into a sharable, perceptible sonic language. His electrical emissions, presented, arranged and compared in imaginative ways, are manipulated at the level of timbre – as a sensory invitation to an unknown world. Using a system of tone generating components and modules his work means to bridge the gap between sound science and sound art. Daring in his musical reach Three by 15 achieves a level of engagement that allows us to lose ourselves in something beyond ourselves – and so return from this place feeling energized. From the brute intensity of sustaining drones to light, ethereal melodic progressions, and potent audible symbols, Three by 15 is continually and timelessly expanding and contracting. Between a stimulating range of field recordings we will hear Harp accompaniment, and possibly some clarinet, and all manner of modulated, modified, synthesized notes. What a marvel this album is. Providing three activating aural environments, and all the while under the guidance of a rare musical intent, this release cites beauty as its basic value. Through darkly shaded thought zones, on to inviting and reassuring textures, listening to this music makes use of the mind in a way like no other. You will hear in it things that others will not. Opening up to us in the way only a live performer can, Pedersen’s raw honesty is unusually visceral and poetic. However demanding these performances were, each brims with a unique sense of excitement and discovery. Yet, as desirable as this talent is, whatever Pedersen knows cannot be taught.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END21 May 2020

Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij: Forgotten Tracks

Forgotten Tracks

Forgotten Tracks

Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij: Forgotten Tracks
Released: 11 April 2020
www.gertemmens.com

The triple CD set Forgotten Tracks compiles 16 studio works realized between 2006 and 2014 by the Dutch duo of Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij. Representing the best of what Berlin-School Spacemusic has to offer, with its mind moving minimal arrangements and spirit of adventure, this collection provides a meaningful experience to the seasoned listener. Finding an ongoing inspiration from their synthesizers the starry soul of this collaboration reveals itself over and over in the mood and mystery of a rare aural flair. The impeccable electrical sonic terrain found throughout Forgotten Tracks is a blurry blend of blossoming synthesizer tones, vintage Mellotron strings and other immaculately crafted sounds. As deeply breathing chords stack up and sustain, motor-like sequencer patterns gain momentum – powering through in a trail of echoing mechanized rhythmic interplay. Built by synthesized strings and harmonies chords move through dramatic progressions. Across vividly imagined distances the spacey swirl of moods and textures rise in quiet force. Synth lead lines soar above a vivid, thickening atmosphere as the music reaches a maximum possible dimension. And as a vast cosmic choir mysteriously ascends through the sound space, brief experimental zones leave us searching the cosmos and beyond. Decades after its inception Spacemusic continues to take musicians and their audiences to new and fascinating places. Emmens & Heij freely exhibit their creative talent and technological craft – in their push toward the limitless horizon.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END14 May 2020

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