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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Guitar

Noveller: Arrow

Arrow

Arrow

Noveller: Arrow
Released: 12 June 2020
www.badabingrecords.com
www.sarahlipstate.com

The late solo sets by Noveller have been before amped up crowds waiting for St Vincent or Iggy Pop to take the stage. Producing music in a register much different from that of the more contemporary main acts, her performances effectively had those assembled abandon their inner sense of chaos and surrender to engulfment. Rallying and renewing this live work mixed sonic invention with an air of familiarity – so that the audience’s interior world would, for a time, slow, still and supplant the reality outside of it. On her studio album Arrow (40’30”) Noveller (Sarah Lipstate) embodies the stern principles of the rock guitarist as immediately as she does the innovative spirit of Spacemusic. The combination of steel strings, slides, picks, pedals and miscellaneous boxes and gizmos blossoms into euphoric arrangements of glowing ghostly ambience and withdrawn textural states. Asking the imagination to enlarge, so as to approach the scale of Arrow, its breathing atmospheres and otherworldly vistas reflect on this musician’s creative force. To realize these eight sonic vignettes the music required an intensity of concentration, and yielded no wasted space. With more neurons firing in the brain, more ideas will rise in the mind – storms quiet, centuries blur, an undertow tugs. Loaded with lush looped and layered guitar orchestrations this release possesses an endless energy. Lamentation and rage resolve into consolation and redemption – artfully refracted by Lipstate’s shivery strumming, and the delicate wash of rounded metallic timbres and murmuring drones. While Ambient Music is only abstractly a genre, Arrow proceeds with all the weight of a symphonic statement. In shades of slow melodic gestures and recurring chords we hear the beauty of our fading future. But her music resists oblivion and conveys resonant questions – as certainly as sound in the air can be an expression of the soul. Lipstate is fixing a broken world …one soundscape at a time.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 July 2020

Jeff Pearce: Songs for The Gathering

Songs for The Gathering

Songs for The Gathering

Jeff Pearce: Songs for The Gathering
Released: 20 March 2020
www.jeffpearcemusic.com

The setting is a grand, although unrestored, church sanctuary in Philadelphia on Saturday 10 June 2000 where Jeff Pearce is set to perform a show. Along with his performance set he has on offer (produced especially for attendees) a limited edition six track CD called Songs for The Gathering. It was the perfect souvenir for The Gatherings Concert Series audience as it offered music from this formative era and remained out of print, becoming a collector’s item for a full two decades. Having now rediscovered (and remastered) this material, and added on two additional contemporaneous pieces, Songs for The Gathering (58’27”) has been given a proper re-issue – just in time to commemorate the porcelain anniversary of its first release, and also to remind us of the hope we all felt at the beginning of the 21st century.

Sending sound into space, each composition induces its own unique zone. Pearce’s six steel strings shiver under his light touch, with every tone challenging gravity’s pull. Each note builds on the promise of the one that came before, revealing a robust creative vision. Yet, in its inviting minimalism even the sparest of the tracks contain references to the cosmos. As sonic eddies form, slow yearning melodies reiterate at the rate and depth of a sleeper’s breath – and Songs for The Gathering deepens from the pleasant and consonant into the transcendent and moving. Arising from shorelines of unearthly radiance the mesmerizing impact of this music’s aural texture ventures to defeat space and time. Yet, when he commands it, this guitarist’s picking, looping and E-Bow echo techniques are exact and clear. In the dancing delicacy of arpeggio chords the spare procession of isolated notes articulate a soaring, confident energy – which settles down ultimately into a refuge of otherworldly beauty.

Songs for The Gathering is a lambent landmark from two decades ago, yet its bright message remains as meaningful as when it was first delivered. Written in a language and performed with a skill that has stayed with us across the 20 years since first hearing it, this music has been revived to help us through the times in which we now find ourselves. What can an artist expect to achieve in the shadow of disaster and doubt? For Jeff Pearce it has been quite a lot. In many a profound musical moment he has encountered glints of transcendence, and the hint of how things might have been in a less brutal world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 April 2020

David Helpling: Rune

Rune

Rune

David Helpling: Rune
Released: 22 November 2019
www.spottedpeccary.com

David Helpling tells stories with a cool skill. We should take to listening to his release Rune (67’55”) just before bed, because it feels built of pre-dream sweetness and of that familiar longing for adventure. Its eight tracks weave their way into your mind – each providing a pleasurable atmosphere within which to dwell. Both deeply felt and elegantly played Rune is disarming in its subtle tonal shifts. Taking a calm stance, from his electric guitar Helpling elicits works of languorous introspection. Exploring the possibilities of playing his instrument through the endless delay of digital processors he designs a rich and varied palette of textures and tones – which makes for a constantly renewed musical interest. Along with the looping riffs, sustaining leads and studies in slide guitar Helpling also deploys grace-filled vibrating metal chords and shimmering steel string structures flung toward the sky. Riding the tides of sonic seas, this work shifts in currents of harmonic motion. Textures thicken, and we become enthralled in the revealing depths of solemn and unfrequented regions. Helpling’s imagination carries these performances, which are often beautiful, even breathtaking. Rune will be well-received by the ears and hold fast to the heart. Beneath his album’s slick surfaces there is an insistent humanity – an understanding of the greater whole of which his music is a part.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 28 November 2019

Hotel Neon: Relic

Relic

Relic

Hotel Neon: Relic
Released: 10 September 2019
www.hotelneonmusic.com

Hotel Neon has always made subdued ambient music with a measured intensity. On Relic (36’27”) they pull from emotional depths and faded memories to shape an album coated in nostalgia and withdrawn creeping textures. On tape the music is an exercise in idea building, on stage it is sheer bliss. The slow burning style of spacey sonics radiates outward, even as the effect works its way toward the glowing inner workings of the listening mind. In five twilit scenes Relic provides a quietly moving impact. The tones the trio produce are processed, delayed, distorted and looped – creating complex harmonies and timbres not usually associated with ordinary electric guitars and keyboard. The vibrations emanating from rubbed, plucked or excited steel strings swirl and morph and assume a new identity. In spare, rare piano notes Hotel Neon extend their poetic ambitions. Under a kindred midnight these fully charged pieces retain a solid formality. Gauzy but gleaming below layers of reverberation a delicate music shows off the ethereal power of sound. As night falls, the guitars call, low in the lowlands and high on the hills. From heights descending notes fall fast, while ascending sounds take more time to reach us. Tones too big for the ear enter through the chest, to touch the heart – then retreat into silence. Following the thread in our head, the emotional intensity of our Relic will open within.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END14 November 2019

Jeff Pearce: Skies and Stars

Skies and Stars

Skies and Stars

Jeff Pearce: Skies and Stars
Released: 13 September 2019
www.jeffpearcemusic.com

Jeff Pearce has a way of making unique experiences transferable. Skies and Stars (59’57”) is his dramatic reflection on the night sky, and possibly even the forces that have placed him there beneath it. Celebrating the first lights of evening onward his music widens the aperture on the heavens as it tightens its hold over our attention. With its three tracks of lush layered guitar orchestrations this album seems of an endless energy. Under a cavernous reverberation metal wires vibrate and bend, then breath and bloom into atmospheres, textures, and passages of interiority. Each silvery string on Pearce’s guitar has a story to tell… a different episode of time in which the listener and the music become the same through the seemingly endless decay and regeneration of all things in the Cosmos. This music gives few answers, preferring to dwell on the enigmatic. With its daunting intervals and shiny core, Skies and Stars is shrouded in a misty mystical digital signal processing. Through the clever use of loop pedals, long echoes and the splitting and shifting of sonics a dreamy cloud of harmony is realized – yet with always a few tones still lurking in a vast darkness. Trembling with emotion, the music conveys a timeless yearning. This musician seeks permanence, not transience – but the magic of each of his work’s many musical moments vanishes as soon as we pay them any notice. Fans of this style of Spacemusic will know that from there to here is never a straight line. In an era of fidgeting, Skies and Stars offers an arc of unbroken concentration. As the world seems about to slip and tip off its axis, Jeff Pearce is making music for whatever is beyond the horizon of this failing realm. Listening past its ample exploratory marvels, this album offers a kindness, a gentle warm familiarity, rendered into a beautiful keepsake.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 September 2019

Miles Richmond & Peter Grenader w/Steve Roach: POV

POV

POV

Miles Richmand & Peter Grenader w/Steve Roach: POV
Released: 5 July 2019
www.pov-music.com

In a sound voyage through dream lands, electric guitarist Miles Richmond and synth-smith Peter Grenader, along with Spacemusic icon Steve Roach have realized POV (61’01”) – an album of fluent and unified music. At times a casual ramble, while at others a vast soul-searching ascent, this deeply lived work leaves the light of our mind on, but with its engine slowed considerably. In six substantially structured tracks Richmond & Grenader with Roach trace graceful compositional arcs. Their creations initially progress in a prevailing sense of propulsion, but further in they go deep, down, dark – descending into a twilight territory. Synthesizers and processed guitar all figure into the arrangement. Lushly orchestrated, POV moves calm, warm whirlpools of tones through thickening electronic drones. As emotionally charged liquid lead lines snake over rolling ambient loops and washes, the listener will gain a feel for texture, gesture and atmosphere. With darkness resolving into light, this album softens. In trembling, shadowy chords, and guitar quotes drawn from “No Pussyfooting”, it shines with promise. POV seems meant for us to tour the cosmos, while sitting quietly in a small room… to wander past everything, into shadows forth, and heartless voids and immensities. By listening to this release, you have taken your first steps onto a larger, better realm. This work offers the feeling of being welcomed, in a way that the rest of the world simply cannot.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 August 2019

Markus Reuter: Monde trilogy

Monde vol 1

Monde vol 1

Markus Reuter: the Monde trilogy
Released: May/June/July 2019
www.iapetus-media.com
www.markusreuter.com

Modern times are not conducive to delicacy, so Markus Reuter‘s Monde trilogy may seem an indulgence – too luxurious and attuned to the long-view of life to have much of a message. Yet, past its overt calm we may feel something urgent running beneath this music’s smooth surface. Each one of the three disc set’s 27 tracks feels newborn, yet somehow ghosts beckon from every piece. On the Monde trilogy Reuter reclaims those silvery strands from the neglect of New Age and Ambient Music, and weaves them into an atmosphere so sensuous that we may easily lose ourselves within, but of such potency that we may just as easily find our self once inside. The sedated, softly sonorous string sounds, derive their sonic bloom from a learned balance of intuition and restraint – which Reuter commands after decades of studio experimentation and concert execution. His realizations were made in real-time performances with an electric guitar, and the associated processing effects, under quiet listening conditions. In touch with streams of creativity powering his mind, by way of the currents of electricity running through his guitar, Reuter’s compositions are honed, but not overworked. He has designed a gorgeous palette of textures and tones, arranged in pastoral consonance – which makes for our constantly renewed aural interest. From a single point of charged spark, to an expanse of the ether, this music shines in the brilliance of its imaginative scope. Aligning with the values of good Spacemusic it bestows a mental state that runs counter to that of the world outside. So long as we remain open to the seduction of Monde‘s understated drama and beautiful natural sound, may we enter its eerie darkness, to return later… up through reassuring light.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 July 2019

subtractiveLAD: Calm

Calm

Calm

subtractiveLAD: Calm
Released: 9 May 2019
www.stephenhummel.ca

As would a meteor seeking a lost sun, or something gradually falling in darkness, the three tracks on Calm (39’23”) move across a listening space. Sounding mildly on the twilight subtractiveLAD (aka Stephen Hummel) uses guitars and synthesizers to realize a softened Spacemusic. With sure pacing and sharp timing this EP does indeed exist as an innovative exercise in concision and imagination, but it will also prompt beautiful daydreams. Calm ably travels through the mind on reverb laden chords, and currents of jewel-toned steel strings. Quietly resplendent, we may imagine the constituent parts of these compositions as smooth shifting shapes that emerge out of fog, breathe, and then dissolve back into nothing. Rounded tones ride alone on an echoing current of flexing sound, while others give off a metal ringing. Recurring themes subtly spin fragments of melody, then transpose these phrases into a novel, vaguely familiar repetition. Threading its soft-hued lunar lullabies into active, ambient forms, a structure is more suggested than it is scored. Ending in a soft plum dawn, we could easily just stay floating there forever. Whether expressing soul searching florid adagios, or a poised private melancholy, Hummel’s ideas spread out in elegant waves of notes – each building with an unhurried sense of inevitability. His controlled improvisations move with nuance and empathy. A blur of slow gestures his hovering drones seem to offer the brightest possibilities for new beauty. As the mainstream cites all the evils of a world coming to its end, let us use this music to help renew our sense of wonder. As the future will be thus tamed, a great peace will lay over the land.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END27 June 2019

Jon Durant: Alternate Landscapes

Alternate Landscapes

Alternate Landscapes

Jon Durant: Alternate Landscapes
Released: 3 May 2019
www.alchemyrecords.com

Along with all the usual effects boxes and digital processors guitarists use nowadays, Jon Durant arrives to the recording studio with a great number of solid ideas – good ones, the kind that must track across a sweep of beautiful moments and sonic states in order to become fully realized. His album Alternate Landscapes (58’36”) takes its time in getting its point across. The four pieces are mysteriously affecting, and brilliantly inhabit a musical realm richer and stranger than the standard fare. Alternate Landscapes will take some getting used to, as Durant’s inventiveness will engage unsuspected capacities of our ears and minds. He is not merely sending sounds into space, he seems to be making music whose motion induces space. Vistas may open behind this music – not as settings, but more like the airy or plunging ambiences found in dreams. With gracefully unfurling, caressing phrases, Durant extends his poetic ambitions. Loaded with lush layered guitar orchestrations this album seems of an endless energy. A complexity of sounds merge and separate, leaving the listener with the impression of an aural terrain in motion. As mild yet mysterious discord causes tension and anomalous melodies distend across an illimitable distance, each composition retreats into it own unique territory. Durant travels deeper and further with a resolute sense of discovery. He is also not afraid to veer off into unknown realms – exploring whatever sonics and phonics his improvisations may lead to. As an artistic statement, Alternate Landscapes has nothing to struggle against – other than the dullness of modern minds.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 May 2019

Steven Kemner: Little Notes

Little Notes

Little Notes

Steven Kemner: Little Notes
Released: 3 December 2018
www.fluidaudio.co.uk
www.stevenkemner.com

Clearly Steven Kemner is fascinated with the inner life of sounds. The album Little Notes (39’18”) comes from a place where words are unnecessary, as music better conveys his story. Performed in a kind of slow motion, this album is a work defiant in its meticulousness. Little Notes offers eight places of ambient otherness – each realization of a languorous, inviting disposition. Some pieces are penetrating in their blankness, while others are well received by the ears and hold fast to the heart. Over their brief reclusive spell these compositions rotate and transpose keys. Chords progress and play to a resolution, but occasionally become lost – floating to the surface over and again. Along with its breathing blissed-out layers of vibrating electric guitar strings, Little Notes adds slow piano notes, organ-like tones, mysterious field recordings and manipulated samples. As long melodic lines rise out of a misty aura of harmony, we find its ambiance to be established by an array of expressive sonic shades. It was his concerts within reverberant church sanctuaries that led Kemner to imagine the component emanations of his instrument as objects in space. As notes would float through the air, surrounded in silence, he learned to allow time for themes and forms to be felt by each and every audience member. In his utter refusal to be dull Steven Kemner advances the nearly stationary textures of generic Ambient Music to the level of a steely structured, harmonic tale. Warming the circuits of the listening mind, he reminds us of an often neglected thought – that what has been accomplished in the past can show us what is possible in the future.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END17 January 2019