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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Electronic Music

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

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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

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

Robert Rich: The Biode

The Biode

The Biode

Robert Rich: The Biode
Released: 25 February 2018
www.robertrich.com

What will we be thinking about while we listen to The Biode (57’37”) by Robert Rich? Is existence a property? Or a state? How do we measure the modern world? What constitutes the self? A talent on a free course, Rich progresses, not in a straight line, but in alternate divergences from one side of creativity to the other. His work on The Biode re-awakens the discussion of music and the surreal. To the ear accustomed to soothing atmospheres, this album is a risk – as it deviates quite seriously from better known traditions. A great deal of its charm lies in its ability to confound and perplex. An exploration of new aims and tendencies, the ten tracks found on The Biode are each an exploitation of carefully chosen and contrasted tonal qualities. Rich’s harmonic lubrications are subtle, revealing the dim light of mystic musing. Instrumental tone colors are combined, yet each stands clear of the other – asserting a mutual independence. As a gathering of rhythmic threads arise and resolve in unconventional sequencer patterns and percussive structures, tiny snatches of melody pass like vain dreams – heedlessly into some other chord. From sweet, to pungent, to the primordial, a slow progression of pale hues test permitted concords and discords. Throughout this release Rich features his notable research into the qualities of timbre, into the effects of new combinations of tones. These imaginative modulations are highlighted as prominently as the more familiar reverberant flute solos, steel guitar leads and synthesized pads. The result is a wonderful zone of beautiful melodies and sonic grandeur, accented by glurping electronic utterances and an unsettling intonation. However scientific its conception may have been, The Biode proves very expressive. As faithful in detail as any of Rich’s best work, it represents the furthest progress yet in acknowledging the human subconscious, and the emotional and intellectual attitudes of the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 March 2018

Chuck van Zyl: Recitals 2

Recitals 2

Recitals 2

Chuck van Zyl: Recitals 2
Released: 31 March 2018
chuckvanzyl.weebly.com

Chuck van Zyl has been a man finding his moment, in any live space that will hold him. The double CD Recitals 2 presents music recorded at two late 2017 performances. His shows for The 6th Floor and DIGITAL DREAMS were documented with an ordinary two-track recording device. After months of review, two 60+ minute sonic journeys were produced, and released as Recitals 2.

The possibilities of Electronic Music make it the perfect tool for exploring spontaneous composition. Recitals 2 is an example of two such events – both without a predetermined outcome – where the gathered and the musician experienced the music together. A receptive audience brings out van Zyl’s strengths, while the hushed space receives his work. The heat of this struggle melds into the music and spirit, softening and melting, then hardening and tempering the player. Each of this album’s two concerts moves powerfully and naturally, unsettling the world into which they intercede. A musician of the imagination van Zyl’s seeks the pure delight of providing an epic intimacy in the digital age. Determined to conjure kinetic joy an animating force tickles your mind and tugs on your heart – as agile sequencer antics thrill and the vulnerability of improvisation connects. In ever strengthening whirlpools of thought, rows of echoing tone patterns are deployed. Amidst the lines of echoing, dancing arpeggio notes a racing heart turns, runs and trills in melodic invention. Heroic keyboard leads and Mellotron harmonies peak over a pumping, commanding bassline – only later to be drawn down into shifting shadows of sustaining synthesized textures and a quiet sense of mystery. While cliff-high chords stall the dramatic momentum, an infinity of volumes provides a feeling of elation and abandon – only to descend to a skeletal negative space and a bewitching haze of free form randomness.

Recitals 2 takes each member of its audience on their own personal journey. With its deep space gateways and brilliant, skull crushing sequencer breakdowns, from the heights of its combustible, cut loose, superb heedlessness, on down to its quietly ominous consuming dark fields, this music invites wonder. Beginning with simple electronic devices and ending with the multi-dimensional world known only to the imaginative, Chuck van Zyl harnesses the machinery of night. Unblinking, completely in control, he performs in a cool constraint. It is remarkable that, after so many years, the creative flame still burns bright. His concerts are a probe of the calm facade, of the internal mystery – and reach towards the unseen depths within us all. Recitals 2 tells a powerful story of an exhilarated mind – a mind roaming well beyond the concert stage.

From the Press Release – 8 March 2018