Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Electronic Music

Chuck van Zyl: Live on Star’s End 08.26.18

Chuck van Zyl: Live on Star's End 08.26.18

Chuck van Zyl: Live on Star’s End 08.26.18

Chuck van Zyl: Live on Star’s End 08.26.18
Released: 17 February 2019

Produced by Public Radio Station WXPN, Chuck van Zyl: Live on Star’s End 08.26.18 (63’36”) is not a commercial release. It is available only as a “Thank-You” gift to those making a donation to WXPN/STAR’S END.

This album is a conventional silver CD featuring over 60 minutes of the Chuck van Zyl live electronic realizations made in the WXPN performance studio during a private Salon Concert and live-to-air broadcast of 25/26 August 2018. Its four parts each offer passages of improvised in-the-moment sequencer manipulations, amidst the ethereal yearning of synthesized harmonies and cresting lead lines. The listener is invited inside, to float away as the patterns and textures envelope them – tumbling in circles, spirals and pinwheels, beneath unfurling ribbons of creamy synth melodies and modulated, chirping effects.

Chuck van Zyl: Live on Star’s End 08.26.18 may seem more like a spiritual expression than an exploration of a musical form. This work has mysterious power purely on a sonic level. But the miracle of this release is that every time we listen to it, our minds will hear something new – and will so find a different album. Absorbing the full tapestry of the Electronic/Berlin-School experience, and the ideals of live improvisation, we can easily imagine every concert outing serving as a mystic portal for this musician’s own spiritual journey.

Whether channeled from the astral plane, or just the transformation of electricity into sound, Live on Star’s End 08.26.18 is for those seeking a deeper examination of tone and mood. Anyone in love with Spacemusic and its very specific poetry will want to own this recording. While this musical form may have been established in the 1970s, Live on Star’s End 08.26.18 feels made-yesterday fresh. A ceaselessly inventive work, its history begins now.

Press Notes/STAR’S END14 February 2019


Robert Rich: Tactile Ground

Tactile Ground

Tactile Ground

Robert Rich: Tactile Ground
Released: 15 January 2019

Robert Rich remains as content as ever reveling in his remarkable and imaginative designs. After initiating the audience into the bewildering mysteries of his art, he awakens particular responses. Again treating sound as a material to express ideas and feelings, his Tactile Ground is the realization of that which eludes language. A sonic landscape contoured by wonder, we may imagine the musician as an organism. With its recordings of the natural world, surrounded by strange modulations and washes of harmony, we arrive at a most unexpected setting. In some green Eden, or a primordial realm, it feels like these motifs have preceded the human race. With no discernible rhythm, it becomes difficult to maintain our bearings while within Tactile Ground. Sensations vary over 15 tracks and two discs. Where a slight but noticeable restlessness begins, further in the shivering quality of its atmosphere becomes unapologetically bleak. As granular textures are replaced by the smooth, stillness of sustaining drones, brighter passages support the spare, elegant notes of a grand piano. Beautiful tones do emanate from Rich’s steel guitar, slithering and sliding in slow serpentine glissando. Breaths of bamboo flute float through a glorious reverberation above a torrent of churning, murmuring synthesizers – and in this manner Tactile Ground creeps slowly along. Having found that his musical expressions affect other people, Robert Rich does them consciously and intentionally to produce that effect – and so his music is born. As we evolve into creatures with powers which at present we do not possess, we may come to understand fully how sound created thought, and how thought creates music. Until that time, the human mind requires a basic coherence and system, and once given systematic coherence can grasp ideas of ever increasing complexity. Yet, even given this, it will not be possible for us to know the meaning of Tactile Ground until traveling its complete course.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 February 2019

Sync24: Ominous



Sync24: Ominous
Released: 24 September 2018

Haunted by the doomed power of the human race Daniel Segerstad narrates from the present. Recording as Sync24 his album Ominous (47’27”) emanates from EM’s forgotten corner of today. Whether it is drifting off in cool deep blackness, or teetering on the verge of being too much, this is a work telling our story, and getting back to the sonic vocabulary of being alive. The most essential facet of Ominous is its seductive grooves and propelling rhythms. Building track after track Segerstad conveys an understated determination of the intangible patterns and forces from the world around him. As layered modulated details mingle with luxuriously sweeping pads, strokes of full-blooded melodies and shimmering effects ascend as sparks alongside calm, slowing beats. The music vibrates with life and energy, yet it feels becalmed and pristine – like there is a cold implacable force running beneath the lighter currents. Taken together the eight compositions found on Ominous form a constellation of ideas, and reveal unexpected connections. From the floating cloud of the sacred, to the hard center of the profane, this creative universe has a tilt to it. But for now, the dreamlike electric warmth felt throughout Ominous must remain just beyond our reach.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END24 January 2019

Chronotope Project: Lotus Rising

Lotus Rising

Lotus Rising

Chronotope Project: Lotus Rising
Released: 23 November 2018

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

K Leimer: Imposed Order | Imposed Absence

Imposed Order | Imposed Absence

Imposed Order | Imposed Absence

K Leimer: Imposed Order | Imposed Absence
Released: 26 January 2018

When the Imposed Order LP arrived at WXPN back in 1983, the DJs were duly impressed. But one of us was quite shattered. The idea of a good-looking, expertly engineered, independently produced album of lofty new music, by someone somewhere way out in the USA, someone who probably did not know anything about our scene here in Philadelphia, who had founded his own record label for this and a number of other similarly weighty projects, this notion was beyond stimulating – it was moving.

It was such a pleasure to explore the nine tracks found on the original LP, which moved easily between cool textural ambience to Fourth World heat. Imposed Order seemed to reference contemporaneous works by Brian Eno, but to the extent that a typical listener would not really notice. This music truly inhabited its own distinctive space, a space which has never really been appropriated, or even approached by any other artist in electronic sound.

A lifetime later, the guy behind the label, the music and the aesthetic is still active and vital. Along with decades of forward-thinking, innovative releases and projects, K Leimer has now found it was time to re-release his original classic – with a second disc full of works realized for various purposes between 1983-1987.

The beautiful Imposed Order | Imposed Absence is an inventive album that is rarely made any more. The original Imposed Order was released in a time where border crossings were not forbidden, but rather encouraged. Its re-issue (with bonus material) feels like a retreat back to an era when this genre was new, and offered a world of possibilities. A marvel of musical precision, it reminds us that there was a time when we celebrated the sounds and moods of music, and not just the technology and process.

From the granular detail of ethno-drum loops, to slow, airy piano improvisations, and the dreamy atmosphere of vintage synths and reverb, Leimer’s compositions move like a swift silvery ghost. One track may be as intimate as a whisper, while the next rolls over us like storm clouds coming in from the horizon. Absorbing and moving, Imposed Order | Imposed Absence deserves full immersion. However, it is doubtful that you will find yourself anywhere in this music. It will be better for the listener to avoid wondering what it all means – so as to notice better how it makes them feel.

If the art of music is about transporting the audience, then K Leimer is an unrivaled guide. His abilities elevate Imposed Order | Imposed Absence beyond the “Indie” category and into fine art. We are not really sure who made K Leimer, or what confluence of events has led him to make so much substantial music. In his early releases we can hear where Leimer began. By listening to his recent work we may learn where he is, but trying to predict where this artist will go next is completely impossible.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END3 January 2019

Spyra: Dunst



Spyra: Dunst
Released: 20 October 2018

With music by the celebrated German synthesist Spyra, we know we will be traveling down the kind of road where we will not be using our eyes to navigate. His album Dunst (71’541″) features a vague air of cosmic mystery. The unpredictable swerves and drifts of its six tracks provide a wealth of dramatic potency and musical color across each intriguing sonic journey. Expanding in all directions yet still possessing a cerebral inwardness, the weight of this music will rouse its listeners – enough even to become aware of themselves. Dunst features many of Spyra’s signature stylings, such as lush synthesized strings, dramatic harmonic shifts and striving electronic beats. Weaving beautiful lead lines amidst complex interlocking patterns and repetitive motifs he realizes an irresistibly likable Spacemusic. While Dunst reworks Spyra’s cosmic/chillout hybrid of syncopated patterns and intelligent percussion accents, he also boldly relies on other more abstract concepts to further his musical ideas. In one moment we are feeling a strong galloping pulse, then further in comes the purring beauty of sustaining electrical tones. Its shimmering surfaces and consonant harmonies feel welcoming, yet Dunst‘s transposing sequencer notes echo ahead – beckoning us to the open road. With each new Spyra CD we experience a new cycle of intimacy. He almost always gives us the spacey and the dancey, some easy ambiance drifting into deep sonic dives, then a heart-felt melody over machine rhythms… but never the same way twice.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 December 2018

Bob Holroyd: The Cage

The Cage

The Cage

Bob Holroyd: The Cage
Released: 9 March 2018

Everyone has a talent, but not everyone has something to say. So let now those with ears hear The Cage (59’57”) by Bob Holroyd. Relentlessly introspective, this album is about what it means for Holroyd to be alive right now. Patient and yet exploratory, the music may be as much a therapy for the musician as it is a pleasure for his listeners. While little of The Cage is truly new, the light it sheds most definitely is. As Holroyd seemingly runs an electrical field through a chamber ensemble, instruments lose their sense of place and become sonic forms – making every note piercingly bright, yet soft as velvet. Haunted and fragile, stricken strings establish a secret territory – a kind of twilight struggle between contrasting harmonies and unresolved emotions. His ambient zones work well to still the wheels, while further in textures thicken, a rhythm arises, and an anthem resolves. The Cage always takes the way of the thinker, even when it is pumping and pulsing soft beats and gentle grooves. This music for the quiet mind also grows softly – with layered violins, reverb drenched piano notes, delicate acoustic guitar, and all manner of digital treatment and interference. The quieter sections tug from the edges, pulling our attention away from their center. With its subtly heightened, finely focused energies flowing through every moment, this work decorates our condition with music. Holroyd is a remarkably protean composer, one at home in a wide range of styles. At all times he is the human centerpiece of The Cage – his hollowness, his most veiled, impossible longings, and more, all portrayed across 12 tracks of becalmed poetic brevity. Pushing the Ambient Chamber Music form forward with intellectual precision, artistic clarity, and stylistic confidence, any one of Holroyd’s finely tuned compositions prove it is possible to achieve a utopia with the materials we have at hand.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 December 2018