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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Looping

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picks, pedals and miscellaneous boxes and gizmos blossoms into euphoric arrangements of glowing ghostly ambience and withdrawn textural states.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

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

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

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

Erik Wollo: Infinite Moments

Infinite Moments

Infinite Moments

Erik Wøllo: Infinite Moments
Released: 4 January 2019
www.projekt.com
www.wollo.com

Often, music will reflect the state of the times in which it is being made. Fortunately for us, Erik Wøllo is making music not for our now, but for our future. The album Infinite Moments (57’32”) is a journey into Wøllo’s beliefs and perception of the world, and is powerful in ways that words cannot capture. Playing his electric guitar with an e-bow through a substantial amount of digital processing, he approaches these six sonic flights with a stable sense of serenity. In a masterful, tightly controlled performance his thick, spare, sometimes ominous approach conveys the joy of living, but also a few shades of solitude and isolation. Gone is the familiarity of the six-string tones. Bearing the drama of Wøllo’s slow melodies and embracing harmonies are his rounded, flexing sounds – which arrange themselves comfortably throughout the listening space. Breathing chords, friendly rather than foreboding, emerge, sustain and recede – drawn out in echoing waves of gentle tones. The explored realms pass between pastel cloud sunsets and the velvet cloak of night, to a place of private understandings. Charged with electrical nuance and the questioning nature of proper Ambient Music, Infinite Moments delivers the expected shivers. A completely meditative work, it is as if we are hearing the sound of the cosmos being filtered through 21st century technology. Wøllo observes the granular texture of reality, the severity of its miracles, and the range of its grace. For fans and novices of Spacemusic… Infinite Moments is a must.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 March 2019

Juha-Matti Rautiainen: Above Me Weeps the Sky

Above Me Weeps the Sky

Above Me Weeps the Sky

Juha-Matti Rautiainen: Above Me Weeps the Sky
Released: 15 November 2018
www.juhamattirautiainen.com

We find the music of Juha-Matti Rautiainen drifting in a cool deep blackness. Tinged with cosmic melancholy his album Above Me Weeps the Sky (66:31) feels as intimate as a whisper, yet as vital as the sun rising on a new day. Rautiainen has a musician’s gift for finding and organizing the perfect range of sounds and textures meant for conjuring a specific atmosphere – in service to expressing certain emotions. It is this exact sonic poetry that gives this album its slow chill. Rautiainen has obviously left the conventional view of his instrument behind, as Above Me Weeps the Sky finds him using it to explore music of stillness and space. The music slowly alternates between a trembling vulnerability to waves of strength and light – often with a deep subsonic foundation. Coaxing new and surprising timbres, along with more comforting melodies and contrasting harmonies, the field of sound expands beyond the well-established palette of the bass with layered tones, bending notes, metallic pitch shifts and image altering processing. His success may be found in the connection of imagination and creativity to technique and technology – and the taming of a quieter action. Rautiainen has not found the right solutions to the problems plaguing our age, but he has found the right questions. By hearing him play the electric bass guitar in a most resourceful way, doing such imaginative things with it, eliciting sounds from out of the sky on down to the ground, with just four steel strings, it should not be hard for us also to imagine being bigger… larger than the way we find ourselves. We are a meaning seeking kind, and so seek to silence the turbulence within to better carry out our ways. By taking the way of the thinker we may find that we are not living through a bad time, but it is an empty time – which leaves it up to humanity to find the sacred. And so we shall, even as the sky cries above the weary world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END27 December 2018

Robert Rich & Markus Reuter: Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018

Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018

Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018

Robert Rich & Markus Reuter: Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018
Released: 4 July 2018
www.robertrich.com
www.markusreuter.com

People pray in a church. On 19 May 2018 Robert Rich & Markus Reuter played in a church, and did something that was truly new. Their program for The Gatherings Concert Series merged the aesthetics of Classical Music with the profanity of improvisation; as this duo did not just acknowledge the mystery of existence, they celebrated it. Their album Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018 presents the full concert – where Rich performed at the grand piano and Reuter with his Touch Guitar and digital processing before a rapt Philadelphia audience. Some audiences sing along, or clap, while others may drink, dance, sway or bob. Symphony attendees read the conductor’s notes. At The Gatherings we listen, which provided Rich & Reuter with an opening to delve deeper into a new set of explorations – of a magic they had first encountered in the making of their 2017 studio album Lift a Feather to the Flood. These guys know all the notes, chords, scales, majors and minors. Yet the works found on Flood Expeditions are about the subtle power of sound – not for decorating the live space, but for a glimpse into something spiritual. With its ever-fading atmospheric tones and digital haze their realizations may seem a formless vacuum, yet everything is balanced by optimism. Rich’s piano notes resound through reverberation, surrounded by surreal fluttering environmental textures. Whether playing the keys seated, or reaching into the piano to pluck, scrape and strum its inner workings, he seems to produce emanations from a lifetime of receiving and expressing wonder. Reuter waits deep in the soundscape to find many electric moments. His guitar first breathes lowly, then asserts a color of succinct distortion in heated lead lines, expanding soon into ethereal consonance. Using a uniquely routed echo, he even manages to wedge in a conversation with himself. Rather than root the audience to where they sit, together Rich & Reuter transport us to an immaterial realm – where an internal guidance awakens. This music represents something outside of ourselves, upon which we project our thoughts and contemplations. There are no instructions for listening to Flood Expeditions, there is only the sensation of hearing. As we endeavored to hear their message in the darkened sanctuary this performance reminded us of the nature of possibility – of what we can become. But Robert Rich & Markus Reuter cannot play us into the answers, we must live into them ourselves.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 July 2018

Stratosphere: Collaborations I

Collaborations I

Collaborations I

Stratosphere: Collaborations I
Released: 21 April 2018
www.industryeight.com
www.stratosphere.be

In his music project Stratosphere, guitarist Ronald Mariën, creates loop and effect heavy music that drones and burbles, tinkles and undulates, as if acknowledging the fragility of the state it offers. With his album Collaborations I (72’28”) he pairs off with nine other musicians to produce as many tracks in a distinctive range of new music. Mariën provides each collaborator with an atmosphere over which they may lay their signature sounds – each adding something to the effort that Mariën cannot conjure on his own. As ghostly assemblages of drifting guitar textures meet muted synthetic harmonies, we might zone out through whole songs at a time – only to become startled by some pristine sonic detail buried in the mix. In the restless surge of advancing tones the listener may find strength in the stillness – just as easily as the next track unleashes a lava-hot guitar drone “deal-with-it” drum jam. While some efforts do take the ear strangely, Collaborations I also provides enough reassuring ambient thought zones to color the listening space with familiar tones and warm temperatures. In the movement of these masses of sound, and the resulting radiant, translucent conditions, we find a certain comfort in all the openness, space, possibility and even the danger – as each track struggles for its own unity and cohesion.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END   19 April 2018

Lowercase Noises: The Swiss Illness

The Swiss Illness

The Swiss Illness

Lowercase Noises: The Swiss Illness
Released: 19 May 2017
www.lowercasenoises.com

Through his instruments, Andy Othling speaks as much to himself as he does to his listeners. Performing and recording as Lowercase Noises Othling’s music is shaped by the pressure of ideas and emotions. The Swiss Illness (42’03”) offers eight profound and personal wonderings. Each rich with detail, these tracks reward close and repeated listening. While this album’s dramatic power is inseparable from its hushed, sensuous spender, the quieter this work becomes the deeper we may to go into it. Using electric and acoustic guitars, as well as pianos (well-tuned and otherwise), basic tones are fed through layers of echo and reverberation effects – emerging on the other side completely transformed, or at least slightly sweetened. From small moments of grace to grand sonic flowering The Swiss Illness alternately calms the interior monologue and charges the imagination. The unifying power of simply arranged chords enhances the sections of cerebral complexity. Slowly strummed steel strings are sent vibrating through processors, which yields varying new colors of sound. Othling’s arrangements project a rare combination of divinity and discipline, instinct and intelligence. His work benefits from a mode of attentiveness closer to that of browsing an art gallery than feeding a jukebox. Listening to this album, which is perpetually changing shape, we move with the shifting soundscape. Spare and diminutive one moment, thick and dense the next, we admire its ability to clear our minds of everything other than the music itself – as what appears to be just a few spare notes and chords conjure an entire world inside our heads. We will eventually leave this realm, and return to the plane of reality – however thick with gloom – with a sense of clarity and composure. The Swiss Illness is so perfectly tuned to our sense of sonic desires that it is beautiful – a thing of beauty moving through the air, and to our ears, and then with our brain’s neurons in an eerie synchronicity. But it does not push anything in the real world forward. That task lies with its listeners – as we try to live up to the ideal of this music.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END4 January 2018