Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Projekt Records

Erik Wøllo & Michael Stearns: Convergence

ConvergenceErik Wøllo & Michael Stearns: Convergence
Released: 28 August 2020

Spacemusic is equally complex at all scales. The majestic arrangement of sounds, notes and forms, even the silences become evident only when the music is surveyed over its largest extent. Yet, on a smaller scale the tones and timbres also impress – as it is through the manipulation of this sonic material that this genre enables its practitioners to make their most profound expressions. The music of Erik Wøllo & Michael Stearns flows across spatial scales. As might be expected from these notable names, their collaboration Convergence is a harmonic match for all the enigmas of the Universe. Playing beyond you the listener, beyond now, this duo freely roams through the colorful depths of their imaginations. Achieving a beautiful dramatic cohesion Convergence shows how firmly each musician has grown into his own identity – which has been admirably interweaved into each composition. This album comes at us with the force and sophistication of high art, provoking questions, yet still works to shore up the spirit. Chords shift surely, gradually craving that which is just out of reach. Charmed melodies and delicate choirs signal vastness, as limber, lucid leads exalt through incandescent voices and strings. Between Stearns’ high-sheen synth-craft and Wøllo’s striking guitar artistry their ten well-honed tracks aim for smart production and continuity, for a sound that feels effortlessly theirs. Profoundly otherworldly, but always reassuringly human, Convergence occasionally gestures at the New Age, but then quickly reasserts the dreamy brilliance of its cosmic music credentials. Traversing a wider spectrum of emotions than is typically covered by the more technology-minded acts, Wøllo & Stearns present their atmospheric constructs in swaths of electronics and floating mists of harmony – in hopes of enlivening the awesome potential of the individual mind-space. By bringing something of their cosmos into our listening area, we may feel their message, and some measure of peace.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END27 August 2020


Steve Roach: A Soul Ascends

A Soul Ascends

A Soul Ascends

Steve Roach: A Soul Ascends
Released: 10 July 2020

With fluctuating designs and feelings Steve Roach tenderly explores questions of connection and loss. His A Soul Ascends (73’57”) follows traditional Spacemusic markers first laid down on Structures From Silence, and achieves even more expressiveness and soul searching than his 1984 classic. In this chilled slow spark Roach finds his way to the serene center – going deep down dark, then into otherworldly calm. The long melodic lines of A Soul Ascends extends the sound-field with beautiful synthesizer tones and a slowly building ethereal energy. Inside arrangements of circulating electronic forms and rightly crafted timbres, unforced tones exert their own meaning. Shimmering sounds combine into a sweeping resonant unity, then fade out – replaced by an equally rare airy tone zone. As the music becomes dense we sense the emergence of a slow sequencer pattern. The interplay of staggered notes and breathing synthesizers reinforce the air of discovery. But this building ethereal energy provides a setting for contemplation – which we must make our own way to. While a chorus of oscillators swell from a sombre murmur to pealing resolve, we find colliding chords can coexist – as this work is dissolving and becoming all at once. At times luxurious and silvery, then turbulent and moody, the three gently shifting ambient realizations open up space and fill it with sound. Listeners will need to align with these sonic pleasures before finding a reassuring calm. In its succession of colors, atmosphere and feelings we may feel the past, trembling in the present – and should not worry about some unreachable spiritual world, we are already in our own. Above a gently broken silence A Soul Ascends.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END16 July 2020

Jarguna &Henrik Meierkord: Tapestry Flow

Tapestry Flow

Tapestry Flow

Jarguna/Henrik Meierkord: Tapestry Flow
Released: 29 May 2020

Whenever you are feeling homesick for the faraway, play Tapestry Flow (74’58”). This elegant collaboration between jarguna (multi-instrumentalist Marco Billi) and (contemporary cellist) Henrik Meierkord provides a journey well-worth joining. Rich and sometimes heaving with detail this album embraces a great spirit of openness, energy and exploration. Within its evocative and dark sound space minor-key melodies moan from Meierkord‘s strings – while, marooned in the ether, Billi‘s textures float in a bracing and effortlessly cool atmosphere. Made up of eight separate tracks, each its own unique expression, Tapestry Flow grows slower and more meditative as it slips ever deeper into dreaming. Lulling in a calm kindness this carefully arranged experience coaxes us along in a lovely current of languid cello leads and blooming synthetic flora. In a wild tide of sound full of vastness and intimacies the listener is constantly being invited inside. Utterly absorbed by its facility to transport we take well to these searching aural adventures on a darkening plain. But, being meditative does not mean Tapestry Flow has to be vague. With its easy cosmic intimations and renewing thought zones it guides the psyche to stillness. Yet, this duo still manages to imbue their work with enough drama to satisfy more experienced listeners. From its textures of desolation and still chill zones, to a charged musical charm, Tapestry Flow offers many profound musical moments; moments to strain against the pull of larger forces, and stand and reflect on our strength and solidarity. This truthful music, tinged by emotion and a beautiful yearning in its playing, seems to emanate from some other world. That it comes from somewhere in our present provides a much needed flicker of hope.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 4 June 2020

Forrest Fang: Ancient Machines

Ancient Machines

Ancient Machines

Forrest Fang: Ancient Machines
Released: 2 December 2019

What is Forrest Fang doing for this world? With the release of Ancient Machines (73’06”) he asks us to hear what he hears. By listening to this album we take our first steps into a larger realm – a zone expressly for those desiring to encounter things outside of themselves. These new territories are reached with each of his successive efforts. The 11 luminous, graceful, self-assured tracks found on Ancient Machines seek a timeless space. Reconnecting us with life as it should be this music thrives. The most absorbing material may be compositions that feature violin or piano, which have been plucked, picked, bowed, struck or strummed. Propelled gently by tempo energy their voice and structure heaves under atmospheric weight. In a simultaneous sounding of tones a feeling of rest, of no need for further resolution is produced. Yet on some realizations clashing frequencies produce mildly moody results. A balance of opposing tensions, the connection between disparate sounds may lead us to better connect with unfamiliar ideas. In a slowing that sinks us back in time each piece is an exploitation of carefully chosen and contrasted tonal qualities. Under a building torrent of reverberating electronics this tech-tinged hybrid work seems from a primitive past, somehow beamed to the present day. With its masterful emotive shading Ancient Machines will be good for listeners, and even better for dreamers. Synthetic sonorities are combined with groupings of acoustic sounds and instruments in a specifically composed manner – and form a unity so as to convey the message of the artist. In a blend of art and technology he arranges timbres, pitches, and rhythms in a way so well that it stirs the emotions of the listener. All musical activity by Forrest Fang is the reproduction of the world that surrounds him, by means of the world that is within him – recreated in a personal form and an original manner. As for the listener, meaning is elusive… out where this music’s thousand dreams softly burn.

– Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END26 December 2019

Steve Roach: Trance Archeology

Trance Archeology

Trance Archeology

Steve Roach: Trance Archeology
Released: 15 November 2019

Steve Roach often finds himself in the borderlands – exploring the edges of Electronic Music, and confirming that it is a genre much bigger than we ever imagined. His album Trance Archeology (73’56”) uses sound to conjure a powerful mood, and tells a story that only each individual listener will know. A mystical landscape of the mind this release provides a fascinating mix of the organic, the tech-tronic, and the irresistible pull of possibility. Although this music is without words, it clearly resonates with hidden voices. Across its eight tracks Trance Archeology goes from mystic incantations to twisting nerve sparks and roiling synthesizer textures. Electrical currents course through this work, as does blood through the body – the muted roar of its rushing textures ever present, but well beneath the surface. At certain points the sound field seems to deconstruct down to a granular realm – which bestows a digital slowing that sinks us back in time. Further in, the tribal viral grooves and pulsing patterns establishes, then moves us across an undiscovered terrain. In an interesting use of looping percussion samples under spacious reverberation and innovative treatments, Roach conceives distances as remote as the moon, and as deep as thought. Beyond this heat there are also thought zones where the feel becomes more settled, locating a less energetic and more reflective atmosphere. These shifts are part of the dynamic equilibrium that is Roach’s goal. Imagining and sounding its way into our minds Trance Archeology will be good for listeners, and even better for dreamers. Cut out against the void it digs to reveal turbulent states, and the temple of sound which is at the core of this musician. The silence that will follow is starkly different than the silence before this album began its spin – as we will then be in a much different space, and a much different peace.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END31 October 2019

Steve Roach: Bloom Ascension

Bloom Ascension

Bloom Ascension

Steve Roach: Bloom Ascension
Released: 30 August 2019

Bloom Ascension (41:25) is a most striking creation. Here we find Steve Roach as musically insatiable as ever – and working through a life-long commitment to a distinct creative impulse. This album exemplifies the spare patterns, unwinding energy and low-boil minimalist vibe which propelled his Grammy nominated Molecules of Motion (2018) and Spiral Revelation (2017). A robustly orchestrated work, Bloom Ascension very nearly allows us to hear the musician’s mind at work. Conducting ample instrumental forces Roach combines an innate feel for texture and gesture with his interest in the sonic intensity of Electronic Music and the sensual potential of modular synthesis. Each of the four tracks move high into the air, tracing graceful arcs of mechanical precision. With the rippling counterpoint of pinwheel dancing notes and skittering flows of sparked adventure we spin forward. As the whirling designs add additional mysteries, this work’s pulsing, generating minimalism portends a slow but relentless tide of change. In this subtle shift in perspective, a deep down dark descends – leaving behind a trail of echoing notes and quickening chords. Inspired by a dream, we wake to a prophetic mission – and a view of the world which belongs to us all. Exerting an emotional pull Bloom Ascension culminates with spirits revived. Building a world in volume and density, we are drawn in completely – held in a true electronic moment, and experiencing the invisible symbols of sound.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END29 August 2019

Erik Wollo: Infinite Moments

Infinite Moments

Infinite Moments

Erik Wøllo: Infinite Moments
Released: 4 January 2019

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

Forrest Fang: The Fata Morgana Dream

The Fata Morgana Dream

The Fata Morgana Dream

Forest Fang: The Fata Morgana Dream
Released: 28 January 2019

Has a lost tribe ever been discovered that was actually lost? Forrest Fang might be from one such clan. His release The Fata Morgana Dream (66’50”) feels from out of some unexplored quarter – and so as fresh and unexpected as life itself. Convinced we are wandering through a stranger’s dream this work creates a swirling blend of the real and the mythic. Content as ever to revel in his own designs, Fang shifts the music between realms – insisting as always on the amazing complexity of the world. As usual, multiple influences have been woven together with extraordinary artistry. Providing a sense of place, in the most abstract of geographic terms, the eight tracks of this album are themselves fascinating journeys through uncharted territory – with Fang as our brilliant traveling companion. A pleasant escape, The Fata Morgana Dream tracks the mind as it moves through it. Beneath the permeating reverb of its sustaining atmosphere are granular textures. Saturating drones penetrate our listening space, as acoustic instruments are picked, plunked, strummed and struck – yielding a rhythm deeper than that of any digital native. Soundtracks of a secret zone, the compositions build out and shimmer like a mirage on the horizon. All are varied meditations on what it is to be one kind of human. A rare treasure of an album, The Fata Morgana Dream deepens the mystery of the individual experience. In a masterful, tightly controlled performance Fang decorates our condition with music. Originality is a rare commodity in art, and works by this musician sound like no one else’s. Forrest Fang, it is far too easy to admire you.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END21 February 2019

Steve Roach: Molecules of Motion

Molecules of Motion

Molecules of Motion

Steve Roach: Molecules of Motion
Released: 1 June 2018

Those who have traveled the farthest have gained the most perspective. Steve Roach invites us to listen with him, granting us privileged access to a hopeful view. His work exerts a force on the imagination, and brings much news from a distant corner of life. The album Molecules of Motion (73’18”) feels new and electric. Excitingly alive, this CD finds its dramatic momentum and action situated in Roach’s sequencers. Focused with full-beam intensity he lends musical energy to the language of ideas. Like many armed sparks sequencers issue tones and tumbling grooves break out of the controlled voltages. In an appreciation of complexity wordless structures explore forces – as the circulating fractals of tone patterns embody greater themes: the speed of life passing, the burden of memory. In an apt blend of vigor and momentum we become bedazzled by the sound of echoing synthesized riffs running on beneath swirling textures of atmosphere. Molecules of Motion has its soft spots too. As Roach occasionally idles the engine, late scenes are filled with serene sonic beauty. This taming is a quieter action, a simpler transaction of sound. Falling into infinity, we are unable to name the upper realm. This release rewards the deep diver – as we find the undercurrent of each track includes a whispered confidence shared with every listener. In streaks, flares, and charges in the open air, each of the four tracks transport our thoughts through space and time – just as easily as they may guide our attention down to territory more microscopic. The imaginary soundworlds Roach creates have an entrancing effect – enfolding such optimism in an era of blank desolation. He never loses sight of the natural wonders he is trying to capture, or of the nebulous mysteries he is attempting to fathom. Molecules of Motion reaffirms our sonic joy as the sustaining life force that it is.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END14 June 2018

Erik Wollo: Threshold Point

Threshold Point

Threshold Point

Erik Wøllo: Threshold Point
Released: 27 April 2018

The music of Erik Wøllo has more places to chill than an igloo. His album Threshold Point (60’37”) features nine tracks that run in cool, unpredictable swerves and drifts of conversation. Always meeting the harmonic demands of his audience, Wøllo clothes supple melodic lines in a blanket of synthesized consonance. Climbing gradually and gracefully to its highest point, then with dignity traveling home again, his guitar solos conjure places known to but a few contemporary musicians. While so many rows of notes dance in all the pleasant complexities of syncopation, echoing up and down their scales, we listeners may rest – contently attuned with this beauty. In building Threshold Point Wøllo used rhythm, tone and pitch as his raw material. Here, rhythm is an appeal to the feelings, rather than an exercise of mathematical faculty. Tone combined with mood delivers a distinctive atmosphere, and tuneful arrangements of pitch brings the listener to a point of emotion – which then (as an element in the structure of each piece) leads to a feeling for climax. We will find no formal border between Wøllo’s music and the mainstream, as his work resides safely at the northern fringes of this realm. Identified by its boreal cursive elegance, Threshold Point displays a level of inventiveness that most musicians have not yet reached. So much of modern music and art is meant to provoke – inciting us to apply meaning. Erik Wøllo does believe that the world needs more people thinking, learning, and thereby becoming better. But he knows that society grinds on us enough so why should his music? From the steady and true creative engine of this man we hear his art, and cannot help but feel his humanity.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 June 2018