Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Ombient

Ombient: The Wings of Halphas

The Wings of Halphas

The Wings of Halphas

Ombient: The Wings of Halphas
Released: 19 September

Ombient has heard night eating the world, and converted this energy into sound. Taking the listener into null space the extraordinary Electronic Musician Mike Hunter observes an odd parade of angels and demons that check in and out of his nightmarish sonic space. Adding to a restless and vast body of work now comes The Wings of Halphas (59″00′). It will do us no good to leave a light on while this piece plays, because if timbre is thought of as the color of sound, then this album is black enough to absorb the light of any respectable listening area. Here the idiosyncrasies of Hunter’s gear are cleverly enlisted, so you are advised to ready your sub-woofers for the ensuing sound system workout. With crackling circuitry searing electronics, the conventional access points of rhythm, melody and harmony are closed off – as The Wings of Halphas presents an experience of sounds, tones and organization that will be completely unfamiliar to any audience. In Ombient’s uncontained void, distortion is a welcome character. With its ripping texture, and red zone saturation, it bestows a sense of surpassing limits – in service to this composition’s ever-present feeling of lost abandon. The fire of a rumbling furnace draws air in hissing discontent, to issue the leaden fumes of this grinding industry. Raw chords inhabit the cellar, cowering before the grinding oscillators and crumbling modulations occupying the upper air. Something more than drones and tones inhabit this seemingly unending track. Probing, bitter, sharp, emotionally charged, yet burning cool The Wings of Halphas expresses more than the surface reality of sound. It digs down below – because from out of the subterranean realm does come the inspiration for this kind of music. In Ombient’s demanding world dense auricular forms do frustrate our dreams of escape – so conjured by a particular, inquisitive mind. Like waking from darkness, into a dark time, we wonder if we will ever find our way out? But for all its devils and darkness, this realization came into being out of the simple pleasure of making music, of following where the creative process leads – in hopes of working the minds of both the player and the listener.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 September 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

Ombient: Sectio Aurea

Sectio Aurea

Sectio Aurea

Ombient: Sectio Aurea
Released: 27 December 2015

The CD Sectio Aurea (78’01”) can hardly be contained by the room it is playing in. Mike Hunter (a.k.a. Ombient) finds inspiration in an almost mythical past of 1970s Berlin, while pursuing the present day’s desire for modernity. Sectio Aurea is in part Hunter’s own interpretation of the classic Departure From the Northern Wasteland – a further cultivation of Michael Hoenig’s imaginings by a musician who recognizes the value of this work. Working in a genre often thought of as too dependent on hardware, Hunter explores the ways this music may convey the truth of complex subject matter. With a whirlwind intelligence in its glowing prime, he connects to strategies central to Spacemusicians across the globe. We are swept away by an enveloping sense of magic, forgetting for an instant our critical spirit. Electricity is transformed into sound through an impressive collection of vintage and modern modular synthesizers and keyboards. Large sonic forms dominate the soundfield. The engaging locomotive power of Hunter’s sequencer manipulations and breakdowns bring a pumping pulse to Sectio Aurea. An ever-evolving rotating syncopation feels captivating to us – gained as the firing order of arpeggio notes spiral down into unpredictable slots. A highly specific set of possible chromatic symmetries support a range of confident synth lead lines. Declaring the musician’s narrative these full-bodied analog expressions sing in electric ribbons of sound. Echoing notes repeat and resound in synchronized layers of mechanized rhythms, until the concluding track resolves this journey, settling the listener into the drifting reverie of gently humming circuits and charged solid states. A blood member of the clan of electricity, Hunter makes a spark, in the night, in The Universe. Sectio Aurea is a work perfectly in tune with itself and its maker. This album is also about doing the work of music – as, when in pursuit with one’s heart and mind, all else fades away. It is a reflection, realized through action, intervened upon by spontaneity, which leads both listener and musician into contemplation – and that wonderful mental realm of unburdened temporal continuity.

– Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END24 December 2015

Ombient w/Chuck van Zyl: Space Patrol

Space Patrol

Space Patrol

Ombient w/Chuck van Zyl: Space Patrol
Released: 16 May 2015

Space Patrol (61’10”) is the product of a synergistic magic generated between Mike Hunter (a.k.a. Ombient) and Chuck van Zyl. Their four momentous, far-reaching concerts, held over a 48 hour period in December 2013, were realized in one weekend spent in high gear – on the brink of self-destruction. It was a time during which the duo seemed to have spent more attention on executing their music across four different venues than on maintaining any semblance of personal congruity. Space Patrol is the resulting live album. Taking the listener with it, into a realm without words, the music sustains your attention from the very first note. Held together by texture, melodic narratives and atmosphere, Space Patrol propels the listener through a trackless void. Its sonic surfaces are rich, complex and saturated with meaning, as resonant melodies hide in huge vaporous spheres of sound. In a vocabulary of repeating patterns the duo navigates their own tributary of the Berlin-School. Dancing arpeggio notes, resonant analogue tones and interlocking percussion accents surge out of breathing synthesizer swells – while soft percussive chiffs and royal electronic bleeps echo out across vividly imagined distances. As deeply breathing chords stack up and sustain, machine-like synchronized sequencer runs gain momentum – cycling in lock step against a trail of echoes and dreamy tonal interplay. Hunter’s analog style step sequencer, and its seemingly endless facility for composition, repetition and variation, drives this music’s motoric tick-tock timing. Amidst this kinetic kaleidoscope of rhythm, van Zyl releases a ribbon of heroic synth leads, as well as soft Mellotron flutes, strings and choirs. The beauty of this work comes from its many strands, heard individually and comprehended collectively. At the center of Space Patrol‘s three tracks is an area without form. Although possessing a shape, no one will ever completely explain the mysteries of this hot spot. The expanding soundfield has apparently left a gap in this region – for reasons that are not yet understood. The zone invites multiple interpretations, and while its meaning may be slippery, its power is unmistakable. In a compulsively detailed swirl of moods and impressions, this duo is pulled toward a hard chill – and the revivifying power of creativity. Mike Hunter and Chuck van Zyl create a realm so complete, the most difficult part of their Space Patrol will be the return to Earth.

(From the Press Release16 May 2015)