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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: IDM

Manuel Göttsching: E2E4

E2E4

E2E4

Manuel Göttsching: E2E4
Released: 1983
www.manuel-goettsching.com

On Saturday 12 December 1981 Manuel Göttsching sat down in his studio and recorded some music. After about an hour he had realized something that he imagined would be nice to listen to on an upcoming airline flight. A few years later this piece was released under his own name through the In-Team label as E2E4. To those more familiar with Göttsching’s Cosmic Music, Berlin-School and Space-Rock roots, this new work took a while to be accepted. With its shuffling beat box rhythms and simple, repetitive sequencer pattern E2E4 seemed to have more in common with Disco Music than it did with Space Music. But once forward thinking radio programs aired it, and club DJs started spinning this disc for the dance floor, more and more musicians began sampling riffs and copying the style – and the status of E2E4 grew to mammoth proportions. What commenced as an easy going musical jaunt, inducing bewilderment among established audiences, E2E4 was embraced by a new generation of people and ideas. As the pulsing relentlessly builds up – working its magic on the mood of the listener – the cyclical rhythms and electronic tones probe the recesses of the unconscious. The spirited energy of E2E4 will have all the lights in our heads lit at once – like an engine coming to life; messages flying, ideas flowering, charges of electricity whipping across the brain, leaving our selves luminescent, awake and alive. The shards and stray threads of mental activity eventually recede, as the closing scenes of E2E4 are enlivened by Göttsching’s wonderful electric guitar soloing. To this day this album manages to feel fresh and inventive rather than stale or studied – an outcome not part of an overarching artistic strategy. Göttsching simply knows that in a work of art there must be something more than what is called force. There must be distinction and a rarity of feeling. In creating music that combined the elements of improvisation with structured composition, he is a genuine innovator – a complicated hero whose humanity is profoundly irresistible.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END   7 December 2018

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Saul Stokes: Expansion

Expansion

Expansion

Saul Stokes: Expansion
Released: 17 November 2018
www.saulstokes.com

Hopefully you will hear the music of Saul Stokes‘ before you will need it. His work is known to have a positive effect on the imagination (which we all would benefit from), but it can also pierce the gloom. An acknowledgement of the gift of life and the realization of existence, the nine exuberant tracks found on Expansion (145’13”), are each on their own journey through a specific world of poetic imagination. While the listening experience of most EM is that of pure sensory input, encountering this album feels quite different – quite like stepping into a lofty, friendly conversation. Synthesizers may be the machines behind the music, but here Stokes is the engine. This man, and his mortal motor, fills every corner of Expansion with a radiant intensity. Partly in reaction to the digital disconnection of our time, the meticulous nature of Stokes’ production values clashed with the desire to make music more spontaneously – so each piece presented here is simply played out live in Stokes’ studio directly into a recording device, and then placed as is on Expansion. But as listeners we are advised to just lie back and lose ourselves in the drama of electricity transforming into sound, and sound into music. Even for those with mainstream tastes, Expansion is potent and adventurous enough to be engaging. From the warmly distorted leads spiriting through billowing harmonies, to the complex rhythm patterns that weave through them, Expansion suffers no shortage of special delights. A pleasant mix of Stoke’s trademark motorik riffs, shimmering synths, and low octane beats, this work presents an overlit, futuristic electronic realm. Out of a landscape of lunar vacancy rises vivid, syncopated grooves – which punctuate smooth electronic accents, and other ethereal sonic forms. Decorating our condition with music, this release asks nothing more than our quiet attention – how radical. Saul Stokes knows something, and he knows that we know it too. His music gets us to some mental place that we would normally be cut off from. Stokes finds in the power of music the ability to introduce order into the harshness of the physical world and still follow the way of an all-embracing, undying life of the spirit. Even with so many concerts and albums to his credit, we never feel we have enough of him.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 November 2018

Saul Stokes: The Gatherings 16 November 2013

The Gatherings 16 November 2013

The Gatherings 16 November 2013

Saul Stokes: The Gatherings 16 November 2013
Released: 17 November 2018
www.thegatherings.org
www.saulstokes.com

A sonic world is waiting for you. A place where the wild past meets the power and the beauty of the future, and is accessed simply with a ticket to The Gatherings Concert Series. Among the finest examples of this phenomenon are the inspiring concerts made by Saul Stokes. Often referred to as a “sonic innovator”, Stokes bridges and bounds the opposing energies of crude electricity and accomplished art – to realize music that aligns perfectly with the beat and pulse beneath and behind everything.

His album The Gatherings 16 November 2013 (86’37”) features the unedited entirety of his performance. The sensitive ear will acknowledge the live, vibrant timbres present at every level of his numerous live performances. Using the altar at St Mary’s Hamilton Village, Stokes is not arranging for the dance floor, but for the place in the mind where sensory detail becomes thought.

If we think of this music as electrical, a thing made of electricity, then we find it to be always remaking itself – transforming in every instant, yet continually preserving its conception. The limit of effect is merely the limit of the musician’s imagination. From moody and psychological to juicy and exuberant, Stokes revels equally in tightly arranged progressions and timeless amorphous drones. Buzzing lead melodies provide a lovely voice in which to deliver a renewing message, while gentle beats and grooves speed up, then slow down – moving these compositions beyond squishy IDM and into the realm of intriguing thought experiment. Unique tones, novel arrangements, comprehensive synthesis and Stokes’ joyful intensity provide fuel for the listener’s mental adventures.

This work could not have been realized outside the intimacy of the live environment. The immediacy of the moment, the consistent pattern of change and the spark of inspiration all act upon Stokes, as he produces continuous currents of sound for his spellbound audience. This venue, and its patrons, have become known for revealing to musicians what they are capable of – and believe that a new idea in music is worth the challenge to make it. The music Saul Stokes made at The Gatherings now has a second life as an album release. The Gatherings 16 November 2013 was made live, in the heat of the moment, before an enthusiastic, informed community. As these conditions are known for revealing the creative spark, we find both the musician and his listeners experiencing this extraordinary music together in the act of being made.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END15 November 2018


Proceeds from the sale of The Gatherings 16 November 2013 by Saul Stokes go to support the efforts of CIMA of PA, the IRS recognized, non-profit, all-volunteer organization which oversees The Gatherings Concert Series in Philadelphia.

Various Artists: Polarity

Polarity

Polarity

Various Artists: Polarity
Released: 31 May 2017
www.ultimae.com

Somewhere sacred between the musician and the audience is the DJ. Deciphering the secrets of a unique treasury, these types often vanish within our listening experience. Anyone can simply string together a number of decent songs, but a higher meaning may come from the expert pacing and placing of each track in just the right spot (with those of this craft finding the rush of mixing their first time every time). The anthology Polarity includes 26 tracks by a considered range of various artists across two compact discs. Arnaud Galoppe (also known as Focal) has been commissioned with blending these works into two distinctive extended moods. While Polarity is an excellently produced album throughout, fans of STAR’S END may be attracted to the disc labeled “Ambient Side” (a bit more than the equally well produced “Techno Side” CD). Galoppe, our sonic celebrant, excellently intertwines the stories of each of the two discs’ 13 artists and tracks. Spacing is the very groundwork of design, and this producer demonstrates his ability to build interesting environments – by bridging and binding opposing energies in the magical interplay between time, memory and imagination. A reduced narrative content simulates arrested motion, as a mystical dark light seems to hover over certain passages. In the surrounding zones where shadows become an essential part of the plan, Polarity further subverts dominant codes of music. Like underground explosions, distant rumbling foretells of a pulsing activity within. Hair-raising bass drops seem to harness the energy of electricity, as the mood changes just when we want it to. When synthesized modulations thicken the air, an easing harmony soon emerges out of the density. The methodical movement between light and dark, hot and cool terrain is impressive and effective. From the power of empty space, to energized riffs moving the body, Polarity provides an intriguing journey into electronic texture and sound – expanding and contracting continually under an atmosphere suggestive of all things cerebral. Even the recurring drum zones loop at the speed of dreams, and beckon thought. Anthologies are a good way to learn about new artists, but sometimes it is not necessarily the individual tracks the audience wants, but their mixture, and the more complex experience which may arise from a well-produced set. The DJ is that complexity. Making something bigger than the sum of its parts, Galoppe so enjoys the act of connecting two different songs through smooth transitions. Raising and lowering the energy level, from drifting gray calm to sparked beats and grooves (and many levels in between) the many musicians presented throughout Polarity play a significant role – one more that of source material than of author. But each are equally valuable, none better than the other, as taken together in this assemblage their individual meanings are amplified, and they each reach a place where none could go alone.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 January 2018

Ascendant: Particle Horizon

Particle Horizon

Particle Horizon

Ascendant: Particle Horizon
Released: 7 November 2017
www.synphaera.com
www.ambientascendant.com

Particle Horizon (73’42”) shows a new confidence at the reunion of two coolly calculating minds. As Ascendant, music makers Don C. Tyler & Chris Bryant work well together at communing with our interior monologue. In touch with the current of creativity, by way of the current of electricity, here this duo provides ten harmonious compositions – each portraying ideas and feelings of magnitude. With its benevolent messages, drifting lost in the darkness of space, Particle Horizon is an intricate but effortlessly listenable album. From meandering melodic thoughts, to luxurious lead lines, Tyler & Bryant champion civility. Sounds shine spectacularly as synthetic sighs and whispering waves expand across note dappled soundscapes. Skittering electronic pulsations are woven into the music, yet refuse to establish a regular beat – as each piece on Particle Horizon turns like a system of intermeshed helical gears. Enhancing the sonorous aspects of this work its tonal material intricates a lofty character, and achieves a surface of equalized tension. Synths slowly crest, then recede into timeless cosmic serenity. Bass notes mark a slow time in potent dramatic holds, just as intermittent sonar chiffs signal an incoming message. But, for all its musicianship and production values, the importance of this music lies in the emotional responses of its listeners. In an apparent independence from terrestrial concerns, Particle Horizon has been designed to create and sustain a particular state of non-climactic thought. As its users grow ever wiser to its technology, one would think that this genre would eventually begin to sound conventional, and become tamed. Yet, it still has the capability to unleash latent creative potential in everyone who engages with it (musician and audience alike). The true wonder of Electronic Music is not that its reaches are so vast, but that its people continually attempt to touch that which will always be just beyond their grasp. In this spirit, the technological revolution will be proven to be not an unstoppable, unguided force, but a product of human creativity. As the authors of each advance, Mankind will always decide where technology will take us.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END14 December 2017

Secondface: Transitions

Transitions

Transitions

Secondface: Transitions
Released: 10 June 2017
gterma.blogspot.com

Secondface, the music project by Frank V Jensen, portrays the excitement of being part of one’s own time. The release Transitions (74’30”) comes straight from the center of his nervous system. Across 12 solitary journeys for the mind, the person is the target of this work. So many details compete for our attention. In sluggish, swaggering grooves, and the swirling dramatic movement and brilliant color of horespowered beats, this music purrs, then revs – as the RPMs and BPMs whirl under an electric spirit. Noting its twists and turns as it progresses forward and at times changes course, Transitions deploys like a continuous undulating bolt of electricity. While one piece has the listener engaging with gigantic forces, another will leave us haunted and adrift. Accompanied by pulsing patterns, the low-end throbs under shimmering synthesized chords. When the tempo changes, varying energy levels stimulate thought and movement. But when the big beats drop in it seems like the celestial and terrestrial worlds are colliding. Breathy sustaining tones expand and brighten, while rhythms enter, build, drop out, and return – yet ever the more certain. As irresistible as these features are in a thoughtless dancehall, to the thinkers among us they reveal both the sensual reality and psychological intensity to be experienced on this sonic journey. It is thought that there is a normal everyday level, and then there is a quantum level where everything works differently. Listening to a beautiful piece of music is like falling under a spell – like entering a realm where magic may happen. This kind of music started out as modern but is now thought of as contemporary. Upon listening to Transitions we find that Jensen is awake to the outside world, and that his music consorts with it in a way that adds something to our concept of it.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 October 2017

Various Artists: Passages

Passages

Passages

Passages by Various Artists
Released: 17 April 2014
www.ultimae.com

Massimo Terranova understands that the music of the night cannot be explained during the day. His work under the name Nova, framer of the wonderful Ultimae Records mixed anthology called Passages (72’29”), presents 12 after-dark explorations of synthetic sound that go as deeply as any music ever has into all the darkest and brightest areas of the human psyche – and the human heart. Also responsible for the two previous compilation CDs Albedo (2005) and Imaginary Friends (2009), on Passages Nova again provides an interesting philosophical skirmish between the chill of smooth drifting Ambient works and the pleasurable rush of grooves and beats. The resulting listening experience gained from Passages can send your mind down an oily black network of ideas and links. Utilizing a range of realizations by the likes of AES Dana, Connect.Ohm, Miktek, James Murray and others Nova arranges the tracks and paces the album with exceptional sensitivity toward the smart listener and the musical energy levels one may desire to be in touch with during the most meaningful moments of a deep-thought night. As notes caper and dance above soft kick drum thuds and commanding basslines the more upbeat tracks hint at mechanical origins but convey a pulsing life force. The thrill of discovery also extends on down into slow motion dreamscapes of timbral motion and atmospheric textures. Imaginative transitions between each artist’s contribution and dramatic shifts in tempo and mood show intelligence in this compilation’s execution. Although Nova makes no music here of his own, he places, layers and connects the works of others in such a way as to create something entirely his own, something larger than the sum of its parts. Thanks to its production and the music contained within Passages occupies a unique zone, one where it is still possible to feel part of a secret, part of something new and thrilling.

(Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 May 2014)