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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Electronic Music

Jeffrey Koepper: Transmitter

Transmitter

Transmitter

Jeffrey Koepper: Transmitter
Released: 20 October 2017
www.projekt.com
www.jeffreykoepper.com

A performance of music usually includes many sets of eyes on the musician – who (to do their work) must block them all out. This is not so with those coming in to the WXPN/STAR’S END studio. This select group may do their music before a relaxed, remote audience – but however heavily lidded, the sleepy being transmitted to definitely have their ears intently open. Jeffrey Koepper came into the relative calm of the 18 June 2017 radio broadcast of STAR’S END to draw on the limitless freedom of the Spacemusic genre. Before thousands of distant listeners his music roamed over the airwaves and beyond the studio – to eventually become the album Transmitter (58’18”). The realm of space resists attempts to reduce its music to a sentence or two, so describing this kind of work will be difficult. In a mastery of detail we journey across seven tracks and textures – traveling through realms clotted with stars and pulsing with energy. Activating constellations of brain cells as wondrous as anything imagined by astronomers, we are guided simply by our own lush thoughts. The mood encountered on Transmitter is quite inward. To fall into the rhythms of this trek, one must lose all sense of time. Softened atmospherics provide areas of gently meditative repose, transformed as sequencer loops rise through still tones. While coiled patterns circle burnished synth strings, we find every flash to be offset by a cool, radiant stillness – as its gorgeous dream sequence expands and contracts along an easy arc. Affably energetic, the potent, revved-up sections offer dramatic momentum. Doubled in echo, electronic blips run through the night – eventually tugging the minor-key chords back into the shadows. Eliciting plush, pliant harmony from his synthesizers, Koepper finds the gorgeous hidden universe STAR’S END travels through every week. Spacemusic is the perfect term to use when describing Transmitter – as the scale of this music offers no shortage of possibilities. Drawn into a musical experience of larger proportions the play and shade of our interior becomes an enthralling space of imagination. Most Electronic Musicians use electricity as raw material. Possessing a unique human-synthesizer connection, Jeffrey Koepper may possibly be extracting energy from the same current powering his instruments. Thanks to the commercial release of this CD, we may feel the charge too, and return to this singular wireless emanation whenever we so desire.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END15 February 2017

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Hollan Holmes: Prayer to the Energy

Prayer to the Energy

Prayer to the Energy

Hollan Holmes: Prayer to the Energy
Released: 1 February 2018
www.hollanholmesmusic.com

Beyond mainstream contemporary music we know well that there are worlds both surprising and fascinating – yet it is still quite difficult to get people to visit them. Encountering the music of Hollan Holmes would surely leave the first time traveler wondering what took them so long? Prayer to the Energy is his sixth release. A double CD of high principles, it is yet another opportunity for Holmes to share his excitement for his highly personal style of EM with others. Much more than a collection of mechanical signals, Prayer to the Energy is an interpretation of the self – his and ours. Felt like a spark of warmth through the icy Universe, the astute listener will enjoy the details and geometry in its texture (that is if you are not first lulled into a blissed-out state of repose). Sound waves propagate and exhibit colors, textures and opacities both intricate and alluring. Confident melodic lines lead into near digital black, while further in an Escherian lattice of cycling notes echo out like the furies at work. Here the sequencer patterns act like a force accelerator – as swooning dabs of sound achieve a strong, contrasty, multi-tonal soundfield. Variegated in tone and atmosphere, Prayer to the Energy moves from densely packed benighted soundscape to the brightfield sound of layered analogue synthesizers. Presented with shimmer and gleam, brilliant chords build and haunt. Holmes regards his gear as a rich sphere of aesthetic possibilities – always applying his instruments in an imaginative and individual way. The 14 tracks found on Prayer to the Energy (the two most lengthy works were commissioned for STAR’S END) lead us through a delicate realm. We the people of this community have the unique ability to hear things in a way others cannot. It is important to share this privilege. In realizing his work Holmes has made a journey that few can understand – yet through the simple act of listening, of traveling through this music, it may be fully comprehended… and Holmes always makes this destination worth the trip.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 February 2017

Various Artists: Polarity

Polarity

Polarity

Various Artists: Polarity
Released: 31 May 2017
www.ultimae.com

Somewhere sacred between the musician and the audience is the DJ. Deciphering the secrets of a unique treasury, these types often vanish within our listening experience. Anyone can simply string together a number of decent songs, but a higher meaning may come from the expert pacing and placing of each track in just the right spot (with those of this craft finding the rush of mixing their first time every time). The anthology Polarity includes 26 tracks by a considered range of various artists across two compact discs. Arnaud Galoppe (also known as Focal) has been commissioned with blending these works into two distinctive extended moods. While Polarity is an excellently produced album throughout, fans of STAR’S END may be attracted to the disc labeled “Ambient Side” (a bit more than the equally well produced “Techno Side” CD). Galoppe, our sonic celebrant, excellently intertwines the stories of each of the two discs’ 13 artists and tracks. Spacing is the very groundwork of design, and this producer demonstrates his ability to build interesting environments – by bridging and binding opposing energies in the magical interplay between time, memory and imagination. A reduced narrative content simulates arrested motion, as a mystical dark light seems to hover over certain passages. In the surrounding zones where shadows become an essential part of the plan, Polarity further subverts dominant codes of music. Like underground explosions, distant rumbling foretells of a pulsing activity within. Hair-raising bass drops seem to harness the energy of electricity, as the mood changes just when we want it to. When synthesized modulations thicken the air, an easing harmony soon emerges out of the density. The methodical movement between light and dark, hot and cool terrain is impressive and effective. From the power of empty space, to energized riffs moving the body, Polarity provides an intriguing journey into electronic texture and sound – expanding and contracting continually under an atmosphere suggestive of all things cerebral. Even the recurring drum zones loop at the speed of dreams, and beckon thought. Anthologies are a good way to learn about new artists, but sometimes it is not necessarily the individual tracks the audience wants, but their mixture, and the more complex experience which may arise from a well-produced set. The DJ is that complexity. Making something bigger than the sum of its parts, Galoppe so enjoys the act of connecting two different songs through smooth transitions. Raising and lowering the energy level, from drifting gray calm to sparked beats and grooves (and many levels in between) the many musicians presented throughout Polarity play a significant role – one more that of source material than of author. But each are equally valuable, none better than the other, as taken together in this assemblage their individual meanings are amplified, and they each reach a place where none could go alone.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 January 2018

Saul Stokes: Local Crowd

Local Crowd

Local Crowd

Saul Stokes: Local Crowd
Released: 16 December 2017
www.databloem.com
www.saulstokes.com

The work of Saul Stokes is always somewhat of an identity statement. His many substantial releases never fail to relate how he is feeling, in both heart and mind. Appealing to our intelligence instead of insulting it, their best moments have a delicate beauty that stays with you. Stokes’ whirring intellect again finds focus in the eight tracks of Local Crowd (62’45”). This wonderful album bridges and bounds the opposing energies of crude electricity and accomplished art, and aligns perfectly with the beat and pulse beneath and behind everything. The sensitive ear of the sincere listener will acknowledge the live, vibrant timbres present at every level of Local Crowd. Using the studio platform, Stokes is not arranging for the dance floor, but for the place in the mind where sensory detail becomes thought. Listening consciously to the sound we find that there are two moods, with drums and without. While the precious pastels of divided oscillators enrich the arrangements in several sonic specifics, they also dissipate the force of well-timed snare hits. Unexpected bass progressions, and other devices of drive, refine and soften the throb of rhythm. In a harnessing of the mind of the composer, the most imaginative and productive of arrangements are still to be used for the delicate, more tender moments found on Local Crowd. Blooming synth notes sustain just beneath the lead line in expressive tone colors and flights of imagination. Stokes’ high vibrant main synth voice becomes fairly sparked with melody – as a harmless counter voice enhances the general mood of enjoyment. If we think of this music as electrical, a thing made of electricity, then we find it to be always remaking itself, changing in every instant, yet never changing at all. The limit of effect is merely the limit of the musician’s imagination. Versatile, alluring and inventive, with a fine ear for every novel discharge of the great modulators, Saul Stokes makes music for our time – and for all time.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END11 January 2018

Ascendant: Particle Horizon

Particle Horizon

Particle Horizon

Ascendant: Particle Horizon
Released: 7 November 2017
www.synphaera.com
www.ambientascendant.com

Particle Horizon (73’42”) shows a new confidence at the reunion of two coolly calculating minds. As Ascendant, music makers Don C. Tyler & Chris Bryant work well together at communing with our interior monologue. In touch with the current of creativity, by way of the current of electricity, here this duo provides ten harmonious compositions – each portraying ideas and feelings of magnitude. With its benevolent messages, drifting lost in the darkness of space, Particle Horizon is an intricate but effortlessly listenable album. From meandering melodic thoughts, to luxurious lead lines, Tyler & Bryant champion civility. Sounds shine spectacularly as synthetic sighs and whispering waves expand across note dappled soundscapes. Skittering electronic pulsations are woven into the music, yet refuse to establish a regular beat – as each piece on Particle Horizon turns like a system of intermeshed helical gears. Enhancing the sonorous aspects of this work its tonal material intricates a lofty character, and achieves a surface of equalized tension. Synths slowly crest, then recede into timeless cosmic serenity. Bass notes mark a slow time in potent dramatic holds, just as intermittent sonar chiffs signal an incoming message. But, for all its musicianship and production values, the importance of this music lies in the emotional responses of its listeners. In an apparent independence from terrestrial concerns, Particle Horizon has been designed to create and sustain a particular state of non-climactic thought. As its users grow ever wiser to its technology, one would think that this genre would eventually begin to sound conventional, and become tamed. Yet, it still has the capability to unleash latent creative potential in everyone who engages with it (musician and audience alike). The true wonder of Electronic Music is not that its reaches are so vast, but that its people continually attempt to touch that which will always be just beyond their grasp. In this spirit, the technological revolution will be proven to be not an unstoppable, unguided force, but a product of human creativity. As the authors of each advance, Mankind will always decide where technology will take us.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END14 December 2017

Ombient w/Chuck van Zyl: The Gatherings 20 May 2017

The Gatherings 20 May 2017

The Gatherings 20 May 2017

Ombient w/Chuck van Zyl: The Gatherings 20 May 2017
Released: 20 October 2017
www.thegatherings.org
www.ombient.com

The album The Gatherings 20 May 2017 (58’55”) presents the complete live performance by Ombient (Mike Hunter) and Chuck van Zyl during the 25th Anniversary Season of this most venerable innovative music series. Their realization KL-93 was made live, in the heat of the moment, before an enthusiastic, informed audience. As these conditions are known for revealing the creative spark, we find both musicians and their listeners experiencing this extraordinary music together in the act of being made.Without laptops or pre-set software this duo endeavors out into a realm made up of hardware electronics and mental reverie. Minor key Mellotron chords slowly sweep across the sound field. Synthetic drones hold, dim, then lighten. In an ascending rush, then a descending calm, with our imaginative sonic aviators we depart our more common thoughts… for mysterious regions. Bass laden drones soon swallow a melodious Mellotron flute solo, which lilts blessedly above a maelstrom of writhing timbres. Wrapped in a luminous halo of reverberation a string section rises from the rumbling tempest, before the introduction of Hunter’s signature breathless tone patterns – which mount, repeat, and seem to echo out across eternity. A demon behind the sequencer he forgoes the white heat of computer technology – for realizations of mechanical, electrical and analog origin. Utilizing several cases worth of sacramental modular synthesizers, in a secret ministry of sound he performs a most welcome digital detox on the audience.

In propulsive bristling fervor, tumbling sequencer patterns motor on in echoing perfection. The notes brighten, darken, modulate, add and subtract, in a futuristic syncopated minimalism Spacemusic fans have been fascinated with for decades. In a withheld energy these echoing interlocking runs of notes produce a mounting compositional tension, released in our minds as impressionistic cerebration. Every new ascent presents the classic sound of one or another vintage synthesizer, and a shivery reverence that defies explanation. With each turn, these Spacemusic mystics manage to conjure a stimulating atmosphere of mystery, adventure and motion. From its plutonium dense gray desolation and battles with extreme silence, to twinkling modulations and multiple rows of rolling sequencer patterns, we move – west with the night. Arranged under an atmosphere of netherworld sonics, the composition KL-93 throbs powerfully and bounds outward along an electrified musical current.

This work, and that of contemporaries such as Arc, Cosmic Ground, Free System Projekt, Node and Redshift, draws on higher-order capacities. Theirs is a minimalism that speaks volumes. By carefully exploiting the intrinsic technological limits of 1970s Electronic Music Mike Hunter & Chuck van Zyl enlarge the medium’s expressive range and prove this genre is an organism that continues to grow and change with each new manifestation. Today’s artists hope to elevate the Spacemusic experience to one of mystical proportions – as they continue to push this sound as far as it can go.

STAR’S END20 October 2017

Proceeds from the sale of The Gatherings 20 May 2017 by Ombient w/Chuck van Zyl go to support the efforts of CIMA of PA, the IRS recognized, non-profit, all-volunteer organization which oversees The Gatherings Concert Series in Philadelphia

K Markov: Soul Keeper

Soul Keeper

Soul Keeper

K Markov: Soul Keeper
Released: 13 June 2017
kmarkov.bandcamp.com

The music of K Markov continues to take the listener to new places. His release Soul Keeper (61’29”) seizes our ears and our imaginations. The virtues of lucidity, concision and unity exemplify the refreshing clarity of Markov’s imaginative thinking. At times graceful and consonant, at times angular and dissonant, Soul Keeper has a broad atmospheric range. As we are drawn into a musical experience of larger proportions we find that the impulse for this work is overtly electronic. Throwing off sparks in a superb heedlessness and wild ferocity an intricate geometry of sequencer patterns run like a secret engine. Cast in three pieces the rhythmic buoyancy and variation of Soul Keeper reflects the innate quality of Markov’s creative gift. Patterns of minimalist complexion cycle and vary notes, length and key, in the still driving force of this music’s mesmerizing pulse. Its abstract structures are more overtly coloristic and varied in their expressive range, while textures are diversified to fascinating degrees. In a slow burn of quiet energy a dark sonic mass rustles sleeping shadows, as this album generates heat against a cool cosmic background. Coherent synth lead lines thread through multiple intersections – where ideas, memories and emotions connect and reconnect in myriad combinations. Spookily vacant passages recede within heroic synthesizer themes. Under these building chords we find that a heart still beats. Ultimately, the greater feeling of weight and power on Soul Keeper resolves into a suitable concluding section – an ending hopeful yet credible. So many currents have contributed to this music. While technology and contemporary life hold their high positions, we find Markov himself as the immovable center. He is a planet builder. His music generates worlds where we cannot feel the decay of ours.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END19 October 2017