Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Kosmiche Musik

Cosmic Ground: Cosmic Ground IV

Cosmic Ground IV

Cosmic Ground IV

Cosmic Ground: Cosmic Ground IV
Released: 21 May 2018

It may be argued that we are drawn to whatever in music that is boldly marked with personality. The brawny, brooding, primal realm of electronic sound realized by Dirk Jan Müller, in his highly personal effort as Cosmic Ground, does offer a distinctive synthetic substance – as well as access to the feelings of the lower plane. The album Cosmic Ground IV (78’26”) wanders to bizarre, distant and involved coloristic regions. If a synthesizer is a tool to make sound, then electricity is the raw material – which works its will within us across this CD’s seven tracks. Utilizing the darker portion of the audible spectrum the composer subjects the listener to a range of daring and captivating mental experiences. Phantasmal sonic events seem to confront underworld demons, as we move away from any concluding serenity. Along with all its foreboding, Cosmic Ground IV does give the impression that Müller takes some pleasure in the rhythmical arrangement of sound. Large-scale discharges lead to episodes of stormy grandeur, yet a swollen waltz of dancing arpeggio notes soon lights our shaky steps. However, in spite of a cerebral climax of overpowering sequencer sonority, we may still feel this music becoming darker by degrees. In ominous oscillations between Mellotron black and the comforting chords of a soft electric organ, this music is trying to say something for which words have not yet been invented. Many albums of Spacemusic simply provide pleasurable feelings to the listener. This one goes further… transmuting vague sentiments into the human sense of wonderment. Following the course of thought, Cosmic Ground IV provides a contact between two minds: that of the author and of you – who benefit from being open to the refreshment, the strengthening, and the stimulation of this work.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END24 May 2018


EFSS: Tidal Shift

Tidal Shift

Tidal Shift

EFSS: Tidal Shift
Released: 9 April 2018

If you are seeking an easy way to shift your mind set, then just cue up Tidal Shift (54’23”) – the collective collaboration between Jörg Erren, Bert Fleissig, Jochen Schöttler and Christian Steffen. This album selectively activates neurochemical systems and brain structures associated with positive mood – as its music travels from the brain space of the creators directly into ours. Each of the seven tracks vibrates inside us, one by one conjuring a different color and atmosphere. The tempo may prowl then race outward with machine-like focus. A sense of serenity mutates into unease, setting us down amidst oxidized tones and an eerie beauty. Metallic drones, churning within collapsing worlds, are soon joined by ethereal strings and ticking percussion – with fat synthesized blobs marking time beneath flights of echoing sequencer runs. A rhythmic grid locates itself in space, and is promptly foregrounded by glittering modulated effects and raw energized sparks. Ghostly assemblages of drifting electronics become absorbed by a restless surge of synchronized patterns, only to plunge us back into the stillness of a close and holy darkness. All this and more makes Tidal Shift an exhilarating document. EFSS spends only a few days a year working together urgently on this music, and here reaches a new plateau. This release reasserts their originality as musicians – operating in the luxury of an underground haven where ideas can be explored freely with no worry of how they will land. This secluded existence is built around the contemplative pursuit of making music. By purchasing this CD, playing their work, and listening, we are granted permission to go with them on an intimate journey of creativity.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END10 May 2018

[‘ramp]: no sleep ’til wilmersdorf

no sleep 'til wilmersdorf

no sleep ’til wilmersdorf

[‘ramp]: no sleep ’til wilmersdorf
Released: 3 April 2018

In the digital-world, it is possible to achieve perfection – and Stephen Parsick is quite grateful that he is not at all part of this endeavor. The common musician must cede the realm he explores as [‘ramp] and his decades long reckless ride into the unknown. His album no sleep ’til wilmersdorf (75’57”) excites the highest imagination. A thing of beauty, with darkness at its center, this work opens a wide sonic space, invites you in, but remains indifferent. In eight instrumental space fables, conjuring beasts as easily as they do flowers, the music matches its creator’s ambitions quite well. Just because this genre is referred to as Spacemusic, we need not contemplate the meaning of the cosmos to enjoy it. Once you are in step with the spiraling sequencer patterns, ratcheting accents and echoing syncopation of electronic tones, the search for meaning slips away – as we find consolation in all sonic imaginings flowing from out of our speakers. Carrying an undercurrent of doom, uncertain welcomes and wayward spirits, no sleep ’til wilmersdorf is a reflection of our deep disquiet about the world we are building. Human and muscular, mesmerizing patterns and furious colors emerge from a realm of their own – defying comfortable categorization. Everything shimmers in starlight, as ghostly assemblages of drifting electronics, as if fighting gravity, move through sections of stillness. In tempestuous upheavals of sound, then with painterly restraint, prowling bass notes beneath the restless surge of tumbling upper register notes forward march in a study of formal relationships at their most primal. While our attention may leap from synthesizer, to Mellotron, to electric piano, to field recording, the music always showcases Parsick’s masterful understanding of arrangement and navigation. An interconnected mess of components, his music machinery heats up (and maybe even vibrates slightly), producing ethereal tones, full-bodied lead lines, and an entrancing futurism like something out of a dream. It takes a certain kind of individual to appreciate this experience, one of being the only person in this musical space – and liking it… the feeling of solitude, the absence of noise, the possibility of encountering something elemental, or something bigger outside of ourselves. It is the feel of an extraordinary enchantment, as magical as you would expect. So works by [‘ramp] (and other things like it) patiently wait – for our senses to grow sharper. This music has always been thought of as forward thinking – a premonition of the future. But somewhere our world stopped caring about what will come, about the potential of humanity, and more about chasing easy contentment. Although Parsick acknowledges the pitiful sight of a people with a past, but no present, he would not have released no sleep ’til wilmersdorf were it not for a galactic sized optimism. In works of intriguing musings on the intersection of technology and art – Stephen Parsick gives life to the breadth and width of his imagination.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 26 April 2018

Chuck van Zyl: Recitals 2

Recitals 2

Recitals 2

Chuck van Zyl: Recitals 2
Released: 31 March 2018

Chuck van Zyl has been a man finding his moment, in any live space that will hold him. The double CD Recitals 2 presents music recorded at two late 2017 performances. His shows for The 6th Floor and DIGITAL DREAMS were documented with an ordinary two-track recording device. After months of review, two 60+ minute sonic journeys were produced, and released as Recitals 2.

The possibilities of Electronic Music make it the perfect tool for exploring spontaneous composition. Recitals 2 is an example of two such events – both without a predetermined outcome – where the gathered and the musician experienced the music together. A receptive audience brings out van Zyl’s strengths, while the hushed space receives his work. The heat of this struggle melds into the music and spirit, softening and melting, then hardening and tempering the player. Each of this album’s two concerts moves powerfully and naturally, unsettling the world into which they intercede. A musician of the imagination van Zyl’s seeks the pure delight of providing an epic intimacy in the digital age. Determined to conjure kinetic joy an animating force tickles your mind and tugs on your heart – as agile sequencer antics thrill and the vulnerability of improvisation connects. In ever strengthening whirlpools of thought, rows of echoing tone patterns are deployed. Amidst the lines of echoing, dancing arpeggio notes a racing heart turns, runs and trills in melodic invention. Heroic keyboard leads and Mellotron harmonies peak over a pumping, commanding bassline – only later to be drawn down into shifting shadows of sustaining synthesized textures and a quiet sense of mystery. While cliff-high chords stall the dramatic momentum, an infinity of volumes provides a feeling of elation and abandon – only to descend to a skeletal negative space and a bewitching haze of free form randomness.

Recitals 2 takes each member of its audience on their own personal journey. With its deep space gateways and brilliant, skull crushing sequencer breakdowns, from the heights of its combustible, cut loose, superb heedlessness, on down to its quietly ominous consuming dark fields, this music invites wonder. Beginning with simple electronic devices and ending with the multi-dimensional world known only to the imaginative, Chuck van Zyl harnesses the machinery of night. Unblinking, completely in control, he performs in a cool constraint. It is remarkable that, after so many years, the creative flame still burns bright. His concerts are a probe of the calm facade, of the internal mystery – and reach towards the unseen depths within us all. Recitals 2 tells a powerful story of an exhilarated mind – a mind roaming well beyond the concert stage.

From the Press Release – 8 March 2018

Ombient w/Chuck van Zyl: The Gatherings 20 May 2017

The Gatherings 20 May 2017

The Gatherings 20 May 2017

Ombient w/Chuck van Zyl: The Gatherings 20 May 2017
Released: 20 October 2017

The album The Gatherings 20 May 2017 (58’55”) presents the complete live performance by Ombient (Mike Hunter) and Chuck van Zyl during the 25th Anniversary Season of this most venerable innovative music series. Their realization KL-93 was made live, in the heat of the moment, before an enthusiastic, informed audience. As these conditions are known for revealing the creative spark, we find both musicians and their listeners experiencing this extraordinary music together in the act of being made.Without laptops or pre-set software this duo endeavors out into a realm made up of hardware electronics and mental reverie. Minor key Mellotron chords slowly sweep across the sound field. Synthetic drones hold, dim, then lighten. In an ascending rush, then a descending calm, with our imaginative sonic aviators we depart our more common thoughts… for mysterious regions. Bass laden drones soon swallow a melodious Mellotron flute solo, which lilts blessedly above a maelstrom of writhing timbres. Wrapped in a luminous halo of reverberation a string section rises from the rumbling tempest, before the introduction of Hunter’s signature breathless tone patterns – which mount, repeat, and seem to echo out across eternity. A demon behind the sequencer he forgoes the white heat of computer technology – for realizations of mechanical, electrical and analog origin. Utilizing several cases worth of sacramental modular synthesizers, in a secret ministry of sound he performs a most welcome digital detox on the audience.

In propulsive bristling fervor, tumbling sequencer patterns motor on in echoing perfection. The notes brighten, darken, modulate, add and subtract, in a futuristic syncopated minimalism Spacemusic fans have been fascinated with for decades. In a withheld energy these echoing interlocking runs of notes produce a mounting compositional tension, released in our minds as impressionistic cerebration. Every new ascent presents the classic sound of one or another vintage synthesizer, and a shivery reverence that defies explanation. With each turn, these Spacemusic mystics manage to conjure a stimulating atmosphere of mystery, adventure and motion. From its plutonium dense gray desolation and battles with extreme silence, to twinkling modulations and multiple rows of rolling sequencer patterns, we move – west with the night. Arranged under an atmosphere of netherworld sonics, the composition KL-93 throbs powerfully and bounds outward along an electrified musical current.

This work, and that of contemporaries such as Arc, Cosmic Ground, Free System Projekt, Node and Redshift, draws on higher-order capacities. Theirs is a minimalism that speaks volumes. By carefully exploiting the intrinsic technological limits of 1970s Electronic Music Mike Hunter & Chuck van Zyl enlarge the medium’s expressive range and prove this genre is an organism that continues to grow and change with each new manifestation. Today’s artists hope to elevate the Spacemusic experience to one of mystical proportions – as they continue to push this sound as far as it can go.

STAR’S END20 October 2017

Proceeds from the sale of The Gatherings 20 May 2017 by Ombient w/Chuck van Zyl 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

Javi Canovas: One More Day, One Day Less

One More Day, One Day Less

One More Day, One Day Less

Javi Canovas: One More Day, One Day Less
Released: 19 April 2017

What of us carries into the future? Is there anything of it within us right now? Through his music, Javi Canovas searches forward and back, and inward. One More Day, One Day Less (65’01”) conveys the full force of living outside of time – in the enthralling space of the imagination. Penetrating, permeated with psychological intensity, this album draws the listener to the play and shades of their interior. Like a wave of electricity sweeping across the brain, One More Day, One Day Less captures the momentum of a moving storm. Swirling flurries of tones cycle and echo in precise, tightly arranged pulsations. In a painstaking technique of repetition and variation, the lines of synchronized sequencer notes twist and turn, rise and fall, lighten and darken, as they progresses forward, or at times changes course – further deepening the mystery. Yet, all the while these potent realizations remain heading steadily toward their destination. Surrounded by diagonals of darkness, patterns ring out in a light filled space. In this exaggerated scale the spiraling dramatic movement and brilliant electronic colors feel relentless, and exhilarating. The four tracks of One More Day, One Day Less show a capacity for slow and solemn rhythmic development, each climbing to a powerful climax. As one is drawn into a musical experience of larger proportions, we find this favorite form used to great effect. Lustrous chord banks, like towering walls of clouds, emerge to cushion the kaleidoscopic electronic advance. Each piece concludes in simplicity of form, with a sense of stillness, and the decent and deadly imposed order of unconsciousness. It may be that Canovas’ work is just an everyday trace of his pursuit of the now. But, life’s distractions are never permanent – and if everything is already in the past, then that is where most of our lives are. One More Day, One Day Less is an excellent reminder.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 September 2017

Chuck van Zyl: Celestial Mechanics

celestialmechanics2017Chuck van Zyl: Celestial Mechanics
Released: 2 June 2017

The outward appearance of Celestial Mechanics is that of a CD album, but its true origin extends back to the era of tape. The 1980s found Chuck van Zyl (and his many compatriots) recording Spacemusic and releasing it on audio cassette. During this span, Synkronos Music put out a trove of cassette releases, including The Moment of Totality (1990) and Callisto (1989) by Chuck van Zyl. Each held two side-long pieces of music, and established a series of releases by van Zyl representing his enthusiasm for Astronomy and the Cosmos. So Celestial Mechanics may be viewed as compiling these early works onto a CD, and getting them out before the public – and that is exactly what Centaur Discs Ltd of Scotland did in 1993 – thus presenting Chuck van Zyl to the world beyond his small mail order following.

That original CD edition has been out of print for some time now. But thanks to the Philadelphia based label industry8, Celestial Mechanics is back, re-mastered and treated to modern audio enhancements, and a vastly improved fidelity. Housed in a limited edition, four panel digipak, and adorned with vivid NASA probe images, it offers those interested listeners and collectors the opportunity to encounter the significant backstory to one of our community’s most unique affiliates.

Inspired by space, the physical universe, and all of its intricacies, as well as by classic Kosmische Musik works from out of the 1970s Berlin-School, van Zyl realized the four pieces found on Celestial Mechanics as personal electronic odes – to the four Galilean moons of Jupiter, and the astral motions of the solar system.

Clearly influenced by Crystal Lake and Rubycon, as well as by the direct mentoring of The Nightcrawlers (the NJ Space trio with which he was so closely associated), van Zyl found himself finally making music that, not only properly portrayed his cosmic yearning, but was representative of the restless, creative spirit which had inhabited him for so long.

As we listen to Celestial Mechanics, we can feel this world of discovery still living on. The repeating music box sequencer intro of the title track immediately turns our thoughts to the virtues of The Universe as a place of possibility and wonder. Sounds build out, and additional lines of rhythm are introduced. A magic machine pulse provides a distinctive energy, one more of the mind than of the air. Confirming synth lines surface – reassuring the lost, and arousing the adventurous – and dramatic chord changes help us ascend further still. As we pass through eerie amorphous interludes of drones, metallic tones, and wondrously modulated aural accents, the mounting tension resolves.

The emergence of an ever repeating pattern of echoing bass notes supports the lilting melody of a soft synthesizer lead. Minimalist sequencer runs motor on, then gradually brighten. Individual notes are transposed and repeated, minutely altering the pattern and quickening the music’s pulse. After a few variations in momentum, the music slows, and expends its previously built mass in thoughtful repose. Transitioning out of this energetic phase the magical beauty of its closing section solemnly brings Celestial Mechanics to its conclusion.

While Celestial Mechanics includes all of the texture and atmosphere the Spacemusic genre is known for, its biggest success is in its entertainment of a most unusual idea – of traveling while being still. New musical territory can only be discovered once. Chuck van Zyl has built profoundly upon all of his. They are but reference points – in a field that is inexhaustible.

STAR’S END2 June 2017