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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Electronic Music

Sven Laux & Daniela Orvin: The Writings

The Writings

The Writings

Sven Laux and Daniela Orvin: The Writings
Released: 12 April 2019
www.dronarivm.com
www.svenlaux.com
www.danielaorvin.com

The gentle presence of Sven Laux and Daniela Orvin may be felt every time we spin The Writings (49’16”). Either in collaboration, or on their own, their nine somber compositions will be the perfect companion for those occasions where we would rather be alone. Organized with understated design principles this work is meant to still our brainwave activity – as it creates a slow space for us to drift through. It is in the clouds just below consciousness that The Writings will be truly known. Harmonies play and progress, but sometimes become lost – floating to the forefront over and over again. Long unhurried chords emerge out of a soft aura of reverberation, as the music is performed in measured motion – a limitation that does not prevent Laux and Orvin from capturing many moods. In their brief spell, compositions reveal a withdrawn melancholy. While some pieces drag themselves down to a near standstill, others float along surrounded by thick silence – their sonorities given time to reverberate within the listener. Inside its nearly stationary atmosphere this album unfolds. The texture of chamber instruments usually comes through, as does a piano emanating soothing notes – in a room down the hall, or a synthesizer drone – somewhere in the house electric wiring. Brooding and luminous, as well as accomplished and satisfying The Writings contemplates an encounter for the mind – as it conveys a balm for the spirit. In their beautifully bleak arrangements, Laux and Orvin easily inhabit the gentle gravity of Ambient Chamber Music. Here these dependable quietists have realized a gorgeous journey into the elegiac – leaving us composed, cool and collected after the event. From what idyllic age must this study have come?

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 June 2019

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Beyond Berlin: Totem

Totem

Totem

Beyond Berlin: Totem
Released: 6 April 2019
www.groove.nl

For many of today’s Spacemusicians, their inspiration comes directly from the Electronic Berlin-School of 1970s Germany. Almost 50 years ago this highly independent group built an entirely original genre based on their own new principles. Along with the use of new music technology, one of the main features of this so-called Kosmische Musik is its idea of de-limitation. The synthesizer ensemble Beyond Berlin (Rene de Bakker, Martin Peters and Oscar van den Wijngaard) is making its mark by exploring this ideal. Their CD Totem presents five studio tracks which, while based on the work of their heroes, are not mere mindless replications. Balancing a technological precision with personalized artistic expression, this trio references the order and harmony of the contemporary mainstream – all the while leading their listeners into a new sonic realm. As gravity bends light, so Totem bends time. In a clockwork clarity of layer upon layer of building ostinato figures, each piece plays out in a pleasantly melodic dreaminess. With its skipping sequencer strategies and animated chord progressions, the overall mood of the album is embracing – as warm as an analogue synth, yet as cool as digital space. The patterns blend, displace and divide in a warping coil of echoing notes. Totem has been designed with care, and carefully carried out as an exploration of expression. In anticipation of a better tomorrow Beyond Berlin realizes a dynamic and mesmerizing sound. With thought leaders telling us that nothing ages as fast as the future, it is good to find each successive generation of artists reaching far into it – in blatant disregard of the doubts of today.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 June 2019

Ian Boddy: Altair

Altair

Altair

Ian Boddy: Altair
Released: 17 May 2019
www.din.org.uk

Following his 2018 visit to Philadelphia, we find that there is still plenty of fight left in Ian Boddy. Altair presents concert music from this trip. Dazzling and engaging, the first disc of this double album unfolds in the fast-moving, unerring style Boddy has become known for at The Gatherings Concert Series. Providing a comfortable feel, amidst neat beats and pulsing sequencer patterns, Altair veers between fearsome acceleration and a breathtaking stillness. Boddy’s talent for harmonizing aural pleasure and vanguard ideas is in full play here. The rapturous strings, expressive solos and machine tone patterns ask us to feel something, while atonal clusters and metallic rumblings challenge the listener to ponder deeper mysteries. Synth leads edged in platinum bring melodies played with poetic sincerity, and pleasure the ear with caressing phrases. Riding above an insistent bassline, interlocking sonic structures wind around each other in fragile synchronization. The potent effect of the seven tracks on the audience (and the musician) was intensified within the reverential performance space, and may be felt again at each listening session. The second disc in this two-CD set matches the celestial scale of the STAR’S END radio program – where it was recorded. An elaborate musicalized dreamland the five tracks of this volume finds consonance retreating into a separate territory – as modulated effects wear down harmonies with deliberate pressure and howling electronics bellow through cavernous reverberation. These portentous soundscapes, rendered in dark gauzy layers, are offset by passages of focused energy and a sense of rocketing between star systems. This fifth such transmission by Boddy creatively uses well the dynamic range available to artists invited to these sessions. Sonic fragments were mixed and matched and layered one upon another. A glassy calm begets a serene interiority, until an enchanting discord clouds our heads. Whenever a scalding, raspy roar wails in caustic disquiet, the negative space enlarges – straight on to nowhere. Boddy, like all other Electronic Musicians, makes music out of electricity – but his true material is time and space. Altair exists so that others outside the moments of these recitals may hear the truth of his work, and know the magic of traveling in place.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 May 2019

Thom Brennan: Imaginary Conquests

Imaginary Conquests

Imaginary Conquests

Thom Brennan: Imaginary Conquests
Released: 1 May 2019
www.thombrennan.com

With his musical compositions realized from a reverence for the natural world, Thom Brennan hopes to help restore the habitat of human thought. His CD Imaginary Conquests (70’59”) is perfectly in tune with itself and its maker. Luxuriating in the contours of harmony, Brennan finds a form of life in contemporary electronic textures. Each of the four tracks seem like a singular flowing thought – each asking us to tune into a unique, quieter frequency. Electric ribbons of sound sing of a synthetic landscape in sustaining chords, interlocking tone patterns and ethereal effects. With layer upon layer of arpeggio triads and tetrads, the entrances and introductions of subdivided rhythms settle the listener into a lulling reverie. Ringing melodies and rounded notes unfurl steadily, sweeping us away in an enveloping sense of magic. A spirited energy of consonant complexion and spiraling spacey effects imbue this music with a cerebral energy, while pulsing lines of echoing sequencer scales run parallel to one another in increasing levels of intricacy. In constant transition, these patterns seem just like the world in which we live. Simple in its construction, but endlessly complex in effect, Imaginary Conquests manages to sustain our imagination over a prolonged span. From its silvery and warm tones to a humming, gently charged atmosphere, Brennan’s synthesizer expressions draw us into his realm completely. So often do we humans look to music and art – and also to nature – for that which we are not able to find within ourselves. Imaginary Conquests is a deep musical environment meant as much for contemplating such mysteries as it is for guiding those merely adrift.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 May 2019

r beny: Echo’s Verse

Echo's Verse

Echo’s Verse

r beny: Echo’s Verse
Released: 15 May 2019
dauw.bandcamp.com

Smart people should surround themselves with beautiful symbols. Filling the habitat of human thought with the tones of peace and quiet the music of r beny (a.k.a. Austin Cairns) stokes our brighter instincts. His album Echo’s Verse (38’17”) provides an influx of mental stillness. Instead of exploiting our psychological vulnerabilities, this music hopes to enlarge us, to make us more than what we were prior to hearing it. Echo’s Verse brings back to Electronic Music all the values that the modular synthesizer movement sought to disassemble. While in some quarters pushing a patch to its ultimate expression (no matter how dissonant) is still designated a superior pursuit, behind this work a human consonance may be discerned. If you can afford to pay a different kind of attention to these six tracks, then you should, as this act may lead to a mental state conducive to independence. Drifting into your cognitive landscape placeless nodes of sonorous tonality fill a dull, neutral blankness with earnest wonder. Notes in the upper register tremble over sudden thaws and strange, imaginative fluctuations. Recurring melodies surface, to reassure the lost and arouse the adventurous – landing us in a comfort of blissful harmony. Where we find gently vibrating chords sweeping into extended moments of hope, further in we may just as easily be left abandoned and drawn down and into a dark, vague resolve. The proud topic of Echo’s Verse is sound – and it certainly did begin in the workshop, but it is meant less for tinkerers than it is for listeners. The music of r beny is designed according to the principles it elaborates – and is destined for the parts of our selves that are most alive.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END2 May 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

d’Voxx: Telegraphe

Telegraphe

Telegraphe

d’Voxx: Télégraphe
Released: 15 March 2019
www.din.org.uk
www.dvoxx.com

Along with a great number of new sounds and sonics, the recent modular synthesizer movement has also generated some new terminology. One such entry into the technical jargon of this field is the phrase, composing with “on purpose notes”, or what many of us once thought of as the recognition of tonality – a most very basic aspect of contemporary music. While the works of d’Voxx (the duo of Nino Auricchio & Paul Borg) may be attributed to an elaborate matrix of electronic components, their CD Télégraphe (56’00”) is the full flame, and not just a flickering idea found in their technology. A knowing blend of strict strategizing and the acknowledgement of the necessity of a greater precision permeate Télégraphe. To convey the sweeping complexity of their ideas this duo arranges a music system so that they may wander easily through its structure. Like a letter within a word, each module plays a role subordinate to the composite whole. In pulsing, complicated spheres of energy emanating into the world around us, the pulse of this music comes, not so much from the rate of its LFO or clock divider, but from the entwined creativity of its collaborators. Stringing together nine realizations with field recordings of the urban underground each piece moves rapidly from audio art into a contemporary groove. The music’s heated circuitry yields an excitement and urgency of hot, real and sudden energy. Just as body-beat drums roll and crest dramatically beneath propulsive figures, strands of sequencer notes mix, shift and split in a twisting double helix of echoing electronic tones. Above this torrent rises consonant chords traversing the scales – exerting a serene, secure authority. The kinetic and moving head-music found on Télégraphe will appeal to those with an ear for rhythm – even as it gently swings back and forth between dynamism and contemplation. Auriccho & Borg have woven their themes and forms into a strikingly intricate whole. They have brought this music into the world so as to feel the satisfaction of being heard – and in doing so generate an intimacy to which we may often return.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END4 April 2019