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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Chuck van Zyl

Jeff Greinke: Before Sunrise

Before Sunrise

Before Sunrise

Jeff Greinke: Before Sunrise
Released: 6 April 2018
www.spottedpeccary.com
www.jeffgreinke.com

An artist cannot really be represented by a single release, but rather is suggested through an accumulation of work. Throughout his lengthy and varied career Jeff Greinke has gone through an evolution – or maybe, because of its length and so many interesting twists and turns, this aspect of his life may be better described as a convolution. While his earlier albums searched through the rubble of the unconscious, Before Sunrise (57’20”) switches from the cerebral to the specific. With the rigorous organization of the interplay of texture, melody and harmony, and stemming from a developed instinct, he organizes Ambient forms to give his creativity a lucid expression. As usual, Greinke approached the task of producing Before Sunrise with a point of view all his own. Due to the presence of cello, clarinet, piano, vibraphone, flute, French horn, violin and viola this release may be thought to fall in the category of Ambient Chamber Music – and certainly, if you like this sort of thing, then you will not be disappointed. But Greinke has always been a musical outsider – not even faintly trying to get inside – and so these eight tracks do retain that feel and integrity to one degree or another. Some sections of Before Sunrise flow like a spiritual quest for life’s meaning, while others celebrate the outlaw life this remote genre of music may support. As the unwinding ribbon of notes from a violin bend plaintively, droning strings support a melodious narration. Further in a wooded wild place materializes, where we wait, under stars, in the cool of night, well in advance of the first sign of dawn. Thickening under a solemn atmosphere, we may feel a nocturnal presence – like something impending. Possessing the capacity to inspire contradictory responses, it is often very gorgeous – this strange and beautiful wayward place of sound. After all these years, decades of making records, Greinke still asks for nothing more than our quiet attention. There is something radical about that, and about such stubborn faith in one’s work – and in us.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 August 2018

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TaboTago: Kymatica

Kymatica

Kymatica

TaboTago: Kymatica
Released: 18 April 2018
www.iapetus-media.com
tabotago.wordpress.com

Bernhard W√∂stheinrich, Andreas von Garnier and Leander Reininghaus are the Spacemusic ceremony celebrants TaboTago. These three minds are a fascinating interconnected machinery. Steeped in the brew of the Berlin-School their album Kymatica (52’12”) conjures well that particular era’s vague air of cosmic mystery. Throwing off currents of nervous, wiry energy this music portrays a specific moment of human interaction. The three musicians concentrate intently on the task before them. As their jam sessions deepen, they becoming oblivious to the rest of the world, which enlarges the sense of real contact and cooperation. Kymatica‘s six skillfully navigated tracks should make it obvious that there are real people involved in the realization of this music, and not a one of these pieces is the result of casual interactions with algorithms or automated applications. As sequencer patterns bolt from the starting line, seemingly with a pack of demons at their backs, Mellotron flutes, strings and choirs sweeten the air with their dulcet strains and affecting harmonies. Further in a discourse for electric guitar and synths has an air of self-interrogation – achieving an uncanny directness. It is an anthem for anyone who has raged alone at the night, sending questions into the darkness. But hearts should always mend by morning, and Kymatica quickly moves beyond the sunrise and back into starlit terrain. Minor-key chords are split apart into mechanistic and echoing arpeggio notes, winding out, then sustaining like an engine in its power zone. Lead lines bring focus to the story of the song, while modulated effects scatter in the wake of locomotion. TaboTago is an innocent wild thing, at the mercy of a ruthlessly predatory species – which is to say we the listeners. Kymatica is much more than the result of transforming an electrical current into sound. This work warns us that the future is out there – unstoppable, and on its way… asking what will it bring? and will we be ready?

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END2 August 2018

Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij: Galaxis

Galaxis

Galaxis

Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij: Galaxis
Released: 31 March 2018
www.gertemmens.nl

Our brain is a predictive organ, constantly guessing what will be coming next. And so throughout Galaxis, the triple CD set from Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij, our minds should feel thoroughly exercised. With Galaxis this long-lived duo offers 14 tracks that demonstrate their range as composers, arrangers and musicians. Overtly a Spacemusic collaboration, this epic release also benefits from ample electro beat box and conventional acoustic drum kit – a rhythm feature that permits this music to access the ideals of the musical mainstream (while never forsaking its cosmic roots). As the energy level builds, Emmens & Heij head out on a reckless ride into the unknown. Sequencer patterns run in machine like precision as full-throated lead lines and penetrating synth harmonies fill out the sonic story. Their spacier tracks offer a magnificent directness. As oscillators detune and phase, modulated effects chirp, flitter and glitter, then recede into the distance. With long lines of held notes we search for a path along an undulating arc of reverie. Lulled by an otherworldly calmness, the listener drifts on these vibrating currents – drawn easily above the shifting timbral expanse. Throughout this growing density a slowly building ethereal energy may be felt. Churning, shimmering sounds flow together into a sweeping resonance, then are displaced by a new and equally novel airy form. Cosmically complex yet microscopically intricate these zones meant to spark our imagination exposes the purity and calm of two electronic souls. While Galaxis may be promoted as having something for everyone, how much better to consider this diverse offering as an invitation to embrace and appreciate the many moods and ideas of which this unique genre is capable. Beautiful and strange, quietly profound, then rocking and charged, every piece evokes an inner experience through the artful shaping of sound. In its forward thinking, this kind of music has always been about making the future, an activity that at one time took place outside of science fiction. But, as some truths are better told in sound, the purpose of this music now might lie in its ability to help us just survive the present.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END26 July 2018

In the Branches + Bluetech: Behind the Sky

Behind the Sky

Behind the Sky

In the Branches + Bluetech: Behind the Sky
Released: 8 June 2018
www.behindtheskymusic.com

Whirling through the halls like a wild wind Behind the Sky (60’54”) offers the listener relief from the plight of The World. In the Branches + Bluetech ask nothing more than our quiet attention, as unpredictable swerves and drifts of their conversation apply logic to sonic symbols. Dedicated electronic tinkerers Shane Cotee and Evan Bartholomew work through their influences to achieve an uncanny directness. A realization for large forces Behind the Sky offers seven scenes of a vital analytic gravity. Thanks to the musicians’ subtly heightened, fiercely focused energies, this album advances, not at the speed you would expect of space travel, but at a rate determined by the motion of atmospheric fronts. Each section is quite distinct, moving each into its own collective texture. Sounds are quietly yet forcefully flung at the listener. In a rush of darkness, thoughts dissolve into a waking prayer – each track a moment of authentic inner expression. Round synthesizer tones form consonant melodies, slowly praising the beautiful unknown. Cycling notes echo through reverberation, uncoiling over cloud covered landmarks – as spare guitar strings ring under heavens lit by stars. Masses swell and expand then recede into less reckless zones. Conductive to thinking, Behind the Sky is yet excitingly alive. In an outflow of music there must be something more than what is called force. There must too be distinction, and a rarity of feeling. Waiting for a sign in the sky, or a word from the stars, Cotee and Bartholomew express the soft fire of collaborative moments, and the elation of transcendence between the terrestrial and the interstellar.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END19 July 2018

Robert Rich & Markus Reuter: Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018

Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018

Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018

Robert Rich & Markus Reuter: Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018
Released: 4 July 2018
www.robertrich.com
www.markusreuter.com

People pray in a church. On 19 May 2018 Robert Rich & Markus Reuter played in a church, and did something that was truly new. Their program for The Gatherings Concert Series merged the aesthetics of Classical Music with the profanity of improvisation; as this duo did not just acknowledge the mystery of existence, they celebrated it. Their album Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018 presents the full concert – where Rich performed at the grand piano and Reuter with his Touch Guitar and digital processing before a rapt Philadelphia audience. Some audiences sing along, or clap, while others may drink, dance, sway or bob. Symphony attendees read the conductor’s notes. At The Gatherings we listen, which provided Rich & Reuter with an opening to delve deeper into a new set of explorations – of a magic they had first encountered in the making of their 2017 studio album Lift a Feather to the Flood. These guys know all the notes, chords, scales, majors and minors. Yet the works found on Flood Expeditions are about the subtle power of sound – not for decorating the live space, but for a glimpse into something spiritual. With its ever-fading atmospheric tones and digital haze their realizations may seem a formless vacuum, yet everything is balanced by optimism. Rich’s piano notes resound through reverberation, surrounded by surreal fluttering environmental textures. Whether playing the keys seated, or reaching into the piano to pluck, scrape and strum its inner workings, he seems to produce emanations from a lifetime of receiving and expressing wonder. Reuter waits deep in the soundscape to find many electric moments. His guitar first breathes lowly, then asserts a color of succinct distortion in heated lead lines, expanding soon into ethereal consonance. Using a uniquely routed echo, he even manages to wedge in a conversation with himself. Rather than root the audience to where they sit, together Rich & Reuter transport us to an immaterial realm – where an internal guidance awakens. This music represents something outside of ourselves, upon which we project our thoughts and contemplations. There are no instructions for listening to Flood Expeditions, there is only the sensation of hearing. As we endeavored to hear their message in the darkened sanctuary this performance reminded us of the nature of possibility – of what we can become. But Robert Rich & Markus Reuter cannot play us into the answers, we must live into them ourselves.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 July 2018

Meg Bowles: Evensong: Canticles for the Earth

Evensong: Canticles for the Earth

Evensong: Canticles for the Earth

Meg Bowles: Evensong: Canticles for the Earth
Released: 22 June 2018
www.megbowlesmusic.com

Meg Bowles makes us vulnerable to the beauty of our planet. In doing so, she shares something of herself with us. With each album release she is becoming new herself – in ways that matter. Evensong: Canticles for the Earth (63’13”) is a beautiful original, with echoes of the greats. It is rapturous music that grants us passage into a fair land where worry follows us no more. The seven soundscapes afford space for both melodic pleasure and probing reflection. Verdant harmonies, spacey modulations and lustrous tones float through these tracks, but what lingers is the overall aura. While beautiful synthesized chords and effects drift randomly between tones and textures, rounded string pads extend above a dramatic rumbling darkening realm. Along with its ethereal choirs, murmuring bass and delicate atmospheres, Evensong: Canticles for the Earth also offers glowing bursts of energy – yet it still feels like a refuge. In an engaging, converging arrangement of sounds Bowles exerts a force on our imagination. Blurry chords of keyboard tones and the occasional gently pulsating sequencer pattern provide sleek propulsion across shimmering sonic terrain, the musical equivalent of crossing a majestic landscape, over the earth and beneath the stars. Playing with an unforced tenderness and warmth, Bowles tries to help connect the listener with terrestrial currents. But as reassuring as this work is it does remind us that we live with many questions. People seek certainty and meaning, but all the world seems to give us is ambiguity. That is because the Earth lives in its own kind of deep time, moving at a rate we cannot comprehend. So better we embrace the beauty and impermanence of the human condition, celebrate the mystery and the unknowing of life, and add our voice to the chorus of humanity.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END5 July 2018

Hotel Neon: Means of Knowing

Means of Knowing

Means of Knowing

Hotel Neon: Means of Knowing
Released: 14 May 2018
archivesdubmusic.bandcamp.com
www.hotelneonmusic.com

Hotel Neon decorates our condition with music. They draw on old photos, crumbling landscapes, mythic archetypes and their own restless sonic imaginations to realize albums that seem less made than discovered. As if plucked from the cultural ether and given color, voice and form, Means of Knowing is a work for large forces. Offering the audience relief from the plight of Mankind, if this release suffers from anything, it is that, in delivering that ease, it is, at times, almost too gorgeous for its own good. Their work moves, not at the rate you would expect for Ambient Music, but at a speed determined by the motion of atmospheric eddies – like the turbulence of refracted effects on unresolved distant sources. Thanks to the players’ subtly heightened, fiercely focused energies, Means of Knowing resounds with emotional and intellectual acuity. Using primarily electric guitars and a synthesizer, the occasional addition of field recordings or room noise adds a dimension of place. With pure harmonics spiraling around us, sound seems to hang in the air, at once diffused and enriched. Routed through various levels and kinds of processing, the vibrating steel strings of their instruments blur into interference fringes, the result of unique sonic diffraction or subtle distortion. Below this vague churning mass, electronic emanations hold forth in a foundation of low-lying drones. Across 12 waking prayers Hotel Neon’s studied imaginings have a tug of an inescapable gravity. Evoking a feeling of somber introspection, some pieces are as still as death, in a representation of the eternally forlorn. Black as winter branches, these passages deepen quietly, with a ghostly flourish and the rush of darkness. Here a frost wrought stillness mingles with the void. Later, the sound of a rough edge on a surface tugs from the edges, echoing and pulling attention away from the center. Further in, tracks gradually evolve into an intense aural field. Finally stretching across all instrument ranges, the expanse of notes becomes so large that the collective layering of instruments are treated as one single entity – just texture, loudness and tension. As the spell unravels, we shield our eyes – with the night yielding once more to day. As warm as sunlight on your face, a winged spirit does rise in day glow tones. This taming is a quieter action that calls upon us to grow. In addition to being masterfully made, Means of Knowing is an honest exploration of human qualities. Some will find it a balm for the troubles and griefs that pull people together, while others will use it simply to still the wheels of an over-worked mind. Hotel Neon lends enduring form to the stuff of their lives. You sense their sound on the skin, but feel it in your gut.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END28 June 2018