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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Chuck van Zyl

Cosmic Ground: Cosmic Ground IV

Cosmic Ground IV

Cosmic Ground IV

Cosmic Ground: Cosmic Ground IV
Released: 21 May 2018
www.cosmicground.de

It may be argued that we are drawn to whatever in music that is boldly marked with personality. The brawny, brooding, primal realm of electronic sound realized by Dirk Jan Müller, in his highly personal effort as Cosmic Ground, does offer a distinctive synthetic substance – as well as access to the feelings of the lower plane. The album Cosmic Ground IV (78’26”) wanders to bizarre, distant and involved coloristic regions. If a synthesizer is a tool to make sound, then electricity is the raw material – which works its will within us across this CD’s seven tracks. Utilizing the darker portion of the audible spectrum the composer subjects the listener to a range of daring and captivating mental experiences. Phantasmal sonic events seem to confront underworld demons, as we move away from any concluding serenity. Along with all its foreboding, Cosmic Ground IV does give the impression that Müller takes some pleasure in the rhythmical arrangement of sound. Large-scale discharges lead to episodes of stormy grandeur, yet a swollen waltz of dancing arpeggio notes soon lights our shaky steps. However, in spite of a cerebral climax of overpowering sequencer sonority, we may still feel this music becoming darker by degrees. In ominous oscillations between Mellotron black and the comforting chords of a soft electric organ, this music is trying to say something for which words have not yet been invented. Many albums of Spacemusic simply provide pleasurable feelings to the listener. This one goes further… transmuting vague sentiments into the human sense of wonderment. Following the course of thought, Cosmic Ground IV provides a contact between two minds: that of the author and of you – who benefit from being open to the refreshment, the strengthening, and the stimulation of this work.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END24 May 2018

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Node: Node Live

Node Live

Node Live

Node: Node Live
Released: 18 May 2018
www.din.org.uk

Before the audience ever even heard the music, they knew it was there. On 27 February 2015 the concert hall at the Royal College of Music in London was staged for a rare live show by Node – the celebrated collaboration between Dave Bessell, Ed Buller, Mark Ellis (aka Flood) and Mel Wesson. In front of those seated was a city of synthesizers, arranged and wired together in a menagerie of boxes, cases and modules… warmed up and standing ready to be played by these four men. Sparking ideas about music’s ritualistic role, attendees surely felt that they were going to be part of something great – as when electricity is converted into music something wondrous is born into the world. Node Live (65’53”) provides a record of this psychic income. Like the thunder, the heaviest of this album’s five live tracks will awaken a primitive emotion within us. In parts where is present a bass so heavy that it can almost be stood upon, we feel an unrestrained directness of expression. As the inward spiral of echoing sequencer patterns are introduced, the brainwaves of the audience seem to align – as if in a combining of forces. Node Live captures the newness of this fleeting experience. Cross-modulated oscillators give the feel of being bombarded with cosmic rays, alongside classic Mellotron tones sounding out through cavernous reverberation. Electronic tones skip, dance and amble up and down chromatic scales in machine-like precision – supported by synth harmonies, glittering effects and the occasional electric guitar lead. Abstract thought zones provide a place to rest, without giving the impression of undoing or finality. It is hard not to celebrate the look of Node’s machinery over its function. But seeing all this gear (which nearly slipped from the world’s memory some years ago) assembled for a live performance may remind us that although we think we have control of it, electricity is working its will within this music and directing its every action. While Node’s work may originate at an AC wall outlet, it comes to us through our ears, and truly reaches us only through our understanding. Existing in stark contrast to mainstream music, which reflects the current values and trends in society, music by Node (and their contemporaries) achieves so much more – as it reflects the current state of the human mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END17 May 2018

EFSS: Tidal Shift

Tidal Shift

Tidal Shift

EFSS: Tidal Shift
Released: 9 April 2018
efss.bandcamp.com

If you are seeking an easy way to shift your mind set, then just cue up Tidal Shift (54’23”) – the collective collaboration between Jörg Erren, Bert Fleissig, Jochen Schöttler and Christian Steffen. This album selectively activates neurochemical systems and brain structures associated with positive mood – as its music travels from the brain space of the creators directly into ours. Each of the seven tracks vibrates inside us, one by one conjuring a different color and atmosphere. The tempo may prowl then race outward with machine-like focus. A sense of serenity mutates into unease, setting us down amidst oxidized tones and an eerie beauty. Metallic drones, churning within collapsing worlds, are soon joined by ethereal strings and ticking percussion – with fat synthesized blobs marking time beneath flights of echoing sequencer runs. A rhythmic grid locates itself in space, and is promptly foregrounded by glittering modulated effects and raw energized sparks. Ghostly assemblages of drifting electronics become absorbed by a restless surge of synchronized patterns, only to plunge us back into the stillness of a close and holy darkness. All this and more makes Tidal Shift an exhilarating document. EFSS spends only a few days a year working together urgently on this music, and here reaches a new plateau. This release reasserts their originality as musicians – operating in the luxury of an underground haven where ideas can be explored freely with no worry of how they will land. This secluded existence is built around the contemplative pursuit of making music. By purchasing this CD, playing their work, and listening, we are granted permission to go with them on an intimate journey of creativity.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END10 May 2018

Various Artists: Structure and Forces

Structure and Forces

Structure and Forces

Various Artists: Structure and Forces
Released: 16 March 2018
www.din.org.uk

It can be hard to explain the appeal of modular synthesizer systems to outsiders. Magnificent in its potential, the work being generated by this group and their gear is far too big to be just one thing (and to easily explain to the commoner). Expansive in its range, the proud topic of the anthology Structure and Forces (66’59”) is sound. Its nine tracks were chosen and ordered by Ian Boddy. While averse to boundaries, Boddy has chosen artists from a select cadre of friends and colleagues – which gives this CD the feel of an album despite the differences in approach and ambition of each contributor. The experience of listening to Structure and Forces will be as equally wondrous to the techno-file as it is the stationary traveler. With no shared system of notation, these pieces are passed to one another by playing and listening… and just as these artists are enraptured by the making of this music, so are we in giving ear. From soul-deep vignette to sonic invective, each musician translates, transforms and wanders through a realm rooted in electrical current. Even passages where little is happening seem suspenseful. Idiosyncratic phrasing and articulation result in further steps toward abstraction, yet the flow of this release may just as easily land us in the comfort of blissful tone and reassuring harmony. At about the midway point the music becomes grounded in rhythm, and we are roused from our synaptic free-form yawn zone with a thought aligning pulsating groove. Mounting percussion echoes into a brave chord progression, drops, then resumes in a regular time signature. But however engaging, this is just a different kind of story of sound. Dedicated to the humanity behind this music Ian Boddy has decades of chapters behind and ahead of him. Structure and Forces (his Tone Science project) reminds us that Electronic Music has never been tied to a single identity, and that neither is it temporary. With its streams of potentially endless variations this genre seems to attract people with an internal clock out of sync with that of society – which these days slips so easily into bored indifference. While its unifying theme is the contemporary modular synthesizer, this machinery is of little importance – when we compare these systems to the works they are used to create.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END3 May 2018

[‘ramp]: no sleep ’til wilmersdorf

no sleep 'til wilmersdorf

no sleep ’til wilmersdorf

[‘ramp]: no sleep ’til wilmersdorf
Released: 3 April 2018
www.parsick.com

In the digital-world, it is possible to achieve perfection – and Stephen Parsick is quite grateful that he is not at all part of this endeavor. The common musician must cede the realm he explores as [‘ramp] and his decades long reckless ride into the unknown. His album no sleep ’til wilmersdorf (75’57”) excites the highest imagination. A thing of beauty, with darkness at its center, this work opens a wide sonic space, invites you in, but remains indifferent. In eight instrumental space fables, conjuring beasts as easily as they do flowers, the music matches its creator’s ambitions quite well. Just because this genre is referred to as Spacemusic, we need not contemplate the meaning of the cosmos to enjoy it. Once you are in step with the spiraling sequencer patterns, ratcheting accents and echoing syncopation of electronic tones, the search for meaning slips away – as we find consolation in all sonic imaginings flowing from out of our speakers. Carrying an undercurrent of doom, uncertain welcomes and wayward spirits, no sleep ’til wilmersdorf is a reflection of our deep disquiet about the world we are building. Human and muscular, mesmerizing patterns and furious colors emerge from a realm of their own – defying comfortable categorization. Everything shimmers in starlight, as ghostly assemblages of drifting electronics, as if fighting gravity, move through sections of stillness. In tempestuous upheavals of sound, then with painterly restraint, prowling bass notes beneath the restless surge of tumbling upper register notes forward march in a study of formal relationships at their most primal. While our attention may leap from synthesizer, to Mellotron, to electric piano, to field recording, the music always showcases Parsick’s masterful understanding of arrangement and navigation. An interconnected mess of components, his music machinery heats up (and maybe even vibrates slightly), producing ethereal tones, full-bodied lead lines, and an entrancing futurism like something out of a dream. It takes a certain kind of individual to appreciate this experience, one of being the only person in this musical space – and liking it… the feeling of solitude, the absence of noise, the possibility of encountering something elemental, or something bigger outside of ourselves. It is the feel of an extraordinary enchantment, as magical as you would expect. So works by [‘ramp] (and other things like it) patiently wait – for our senses to grow sharper. This music has always been thought of as forward thinking – a premonition of the future. But somewhere our world stopped caring about what will come, about the potential of humanity, and more about chasing easy contentment. Although Parsick acknowledges the pitiful sight of a people with a past, but no present, he would not have released no sleep ’til wilmersdorf were it not for a galactic sized optimism. In works of intriguing musings on the intersection of technology and art – Stephen Parsick gives life to the breadth and width of his imagination.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 26 April 2018

Stratosphere: Collaborations I

Collaborations I

Collaborations I

Stratosphere: Collaborations I
Released: 21 April 2018
www.industryeight.com
www.stratosphere.be

In his music project Stratosphere, guitarist Ronald Mariën, creates loop and effect heavy music that drones and burbles, tinkles and undulates, as if acknowledging the fragility of the state it offers. With his album Collaborations I (72’28”) he pairs off with nine other musicians to produce as many tracks in a distinctive range of new music. Mariën provides each collaborator with an atmosphere over which they may lay their signature sounds – each adding something to the effort that Mariën cannot conjure on his own. As ghostly assemblages of drifting guitar textures meet muted synthetic harmonies, we might zone out through whole songs at a time – only to become startled by some pristine sonic detail buried in the mix. In the restless surge of advancing tones the listener may find strength in the stillness – just as easily as the next track unleashes a lava-hot guitar drone “deal-with-it” drum jam. While some efforts do take the ear strangely, Collaborations I also provides enough reassuring ambient thought zones to color the listening space with familiar tones and warm temperatures. In the movement of these masses of sound, and the resulting radiant, translucent conditions, we find a certain comfort in all the openness, space, possibility and even the danger – as each track struggles for its own unity and cohesion.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END   19 April 2018

Skoulaman: Next Step in Evolution

Next Step in Evolution

Next Step in Evolution

Skoulaman: Next Step in Evolution
Released: 31 March 2018
www.groove.nl
www.skoulaman.nl

Whether you came to know the music of Skoulaman by watching the impressive collection of jam sessions and demonstrations on his Youtube channel, or through attending a live show, in the music of Hans van Kroonenburg we will find a pleasing outward motion. His album Next Step in Evolution (77’56”) contains six slow-paced sequencer improvisations that will hold our interest in melody as much as they do our intrigue with the mechanized pulse. That these excellent works were realized in real time live in the studio exhibits van Kroonenburg’s ability (and ear) for working in the heat of a fleeting moment. By concentrating on live concerts he perfected his skills in performance techniques and the musical journey. With its arching melodies and well-developed narrative element, Next Step in Evolution provides a pleasurable, low-wattage drift through an electronic sensory consonance. Setting airy strings next to rapid daubs of echoing arpeggio notes, each track develops and builds variably. Repeating synchronized tone patterns enter, once introduced by reverberant electric piano and luxuriant solo synth leads. By using a range of vintage and modern analog style synthesizers, van Kroonenburg has access to and immediate command over all layers and aspects of the music – as it is happening – yet, has the good artistic sense to occasionally simply stand back and savor an especially interesting pattern or pad that shimmers in the sound space. Next Step in Evolution may be admired for its originality, nevertheless it is still a recognizable continuation of the illustrious tradition of spontaneous composition. As much as he can hold forth in the live setting, it may be that van Kroonenburg’s greatest gift is in just waiting for the sounds to tell him what to do. However, no matter how deeply Skoulaman may become fully absorbed in realizing and conducting this music, were we able to look into his realm, we would find that the only person truly, fully in the magical space he creates are you and I – the listeners.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 April 2018