Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Sequencer

Arjen Schat: LP2



Arjen Schat: LP2
Released: 29 February 2020

Synth lovers awaken! The extraordinary Electronic Musician Arjen Schat possesses a distinctive understanding that music should be something that fills the sphere of the temporal dimension rather than a mere succession of multi-layered sounds. The two realizations found on his thoroughly re-playable LP2 (38’40”) have been founded on principals of the Berlin-School, yet renders anew the concept of timeless forward motion. These compositions draw us in along their many rhythmic strands, heard individually yet comprehended collectively – on a great journey through the mind space. Schat’s apparently endless gift for design, repetition and variation are on full display – with his LP2 effortlessly creating vivid ethereal feelings and associations toward the limitless. While its performance may be completely improvised, this music is always intentional. Played to entrancing effect the crisscrossing of fractured sequencer blips expands in echoing syncopation. Captivated at the interplay and intricacies of its manifold patterns and kaleidoscopic pulse there is room to imagine anything; as in one zone the warmth of the life force may be felt, moving further out puts us in the dead regions between stars. As minor key chords sweep across the sonic tapestry the tone darkens, lightens, and then holds in a vital synthetic fidelity. Providing a sense of certainty, creamy lead lines slip along heated scales and octaves – in the specific poetry of ideas borne on electrical current. Arjen Schat is called upon by a deep-rooted spirit of innovation to do this work. With its dreamy brilliance and spacey sonic logic LP2 is a sincere exploration into the mood and mystery of the Spacemusic genre. With strong core ideas and skilled execution, in this album listeners will find vast aural riches.

-Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END2 April 2020

Vic Hennegan: Between the Spaces

Between the Spaces

Between the Spaces

Vic Hennegan: Between the Spaces
Released: 9 March 2020

If the art of painting is seen as a window into the world, then can Spacemusic be thought of as a window into the self? Working from a sense of wonder instilled at birth, Vic Hennegan realizes works that escape the limitations of our human sized scale. His release Between the Spaces (57’08”) is yet another chapter in the life story of one who is fully alive, and fully human. Hennegan’s approach to the core Berlin-School repertory is informed by a profound knowledge of the traditions from which his compositions emerged. Yet, what this album remains most faithful to is its creator’s creative impulse. Throughout the seven tracks of vivid electronic poetry Between the Spaces arranges sounds against one another in a most imaginative and expressive way. In one region the colors and contrast appear amped up, while further in dulcet melodies glide gracefully atop the wild tumult of open sequencer patterns. Where intersecting aural planes seem solitary, fragile and tenuous against the might of the wild night surrounding us, the direction of Hennegan’s line of melody is ever forward – always into the future. Minor key harmonies slowly sweep through space. Dense drones hold, then darken, and move the music’s mood. In an ascending surge we are lifted into infinite realms. But upon our revival we find a lulling peace. Departing more common thoughts, the listener heads for the deeper districts of the mind. In a world determined to alienate us from the sources of our strength, Between the Spaces provides a compelling case for staying strong against such forces. This CD conjures an enigmatic zone where great and elemental things prevail. Pulsing with the light of the gods this music attracts the ear as perfectly as it triggers the spirit – and the magical release of our thoughts.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 18 March 2020

Hollan Holmes: Milestones



Hollan Holmes: Milestones
Released: 21 February 2020

From the digital valley to the analogue mountain the Electronic Musician Hollan Holmes has experienced many years of breakthroughs, discoveries and advancements. His CD Milestones (65’05”) notes this artist’s progress, yet also advances ahead of it. Producing music in storm as well as calm, through deep listening the 11 tracks will gain a magical release for our thoughts. With its deep purple tones and plush sonic reverie, his sound can be as companionable as a meteor burning its way through the atmosphere, or as lonely as the distances through which this object has traveled. Sequencer tracks, as open as they are forceful, advance in wild tumult – and lend strength to the already muscular compositions. As the soundscape darkens, dulcet melodies glide gracefully atop small waiting forms – stilled in the long cold between stars. Further in, the sense of receding space dissipates and Milestones becomes pleasant, soothing and restorative. The intelligent arrangement of intersecting aural planes further intensifies each composition. From an unsettling remoteness up to a stirring enchantment, the whirling force of texture and motion attracts the ear and triggers the spirit. Slowly unfolding in the dreamy brilliance of harmonic climaxes we hear a fully and effectively imagined work. Listening to Milestones beneath the dark arch of the sky above we can imagine escaping the limitations of our human sized scale. Although the Spacemusic genre is now quite mature, thanks to the practices of musicians such as Hollan Holmes it remains ever new. Through a gift for opening disused channels of thought in the listener, we may find a path back to the underlying sources of our strength – and reconnect with the sense of wonder meant to last our lifetimes.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END5 March 2020

Chuck van Zyl: Live on Star’s End 10.06.19

Live on Star's End 100619

Live on Star’s End 100619

Chuck van Zyl: Live on Star’s End 10.06.29
Released: 23 February 2020

Guiding listeners from the safe place of what they know to an active awareness of what can be is the job of a good DJ – and of a good musician too. During his ongoing 40 year tenure as host of the weekly radio program Star’s End, Chuck van Zyl has been commissioned with the task of leading an audience – the proficiency of which may also be found in his musical realizations. So inspired by the music he was spinning on-air, Chuck van Zyl began making his own Electronic Music works – with a synthesizer he still uses to this day. Live on Star’s End 10.06.19 is the second in a series of live-to-air radio concert releases, and features over 75 minutes of the live Spacemusic he made in the WXPN performance studio during the private Salon Concert and live-to-air broadcast of 5/6 October 2019.

In this music Chuck van Zyl gives voice to the character of his existence. It is a proclamation of his alive-ness, by way of an in-the-moment inventiveness. A complex multi-leveled album Live on Star’s End 10.06.19 utilizes the full dynamic range of sonic possibilities. Moving truly between an electric unrestrained intensity on down to shivering chill currents, the juxtaposition of the primitive and the delicate lends tension to the drama. Working the dials, searching out the sound, groping for the pulse – in whirlwinds of intertwining sequencer lines, and the gorgeous exploration of tone color, form and atmosphere – he coaxes magical moments into the sound space.

Chuck’s live concerts show the identity of his instruments as equally as they do the identity of the artist. Making music in an enormous present, his live improvisations find Chuck attempting to transcend, not an instrument, but a system of instruments – a constellation of synths, sequencers, echoes and reverbs all in service to a potent musical vision. An expressive power, the right situation of the venue and the heedful is capable of releasing unsuspected energies. With the body activated and central nervous system firing the joy of playing this music is unmatched.

If the moral track of the Universe arcs upward, then this music must be part of that eventuality. Just as the optimism of the weekly broadcasts of Star’s End (in contrast to the present moment) seem a notion leftover from the previous century, so will albums like Live on Star’s End 10.06.19 chip away at the inherent dissonance at the heart of modern life. Although the subject of this album may be specific, its implications are cosmic.

Press Notes/STAR’S END20 February 2020

LIsa Bella Donna: Tramontane



Lisa Bella Donna: Tramontane
Released: 26 October 2019

The first sonic impression of Tramontane (50’27”) arrives with a rumble of white noise. A deeply absorbing album, its listeners are completely taken over by a wondrous atmosphere. Wrapped in the skilled musical invention we have come to expect from our most innovative Electronic Musicians, Lisa Bella Donna breathes in a musical freedom that allows her to experiment without abandoning her strengths. The sounds found on Tramontane seethe and roil in a deep real cool – all in service to a skilled musical intent. Each of the two tracks, each a singular flowing thought, asks us to tune into our quieter frequencies. But being introspective does not mean that this work has to be vague. In its drift toward a soft-focus landscape many touching, quiet moments are indeed realized – but the ambient spell cast by this gemlike album is occasionally broken by an enlivening keyboard lead. These bewitching thought-zones arc through their magical moments in a beautifully transporting performance, both restful to the intellect and comforting to the spirit. By continually combining and recombining a vivid range of timbres into substantial sonic textures and cosmic aural colors, this artist leaves us dwelling in vivid states of wordless quietude and opalescent shine. Recordings of a natural wilderness environment mingle with synthesizer pads and detailed electronic modulations as the mood pushes into the far-flung reaches of thought. The deliberate pacing, the sense of consonance surrounded by space, the rush of warm rounded chords all make for a fascinating listening experience. Most competent musicians can easily produce heat. Lisa Bella Donna produces light. A work of sustained ambiance Tramontane conveys the enigmatic yet simple essence of her world apart.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 February 2020

Radio Massacre International: M21/The Rhodes Less Travelled



Radio Massacre International: M21/The Rhodes Less Travelled
Released: 14 October 2019

In a world in which everything may be known, Spacemusic does remain a mystery. This portion of the musical spectrum may be too vast for some, but not for the likes of Steve Dinsdale, Duncan Goddard and Gary Houghton. Their long-lived live band Radio Massacre International has executed a great number of successful experiments in this discipline. Drawn together more in cooperation than in competition, to achieve each of their concerts this collective of improvisers calls on personal resources none are certain they possess. The double CD sets M21 and The Rhodes Less Travelled present this trio in some of their finest moments – with M21 spotlighting the 7 May 2011 show at St Clement’s Church in Manchester, and The Rhodes Less Travelled featuring out-takes from this event’s luminous rehearsal sessions. Making works meant to move the mind from still chill to smoldering state, RMI‘s encounter with their audience sets up the possibility for transcendence. Where intertwined sequencer riffs mix, shift and divide in a twisting double helix of echoing synthetic tones, further in RMI confronts a dissolving world of perpetual gloom – and ascends to the sonic stasis of gentle twilight realms, then on to melodic and harmonic fog clearing clarity. With their synthesizers, sequencers, Mellotron, Rhodes piano and electric guitar RMI performs the Berlin-School form to realize an even remoter music. Dinsdale, Goddard and Houghton live in the flow of the moment. As their bodies become activated by what they are hearing, their central nervous systems fire and a mysterious drama is built. Spacemusic runs deep in the fabric of these three. Their music is spontaneously composed, and so the act of performing live is constantly evolving. As they attain this otherwise unreachable experience, the atmosphere generated remains mysteriously ever in the near future. Yet, the retreat into wordlessness, the struggle against inevitable decay, and its desolating states are no match for the calm and quiet of an old electric piano set against a background of electronic night spirits – giving hope that maybe one day the profound peace RMI knows out in space will also be found here on the Earth.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 January 2020

Rene de Bakker: Our Gift

Our Gift

Our Gift

Rene de Bakker: Our Gift
Released: 1 June 2019

Our Gift (76″04″) is the ambitious solo effort by Rene de Bakker. Part of the Dutch synthesizer ensemble Beyond Berlin, on this release both the musician and audience discover what he is capable of left to his own devices. Our Gift presents six tracks of brilliantly intricate sequencer patterning. Transpiring in an electrical heat this music will throw off sparks. In an effortless braiding of high-concept electronic music and echoing notes each realization conjures a distinctive spacey mood. Polymetric pulses yield complex interlocking, repetitive motifs – and deliver a potent sense of motion. From the beat of the heart to the tick of a clock, larger cycles build from smaller ones. Rene de Bakker commands a striking range of electronic color and texture. Some works maintain just enough keyboard notes to sketch a melody, but where ever tension is fully wound up the leads tower fast and true. Flowing across a fascinating range of textures and moods one may drift into this album. However, Our Gift is an excellent example of smart brain beat Spacemusic, and so requires our attention. Spending time with it is never less than intriguing, and will leave us with a lasting sense of possibility.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 January 2020