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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Contemporary Instrumental

Neuland: Neuland

Neuland

Neuland

Neuland: Neuland
Released: 22 November 2019
www.neuland.net

The self-titled debut by Neuland may be based on the 1970s Berlin-School, but it narrates from the future. Neuland unites two of Germany’s most prominent and established synthesists: Peter Baumann and Paul Haslinger. The pairing brings out the best each has to offer. Baumann & Haslinger have a great deal in common. They both independently rose to icon status – catalyzing the contemporary synth community – through their work with Tangerine Dream and in significant solo projects. On Neuland two monuments to our scene offer fresh insight into the energetic realm located somewhere above Spacemusic but just below Prog-Rock. Fortunately for intelligent listeners their pursuits are beyond that of the commercial audience. Freely exhibiting a musical vision and technological talent this duo lights up the neural pathways – and leads us on a substantial listening experience. In a swirl of synthesizers a tumbling latticework of echoing notes dance along scales of minor key textures. Sequencers fire like mental mechanisms – to better align thought and mood toward a more positive current. These neatly built pattern exercises provide a hurtling onrushing quality. As electronic harmonies rise and fall, in light and dark tones, an unexpected beauty emerges. In their building, slow-burning spacey anthems lush harmonies sigh and whisper a celestial concord. Chords change keys and the sound fills out. While being completely instrumental, the music somehow manages to speak in a human vocabulary. With each ribbon of melody unfurling, the drama of the song unfolds. By playing this album you are agreeing to hear a story. Rigorously composed and realized, these 15 tracks across two CDs attest to Neuland‘s tendency to interact with the world in the image of their dreams and nightmares. Animated by the power of melody to convey emotions this work stands strong against the cynicism that tears at the fabric of modern life – and reminds us that we all still have our own feelings, questions and fears. This debut is a vivid mind trip on headphones – and knows that the deeper we go within ourselves, the better we may connect with the rest of humanity.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END2 January 2020

Forrest Fang: Ancient Machines

Ancient Machines

Ancient Machines

Forrest Fang: Ancient Machines
Released: 2 December 2019
www.projekt.com
www.forrestfang.com

What is Forrest Fang doing for this world? With the release of Ancient Machines (73’06”) he asks us to hear what he hears. By listening to this album we take our first steps into a larger realm – a zone expressly for those desiring to encounter things outside of themselves. These new territories are reached with each of his successive efforts. The 11 luminous, graceful, self-assured tracks found on Ancient Machines seek a timeless space. Reconnecting us with life as it should be this music thrives. The most absorbing material may be compositions that feature violin or piano, which have been plucked, picked, bowed, struck or strummed. Propelled gently by tempo energy their voice and structure heaves under atmospheric weight. In a simultaneous sounding of tones a feeling of rest, of no need for further resolution is produced. Yet on some realizations clashing frequencies produce mildly moody results. A balance of opposing tensions, the connection between disparate sounds may lead us to better connect with unfamiliar ideas. In a slowing that sinks us back in time each piece is an exploitation of carefully chosen and contrasted tonal qualities. Under a building torrent of reverberating electronics this tech-tinged hybrid work seems from a primitive past, somehow beamed to the present day. With its masterful emotive shading Ancient Machines will be good for listeners, and even better for dreamers. Synthetic sonorities are combined with groupings of acoustic sounds and instruments in a specifically composed manner – and form a unity so as to convey the message of the artist. In a blend of art and technology he arranges timbres, pitches, and rhythms in a way so well that it stirs the emotions of the listener. All musical activity by Forrest Fang is the reproduction of the world that surrounds him, by means of the world that is within him – recreated in a personal form and an original manner. As for the listener, meaning is elusive… out where this music’s thousand dreams softly burn.

– Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END26 December 2019

Skoulaman: Fluxes in Philadelphia

Fluxes in Philadelphia

Fluxes in Philadelphia

Skoulaman: Fluxes in Philadelphia
Released: 26 October 2019
www.groove.nl
www.skoulaman.nl

The Dutch Electronic Musician Hans van Kroonenburg chooses to make his life bigger through playing concerts as Skoulaman, and ours richer through the act of listening. His Fluxes in Philadelphia (71’45”) extends the fleeting connection of the concert venue through a live CD. Recorded on 18 May 2019 as part of The Gatherings Concert Series it reaches moods and emotions that a less adventurous contemporary instrumental music could ever possibly touch. Seated in the pews during this confident performance it was hard to recall the existential emptiness of modern life just beyond the reverberating sanctum. The seven tracks found on Fluxes in Philadelphia are examples of the Skoulaman live dynamic at its peak – living in the flow of the moment and simply playing to those assembled from the heart. With still sustaining synth pads supporting interlocked sequencer blips, rising keyboard lead lines converse with electric piano. In the ambient, more reflective zones the mind flows inward – with the focused, melodic, rhythmic sections leading us on a journey outward. When stirring up metallic glitter analogue synthesizers breathe ethereal tones. In an instant we hear the lyrical rush and rumbling of a coming time. With its celestial choirs, growling pads and delicate textures this work portrays a certain amount of drama – yet its delightful acceleration never disturbs the friendly and contemplative feel. With the sound expanded on two tracks by local electric guitarist Harrison McKay, the Skoulaman show took flight in midnight swirls and cloud nine bliss – and demonstrates the rare thing that may be felt when a unique talent, receptive audience and reverential air all converge in a unique sanctuary setting. This is a realization that could never be the mere distillation of several classics, as the unique and supportive atmosphere contributed so significantly. The conditions under which this music was made are of a factor that can never be replicated – a one-time-only moment for Skoulaman to hold forth and make his statement. Those at the performance could see the joy this man took in the act of playing music and creating something new. Through the release of Fluxes in Philadelphia everyone may now hear this joy. This event and album reminds us that the world is still full of beauty and kindness – and the musical realm Skoulaman creates is a place we should all aspire to live in.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 December 2019

David Helpling: Rune

Rune

Rune

David Helpling: Rune
Released: 22 November 2019
www.spottedpeccary.com

David Helpling tells stories with a cool skill. We should take to listening to his release Rune (67’55”) just before bed, because it feels built of pre-dream sweetness and of that familiar longing for adventure. Its eight tracks weave their way into your mind – each providing a pleasurable atmosphere within which to dwell. Both deeply felt and elegantly played Rune is disarming in its subtle tonal shifts. Taking a calm stance, from his electric guitar Helpling elicits works of languorous introspection. Exploring the possibilities of playing his instrument through the endless delay of digital processors he designs a rich and varied palette of textures and tones – which makes for a constantly renewed musical interest. Along with the looping riffs, sustaining leads and studies in slide guitar Helpling also deploys grace-filled vibrating metal chords and shimmering steel string structures flung toward the sky. Riding the tides of sonic seas, this work shifts in currents of harmonic motion. Textures thicken, and we become enthralled in the revealing depths of solemn and unfrequented regions. Helpling’s imagination carries these performances, which are often beautiful, even breathtaking. Rune will be well-received by the ears and hold fast to the heart. Beneath his album’s slick surfaces there is an insistent humanity – an understanding of the greater whole of which his music is a part.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 28 November 2019

Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Tim Story: Lunz 3

Lunz 3

Lunz 3

Hans-Joachim Roedelius & Tim Story: Lunz 3
Released: 30 June 2019
www.curiousmusic.us
www.roedelius.com
www.timstory.com

Lunz 3 (69’23”) makes our collection of contemporary music one masterpiece richer. Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Tim Story do sound great on their own, but transcendent together. Through a unique intuition their collaboration leaves enough room not only for one another, but also for moments of tenderness and light. It is a dream team-up that is by turns searching enough to elicit some head-scratching, yet gutting enough to bring a listener to tears – sometimes in the span of a single composition. In the yawn of years since the issue of the original Lunz (2002) this duo has strived to become more worthy of their craft. Lunz 3, bathed in the autumnal light of time remembered, is partly a studio re-imagining of the earlier tracks, but to some extent a fresh new endeavor. Building on ideas and themes from the prior release, Roedelius and Story easily re-inhabit the gentle gravity of their Ambient Chamber Music. The musical gestures encountered here again feel straightforward and uncomplicated. By combining vague classical influences with weightless spacemusic, they conjure up a safe zone – an odd area where the notes may stay the same but their meaning is ever changing. With the pianos, cellos and violins engaging in lovely melodic substance, an ethereal sonic invention adds instruction-less puzzles. Bringing fragrance into the listener’s solitude an imaginative assortment of samples, gentle distortion and other detailed effects move these 18 key-centered pieces, by root progressions, each to their own perfect resolution. With wit and wisdom in every tone Roedelius and Story realize their quiet, hand-played works. Fundamental is the thought that people may be reached, that beauty can make a difference. Due to its expansive promise their music seems inexhaustible – as the musicians and their listeners are constantly seeking more from it. Lunz 3 opens a rare space for peace, thought and warmth. It is as powerfully effective as instrumental storytelling gets – flowing with the solemn, blissful insistence of life itself. From a slow chill and friendly sweetness, to the feeling of leaving Earth, or even the sense of coming home, for the duration of this album we get to live in a realm that we can make sense of.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 September 2019

Markus Reuter: Monde trilogy

Monde vol 1

Monde vol 1

Markus Reuter: the Monde trilogy
Released: May/June/July 2019
www.iapetus-media.com
www.markusreuter.com

Modern times are not conducive to delicacy, so Markus Reuter‘s Monde trilogy may seem an indulgence – too luxurious and attuned to the long-view of life to have much of a message. Yet, past its overt calm we may feel something urgent running beneath this music’s smooth surface. Each one of the three disc set’s 27 tracks feels newborn, yet somehow ghosts beckon from every piece. On the Monde trilogy Reuter reclaims those silvery strands from the neglect of New Age and Ambient Music, and weaves them into an atmosphere so sensuous that we may easily lose ourselves within, but of such potency that we may just as easily find our self once inside. The sedated, softly sonorous string sounds, derive their sonic bloom from a learned balance of intuition and restraint – which Reuter commands after decades of studio experimentation and concert execution. His realizations were made in real-time performances with an electric guitar, and the associated processing effects, under quiet listening conditions. In touch with streams of creativity powering his mind, by way of the currents of electricity running through his guitar, Reuter’s compositions are honed, but not overworked. He has designed a gorgeous palette of textures and tones, arranged in pastoral consonance – which makes for our constantly renewed aural interest. From a single point of charged spark, to an expanse of the ether, this music shines in the brilliance of its imaginative scope. Aligning with the values of good Spacemusic it bestows a mental state that runs counter to that of the world outside. So long as we remain open to the seduction of Monde‘s understated drama and beautiful natural sound, may we enter its eerie darkness, to return later… up through reassuring light.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 July 2019

Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen: Toward the Horizon

Toward the Horizon

Toward the Horizon

Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen: Toward the Horizon
Released: 22 February 2019
www.spottedpeccary.com
www.craingpadilla.com

Synthesist Craig Padilla and guitarist Marvin Allen are dreaming a different dream than most Spacemusic philosophers. Throughout the collaboration Toward the Horizon we may hear that which is lighting so brightly inside their heads. As messages fly, ideas flower and synapses snap through the web of electrical circuits across the brain, each mind comes to life in collective play. As so much is riding in every composition, this duo’s sound becomes emotionally all-encompassing. Along its six track route Toward the Horizon grows gradually wider and more personal, until this work has thoroughly expanded into our listening space. Small at first, each piece initially feels narrowly contained, but soon rushes passionately wider. In tightly controlled performance this music thickens, to convey the joy of living, but also shades of solitude and doubt. We hear Allen’s strummed chords climbing slowly above Padilla’s warm electronics, as steely echoing guitar plays against the pulse of gentle sequencer patterns. Dark tumultuous textures act as contrast against this album’s drifting strings, reverberant synths and buzzing synthetic chords. But further in, a rumbling soundmass advances beneath glissando guitar lines and grainy sweeping pads; while further out, slow flow zones oscillate in swarms of glittering points. On the horizon Padilla and Allen can see the future approaching, knowing that somewhere in this distance shines a better day. Toward the Horizon is an album by men of deep mind, two who use music to renew their sense of wonder – and play us into someplace just short of the hereafter, but far beyond tomorrow.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END4 July 2019

Byron Metcalf/Mark Seelig: Persistet Visions

Persistent Visions

Persistent Visions

Byron Metcalf/Mark Seelig: Persistent Visions
Released: 15 March 2019
www.projekt.com

It would seem that anyone with a heartbeat could find something of themselves in Persistent Visions (71:03) by Byron Metcalf & Mark Seelig. In its news from the frontiers of consciousness we all should be able to find a pulse. Turning cerebral mechanisms Metcalf’s drumming patterns are accompanied by Seelig’s skyward flute tones. A sense of gradual momentum, neither outward nor inward, declares its primal quality. Rhythms and grooves trek through our psyche beneath silvery notes carrying the comfort of melody. Diffuse synthesizer harmonies sustain, and then draw us back to still subtle spaces. Each element combines to superb effect. Persistent Visions is not episodic, or circular, but somehow continually expanding, as it descends ever deeper into its listeners. The pace is methodical, the playing intuitive, and the music genuine. We are calmly led into a unique space, within which a musical vision is shared, and knowledge is whispered. The digital society de-emphasizes contemplation, and so it is difficult for modern musicians to develop habits of mind that do not feel half-machine themselves. But this duo was genuinely moved while playing their music, as will we be upon attending to it. Throughout Persistent Visions we feel Metcalf & Seelig always reaching for something – otherwise, why would we bother to follow them on this journey at all? In a constant flight forward, this duo plays whatever occurs to them, always advancing the threads of their story – with the narrative of their music broadening as far as our listening minds allow it.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END25 April 2019

Jim Ottaway: Beyond the Purple Sun

Beyond the Purple Sun

Beyond the Purple Sun

Jim Ottaway: Beyond the Purple Sun
Released: 10 April 2019
www.jimottaway.com

Because Jim Ottaway has spent so much time in an imaginary realm, we wonder how he is able to navigate through the real one? He operates in the large format of Spacemusic, so as to evoke expansive, epic ideas and subjects – time, history, the body, and existential concerns of the self. The CD Beyond the Purple Sun (57’14”) features seven tracks of beautifully drifting and transporting music – both restful to the intellect and comforting to the spirit. Harmonious and soft, each work is a singular flowing thought asking us to tune into the quieter frequencies. But being meditative does not mean Beyond the Purple Sun has to be vague. Its permeating atmosphere of stillness also conveys a unique ambiance of limitless emptiness. Yet it also conjures a few realizations from negative space and the idea of nothingness – as a reminder of the beginning of everything. These unpeopled spaces push the listener further toward the center of this aural universe. Twilight swaths of color hover just beneath a misty aura surrounding long electronic notes. Tones vibrate, arise and recede, but do not travel along a linear plane. As synth voices blur one into the other, forming sonic colors of striking beauty, Beyond the Purple Sun leads your thoughts to stillness and reverie. In overcoming the limitations of contemporary music, Ottaway tries his dreamy ideas. He has found that talking to dreams, and in this field one’s dreams may become real, is better than chasing them – and so we find that the force of his realizations comes from the truths we already know.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 April 2019

Chronotope Project: Lotus Rising

Lotus Rising

Lotus Rising

Chronotope Project: Lotus Rising
Released: 23 November 2018
www.spottedpeccary.com
www.chronotope-project.com

Fully and effectively imagined, Lotus Rising (58’56”) opens up a warm and beautiful space, then moves slowly through it. Recording under the name Chronotope Project multi-instrumentalist Jeffrey Ericson Allen takes time to take in the grandeur of existence – with music that moves from darkness to light along a spaceward tracking arc. His works slowly unfold just as easily in the dreamy brilliance of harmonic climaxes, as they do darkly in the thickening air of a room-shaking rumble. With its celestial choirs, glowing synths and delicate atmospheres, the eight tracks on Lotus Rising contain a fair amount of Spacemusic drama. Once the sequencers kick in the listener is treated to a delightful acceleration in energy – but not enough to disturb the contemplative and expansive nature of this album. Repeating patterns seem to bubble up – providing sleek propulsion across shimmering sonic landscapes – then coalesce and metamorphose, drifting away as the spacey lines meet, combine, and evaporate. Blurry chords extend above imaginative electronic modulations – just beneath the misty aura that surrounds each sound. Each a singular flowing thought, these works ask us to tune into the quieter frequencies. But being meditative does not mean Lotus Rising has to be vague. With its easy cosmic intimations it guides your psyche to stillness through searching probes from the warm heart of Electronic Music. From mysterious and remote to ethereal and heavenly, the eight silvery tracks on Lotus Rising are quieting to the mind. This album’s drifting approach – warm in tone and pleasantly melodious – gives this music a welcoming atmosphere. From textures of desolation, and still chill zones, to vigorous workouts of charged musical charm, Lotus Rising provides a rich, fully formed musical environment we will want to visit over and again.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END10 January 2019