Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Kosmiche Musik

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

Cosmic Ground: Cosmic Ground Live

Cosmic Ground Live

Cosmic Ground Live

Cosmic Ground: Cosmic Ground Live
Released: 17 June 2017

Pondering galaxy-sized questions, Cosmic Ground entered the concert hall. Compiling performances from two 2016 events (E-Live & The 9th Psychedelic Network Festivals), Dirk Jan Müller and Horst Porkert have realized the album Cosmic Ground Live (77’49”). The four tracks where made in the heat of the moment, as these conditions are known for revealing the creative spark, and finds both musicians and their listeners experiencing the music together in the act of being made. The trick is for neither to become too lost in the process. Cosmic Ground Live begins broodingly downbeat, with dark forms rising from out of dark corners of the mind. Bass laden drones try to 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 deep dense rumbling electronic tempest, before the introduction of Müller’s signature breathless tone patterns – which mount, repeat and seem to echo out across eternity. A demon behind the sequencer, he occasionally observes the audience – who will always tell you which way to go. Each new ascent presents the classic sound of one or another vintage synthesizer, and a shivery reverence that defies explanation. Weeping choirs and full-throated waveforms endow this release with greater passion. The compression that comes from these reprieves of stillness intensifies feelings found in the passages of acceleration. With each set, our Spacemusic mystics manage to conjure a stimulating atmosphere of mystery, adventure and motion. Once inside this expansive zone, we may travel to the place where lives our dearest hopes and dreams. Cosmic Ground Live glows with mystery and possibility, pushing through the outer limits of mainstream constraints. This is the music we may turn to whenever we need proof that further possibilities for representing innovation, mystery and drama in music still lie out there; in an ever-receding possible elsewhere. These kinds of live concerts are a spectacle of wires, electricity and wits – something that trusts all who hear it to think.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 July 2017

Bernd Kistenmacher: Disintegration



Bernd Kistenmacher: Disintegration
Released: 1 March 2017

Knowledge alone is flat and lifeless, but may become meaningful through the accumulation of experience over time. Bernd Kistenmacher will tell you that this path to knowing is long, and permits no shortcuts. His album Disintegration (62’46”) offers eight electronic listening studies, informed by his decades long involvement in Spacemusic. Each piece exhibits a distinctive mood and atmosphere which keeps us well within a chilled space throughout this journey. Rhythms and slow beats do emerge in a few places, but the overall feel of Disintegration is that of contemplation. Beneath changeless constellations synthesizer strings build out and hold, as bass laden drones bulge with portent. Then later, like a spark in the open air, glittering modulations spray and dapple their sonic particles in echoing trails. The wheels are stilled, leaving room for the rushing of metal drones and slowed adagio synths. The ambiance softens, as the delicate lilt of an ascending voice reaches us from out of a diffuse celestial realm. Bernd Kistenmacher has learned how to reprogram his own mind. He forges together the vocabularies of technology and art, memory and music, literature and mathematics, electronics and emotion in his search for the perfect language – a cognitive language in which he can truly think. A language that is more expressive than anything we have before encountered. Waiting for a sign in the sky, or a word from the stars, Kistenmacher has taken the way of the thinker – and never loses sight of the cosmic wonders he is trying to capture, or of the nebulous mysteries his audience is trying to fathom. Disintegration can be as warm as the sun on the skin, or just as easily become like the dark light holding grinding galaxies. An exploration of sound mass, where the collective textures of instruments are treated as one single entity, his music breaks out with forlorn voltage.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 July 2017