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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Groove Unlimited

Chuck van Zyl: Spacetones

Spacetones

Spacetones

Chuck van Zyl: Spacetones
Released: 26 October 2019
www.groove.nl
chuckvanzyl.weebly.com

Chuck van Zyl has a way with beginnings… and with endings… and often with middles too… His 31 March 2018 performance at the E-Day Festival at De Enck in Oirschot, The Netherlands was an abundant story of, not just his trans-continental travels, but also the culmination of his years long journey as a musician. The concert space is the crucible in which van Zyl dispatches his thought experiments – and Spacetones (68’48”) provides the document of the spontaneous compositions and in-the-moment improvisations which transpired over the course of his festival live set. Pulling the audience forward with the inexorable logic of sound, the concert’s mythic beginning gives way to excited sequencer notes motoring on in echoing perfection. The patterns go brighter, then dim, transpose, add on and subtract out notes in the syncopated minimalism Berlin-School fans have been fascinated with for decades. Gliding along the spaceways, these pulsing passages present spirited effects of rhythmic flight. Slow chords hold forth while echoing note cycles peal out below animated keyboard leads. With electronic harmonies rising and falling in passages of dark and light, an unexpected beauty emerges. When the listener becomes swallowed up in Mellotron stringed soundtracks and layers of portentous synthesizer drones, energy flares are deployed in a menacing enchantment, and elevate the structure of the album, and the concert – always at the speed of thought. Accomplished in its narrative complexity and drive Spacetones is a wondrous evocation of the virtues of live EM. Beneath the enigmatic cool of the deep space traveler, this musician may indeed be generating heat – but at every moment is asking the listener to please, “come along with me”. Throughout Spacetones we are listening to someone with a real passion for sound and atmosphere. It is a sweeping vision of what live EM is and what it may do for us. But in spite of all the current emphasis on the specifications of equipment and gear, or the harrowing stress of playing this kind of live concert, in truth this music is simply the story of the state of a man… going from the one heart on stage, to those out in the audience.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END24 October 2019

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

Spyra: Dunst

Dunst

Dunst

Spyra: Dunst
Released: 20 October 2018
www.groove.nl
www.derspyra.de

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

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