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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Contemporary Instrumental

Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen: Weathering the Storm

Weathering the Storm

Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen: Weathering the Storm
Released: 17 February 2023
www.spottedpeccary.com

Craig Padilla and Marvin Allen are forecasters of a new and better tomorrow. Weathering the Storm (61:13) is their third collaboration of guitar and synth sonic statements – where again ambient space seems to become a physical location. Revealing itself across eight tracks this release conjures a range of aural atmospheres and complex climates. As ever changing layers of lush synthesized sounds and tight sequencer runs enlarge the listening space, tight guitar leads rise, fall and focus along a ribbon of electric melody. With each passing piece we become exposed to different intensities of mood and variations in tone. From bright motion-filled sonic landscapes and blissed-out plush textures, to overcast hollows of twilight realms, Padilla and Allen guide us safely through their well-crafted thought zones. Moving between the soothing, the unsettling, and the fiery, Weathering the Storm coaxes raindrops of melodic narrative from storm clouds of harmonic drama – playing out as a thousand beautiful dreams burn softly within. Whenever the maddening muffled beating of drums moves us passed the control of known forces, sputtering sparks of cycling note patterns restore us to the engine-room of the mind, and its shades of soft-hued introspection. Like wind walking quietly away from the tempest Weathering the Storm tells us that behind the clouds something incredible is waiting to be known. Made with human hands and hearts it is an album from two of the well-lived, well-loved, and well-played.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END 2 February 2022

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Forrest Fang: The Lost Seasons of Amorphia

The Lost Seasons of Amorphia

Forrest Fang: The Lost Seasons of Amorphia
Released: 4 November 2022
www.projekt.com

Forrest Fang treats the mind as an area of activation – a dense meaning-space where each of us experiences subjective reality. Exceptionally rendered, his The Lost Seasons of Amorphia (68:48) offers an encounter with some superior realm of the psyche. Intricately balanced, invariably surprising, in a density of detail Fang plays the music of the world he knows. From lulling dreamscapes and somnambulant bliss to the vigorous whorl of sharply conceived moments his studio and its implements provide plenty of room for inventiveness. Each of the seven tracks seem like a drama unto itself. In an abundance of color and presence the sounds and notes tell us something about the space they are resounding through. Sensuously swollen shapes recede into a soft-focus mood under points of starlight clustering in vastness. Measured and finely modulated, scene after scene are calculated to colonize the listening mind. Some will hear melodies in the dancing, pulsing rhythms – as seductive percussion runs shift the shape of the palpitating drive – while others will be more attracted to the explorations of fabric and form, structure and tonality, timbre and pacing. In a unique intermingling of acoustic instruments and those more overtly electronic, patterned compositions float along an arc of lustrous synth tones and gently resounding gu-zheng, gongs and gamelan. Pushing through a dreamy, verdant realm we recognize this album’s sheen, unanimity and teeming complexities. So where does this music really come from? Is it from a region to our North, South, East or West? Is it from another world? …or from the future? The Lost Seasons of Amorphia is alternately dark and intense, dense and impenetrable, gentle and delicate, and ultimately conjures an atmosphere under which the truth of the composer is briefly known – as Forrest Fang continues to beautifully reveal himself to us one album at a time.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END10 November 2022

subtractiveLAD: Minor Deities

Minor DeitiesStephen Hummel

subtractiveLAD: Minor Deities
Released: 7 October 2022
www.subtractiveLAD.com

Culminating the passions of a mind in motion subtractiveLAD (aka Stephen Hummel) commends to the world 11 pieces – 11 transporting fantasies from his Minor Deities (76:02). Stepping inside (where we will not contemplate the life of this artist, but rather the ideas that drive it) this release makes audible an internal frequency of truth. In a track by track breakdown we find that each one seems different in makeup. Yet something indescribable joins them together into a weave of complexly connected stories. Utilizing mesmerizing colors, patterns and textures Hummel conjures an electro-rush immediacy with craftsman-like proficiency and attention to detail. Charting a course of subtle emotions Minor Deities delivers a strange mix of sensations: apprehension, fixation, wonder, gratitude – slowed down into a fantasy of coiled up power. Dark and measured, borne by its own momentum, further in the unstable material rises in reckless motion. Ethereal choirs and strings offer certainty while elsewhere sinister chords swell in gentle sonic turbulence. From synth jams and whispering ambience to surreal stillness and tender melodic engagement, this album captures a range of beautiful, elusive moods. In one corner a rising sequencer run leads us to space, then disperses into stardust heavens. Another zone produces a fragile twilight atmosphere of fragility and repose. Taking flight in various imaginative manipulations of sound, lilting piano notes and heavenly vocalize enchant the dreamy drama – easing these electronic scenes in a remarkable chill. Music of this quality can move us toward something higher at the best of times, or at the very least exist as a reminder of our collective human potential, creativity, and spirituality. Minor Deities deserves that the act of listening be an act of intelligence – with the listener truly attending and adoring what they are hearing.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END27 October 2021

Ian Boddy: Coil

Coil

Ian Boddy: Coil
Released: 14 October 2022
www.din.org.uk

Contemporary EM is rife with the rapid and the vapid. The work of Ian Boddy has always risen above such wreckage by taking on poignant extra dimensions. The studio release Coil (39:19) is a partnership of ear, mind and hand – of listening, conception and touch – qualities that distinguishes all of his work. An album of six electrical episodes, a hexad of dreamy brain games, it ventures along interior frontiers in an involved tangle of instrumental polyphony. Adorned with grace notes of murderous intent as well as tender timbres of splendor the listener bears the paradox of mutability. Yet further in, supple tracks cool this flame and help harmonize the systems-based rigor of minimalism with the impulsive beauty of sonic invention. In the reflections and refractions of sound this stylistically restless release exudes both technical prowess and artistic vision. Eruptive and exacting, then spare and starry-eyed, Coil holds us in a particular awed fascination. On a few compositions Boddy seems more interested in the heat of the beat than in its meaning. These passages rumble and rattle their way forward beneath echoing pulse patterns. Sonics gradually rise in intensity before discharging in a deluge of dancing arpeggios. Sweeping, swelling, pumping bass and synth themes wind out in the deep dark of blackening space. Shifting sequencer patterns escalate the mood through a series of heroic progressions. Jumping from one key to another the pace careens and beckons the listener to follow the reeling transfers. As night falls the music wanes in transparency. Shadows hold their breath. In a display of tones, textures and skills Boddy’s effort here becomes a mirror – as Coil revels in the flawed, fleeting beauty of the present moment. Remembering yesterday, while writing the story of tomorrow, this interweaving of atmosphere, texture, mood and feeling has been overseen by a rouge spirit – heard glowing and growing within his superb gift to the world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 October 2022

Robert Rich/Luca Formentini: For Sundays When It Rains

For Sundays When It Rains

Robert Rich/Luca Formentini: For Sundays When It Rains
Released: 30 September 2022
www.robertrich.com
www.unguitar.com

On For Sundays When It Rains (57:10) Robert Rich & Luca Formentini collaborate to elevate all those who will listen. Within these twelve chilled spaces imaginations grow. Our inner realm feels flooded with warmth and light, while the world around us turns steadily towards tomorrow. Their placid moods breathe dark then light. Speaking in clean chords and lilting melodies, the listener feels an honesty that few musicians are capable of calling forth. This album does not push against limits, but rather roams around easily inside of us – between the mind and the heart. In the interweaving of atmosphere, texture and mood notes of cloudy flute settle above reverberant grand piano. The subtle sweeps of contrast keep you attentive and charmed, yet For Sundays When It Rains is consistently inventive while it wanders through an enlightened field of form and invention. As delicate acoustic guitar rambles amid soft sighs of airy lightness, timeless tones of untold space consume idyllic scenes. Overseen by two rouge spirits, this release reveals a truth about Rich & Formentini. We must admire this duo’s ability to empty our thoughts of everything other than the music itself – as what appears to be just a few spare keys and chords conjures a remarkably detailed interior realm. In a high sonic style they access mysterious influences to form a singular stillness outside the neutrality of basic Ambient Music. Taking the listeners as well as the players into its confidence, this music seems formed over a night of balmy dreams and friendly visitations – as it waits patiently For Sundays When It Rains.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END29 September 2022

Alanis Morissette: the storm before the calm

the storm before the calm Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette: the storm before the calm
Released: 17 June 2022
www.thirtytigers.com
www.alanis.com

In an age where even the space of thought is at risk, where speaking is held over listening, Alanis Morissette submits a bold, beautiful, musical mind-zone of an album. Her release the storm before the calm (106:38) hopes to challenge stories that are false with better stories – stories in which people want to live. These eleven starlit works mean to reach out and touch the night, yet go much further – extending well into the hearts and minds of all those who will lend an ear. Morissette brings to this adventure a background in popular music, which has been switched off to accommodate the more languorous compositional arc and open-ended, multi-instrumental soft jams that populate the storm before the calm. Joined in this project by several other musicians, along with Morissette’s wordless vocals and feeling flute we will notice an intelligent mix of processed guitars, seductive percussion, spacey organs, ambient synths, gentle piano, dreamy vibes, subtle electronics and a host of other exotic instruments – painstakingly combined into a substantial sustaining sphere of sound. Serenely sweet sonics travel so deliberately that our awareness of time seems to stretch. In measured motion each track builds. With long chords emerging out of an aura of reverberation we may imagine a vast expanse. Entrancing abstraction yields to a stream of transformations, with optimism and artistry fully present throughout every moment. While contrasting tones are carefully arranged to direct attention inward, the sections of higher energy attract the front edge of our senses. These expressively played strong moments give way to passages of slow burning brightness, and an argument for the future becomes clear. For those who feel like ghosts wandering a world that has grown alien, the storm before the calm will make sense. We listen to Morissette’s moving music, but hear her message. Lit by tomorrow’s sun, she tells of life under a different light – and an age of calm where every existence knows meaning and truth.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END15 September 2022

Ian Boddy & Erik Wollo: Revolve

Revolve

Ian Boddy & Erik Wollo: Revolve
Released: 16 September 2022
www.din.org.uk

Night occurs while our side of the planet is facing away from the sun. During the darkness it may be easier to view the moon above studying us here on the surface – and receive the potential and possibilities La Luna brings us. Also perfectly happy traveling their own orbits Ian Boddy and Erik Wollo have changed trajectory just long enough to make Revolve (51:38) – a studio set of climactic chords, bewitching themes and richly arrayed wonders of rhythm and pulse. In a compulsively detailed mix of moods and impressions this duo pulls toward a hard chill. Across eight tracks momentum rises and falls in measured motion. Swirling under a circulation of synthetic sound, harmonies play and progress in a concord of affecting chromatic steps. Passing through assorted effects, Wøllo’s lead lines are poignant, ethereal and elegant – conjuring zones and tones known to few of his guitar contemporaries. Supporting the swell and contraction of scale we find Boddy’s passagework underpinning the luxurious lyricism. While shifting sequencer patterns run through a series of imaginative progressions, heart-felt strains and refrains unfurl in a rising ribbon of silvery silk. The direction theses tunes take is ever upward, with each resolution redolent of the future this music promises. Their sonics feel less supplied than turned loose. In one place exuding an ambient melancholy, then further in hitting the listener hard with expertly marshalled beats and grooves, a rapt, expectant air of exuberance vents. As voluptuous melodies become embedded in spacey structures the energy level rises by scalar steps. The back and forth between Boddy and Wollo shows a reflective tenderness. This heart-first doubleton derives meaning from simple forms, vague vibrations, and the unknown energies collaboration may release. Their magnificent album has been so carefully constructed that by the time the concluding notes bring us back to ourselves we are ready and willing to truly listen. Revolve feels from outside our own time. It speaks to an era – an era that has yet to come.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END8 September 2022

Erik Wollo: Inversions

Inversions

Erik Wollo: Inversions
Released: 20 May 2022
www.projekt.com
www.wollo.com

Characterized by its simplicity and clarity Inversions (30:46) feels true to life. Here Erik Wøllo has managed to record seven gentle, soul-strengthening pieces of a quality more profound and resonant than most artists working in a similar vein. Spontaneously conceived and executed by conducting the output of his electric guitar into digital devices and effects this kind of improvising requires just as much listening as it does playing. The impulsive quality also notes a disarming honesty – an unfiltered truth. It is with great care and taste that Wøllo casts his tender spell of beauty. In just the right mixture of the earthly and the celestial he provides promising moments of affecting sentiment – that taken together convey a singular message. In a tone florid and rounded Inversions confers an aura of perpetually becoming. This collection of spacey slow burners gains slight bursts of color as ideas flow melodiously, rising out of experimental inclinations. A misty melancholy permeates as Wøllo charts a descent into darkness, and back. Coarse then sweet, timbre, melody and harmony divide our attention. Here and there the fog lifts a little bit, and we find reeling stars and midnight things. In an orchestra of looping lines a mournful lead line flickers like a lonely candle in the wind of time. Then the embattled twilight succumbs to a re-invasion of shadows. Listening our way through to the back end of evening we will notice that this musical spellwork is driven less by technology than it is by yearning and resignation – the most remote of all circuitry. Throughout these minimal passages and entrancing transformations the slightest gesture becomes much more significant. By avoiding the long and formless Wøllo builds an enjoyable ambient charisma of minute detail. The sound surface changes from feathery to hard edged, evoking a landscape terrain as surely as it does the amorphous aether above it. For the duration of this release the tone is intimate, but then so is the scale – a rare and cherishable quality in Spacemusic. Inversions presents a beguiling sonic sense – so much so that we owe it proof that we will one day become as free and as open as it asks us to be.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 25 August 2022

David Helpling: In

In David Helpling

David Helpling: In
Released: 15 April 2022
www.spottedpeccary.com
www.davidhelpling.com

The David Helpling double album In presents 13 tracks of new and beautifully original Contemporary Instrumental music. Bringing a wealth of thought-provoking complexity to these calming and pleasing works Helpling drifts between sonorous soundscapes and twilight worlds, to synthetic cinema sonnets and animated blooms of mood. Along this knowing arc of artistic vision, luminous synthesizer tones and chords, with electric guitar patterns and swells, sound out his musical voice. With clarity and simplicity being the dominating philosophy, Helpling builds out some pieces with guest artists. Nidhi Bhatmuley, Matthew Schoening, Miriam Stockley and Benjy Wertheimer lend aid in the portrayal of a realm lit by sun, moon and stars, made new by sound and spirit. While some songs feature tight arrangements of clean melodies and harmonies over determined beats, further along our journey In the focus shifts away from rhythm, phrasing and pacing, and more toward atmosphere and texture. Where these sustained moods offer repose and contemplation, amidst lightness and hope Helpling does explore the more refined and elegant timbres of his instruments. The sonic designs which emerge out this tonalist dream are in constant motion – heated by the urgent force of a timeless and elegant music. The cumulative effect is genuinely grand.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END21 April 2022

Erik Wollo: Sojourns

Sojourns Erik Wollo 2021

Erik Wollo: Sojourns
Released: 4 February 2022
www.projekt.com
www.wollo.com

Over his many years of music-making Erik Wollo has developed a striking, elegant vocabulary – which explains the lasting wonderment of his work. Sojourns (62’05”) casts ten lush arrangements brimming with promise. An extension of secret thought, here the most dramatic shifts are of the emotional kind. With melodies as immaculate as ever the liquid articulation of electric guitar arches upward in a studied sensitivity. The ascending and descending progressions of scales play out in a staggered staccato of sequencer patterns. The pulse, sometimes hesitant, remains alert, and Sojourns travels fleetly even while weighted in detail. A faint underlying rhythm drifts from the sonically spectral to the expressively enigmatic. A prowling arpeggio echoes in hollowed-out harmonies mysteriously suspended between major and minor. Further in, the withdrawn atmosphere gives way to the tempestuous, as the mood swings softly from one piece to the next. Fragile and hesitant, leisurely and contemplative, then bursting with exuberance, these compositions are among Wollo’s most clearheaded. As the materiality of the instruments disappears, we forget all about the smooth, shimmering synthesizers, and the steel strings of the guitar – about the tools it takes to produce such a sound. The cooly controlled performance and studio atmosphere gives way to a beautiful dream logic – a kind of beauty which always passes too quickly. These messages of personal expression speak to those who still listen. From out of a profound electronic imagination comes the subject of intimacy. This project is jubilant and exploratory, and maintains an irresistible momentum. On many moonlit journeys Sojourns will be the album you reach for first.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END3 February 2022