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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Sequencer

Saul Stokes: Expansion

Expansion

Expansion

Saul Stokes: Expansion
Released: 17 November 2018
www.saulstokes.com

Hopefully you will hear the music of Saul Stokes‘ before you will need it. His work is known to have a positive effect on the imagination (which we all would benefit from), but it can also pierce the gloom. An acknowledgement of the gift of life and the realization of existence, the nine exuberant tracks found on Expansion (145’13”), are each on their own journey through a specific world of poetic imagination. While the listening experience of most EM is that of pure sensory input, encountering this album feels quite different – quite like stepping into a lofty, friendly conversation. Synthesizers may be the machines behind the music, but here Stokes is the engine. This man, and his mortal motor, fills every corner of Expansion with a radiant intensity. Partly in reaction to the digital disconnection of our time, the meticulous nature of Stokes’ production values clashed with the desire to make music more spontaneously – so each piece presented here is simply played out live in Stokes’ studio directly into a recording device, and then placed as is on Expansion. But as listeners we are advised to just lie back and lose ourselves in the drama of electricity transforming into sound, and sound into music. Even for those with mainstream tastes, Expansion is potent and adventurous enough to be engaging. From the warmly distorted leads spiriting through billowing harmonies, to the complex rhythm patterns that weave through them, Expansion suffers no shortage of special delights. A pleasant mix of Stoke’s trademark motorik riffs, shimmering synths, and low octane beats, this work presents an overlit, futuristic electronic realm. Out of a landscape of lunar vacancy rises vivid, syncopated grooves – which punctuate smooth electronic accents, and other ethereal sonic forms. Decorating our condition with music, this release asks nothing more than our quiet attention – how radical. Saul Stokes knows something, and he knows that we know it too. His music gets us to some mental place that we would normally be cut off from. Stokes finds in the power of music the ability to introduce order into the harshness of the physical world and still follow the way of an all-embracing, undying life of the spirit. Even with so many concerts and albums to his credit, we never feel we have enough of him.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 November 2018

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Saul Stokes: The Gatherings 16 November 2013

The Gatherings 16 November 2013

The Gatherings 16 November 2013

Saul Stokes: The Gatherings 16 November 2013
Released: 17 November 2018
www.thegatherings.org
www.saulstokes.com

A sonic world is waiting for you. A place where the wild past meets the power and the beauty of the future, and is accessed simply with a ticket to The Gatherings Concert Series. Among the finest examples of this phenomenon are the inspiring concerts made by Saul Stokes. Often referred to as a “sonic innovator”, Stokes bridges and bounds the opposing energies of crude electricity and accomplished art – to realize music that aligns perfectly with the beat and pulse beneath and behind everything.

His album The Gatherings 16 November 2013 (86’37”) features the unedited entirety of his performance. The sensitive ear will acknowledge the live, vibrant timbres present at every level of his numerous live performances. Using the altar at St Mary’s Hamilton Village, Stokes is not arranging for the dance floor, but for the place in the mind where sensory detail becomes thought.

If we think of this music as electrical, a thing made of electricity, then we find it to be always remaking itself – transforming in every instant, yet continually preserving its conception. The limit of effect is merely the limit of the musician’s imagination. From moody and psychological to juicy and exuberant, Stokes revels equally in tightly arranged progressions and timeless amorphous drones. Buzzing lead melodies provide a lovely voice in which to deliver a renewing message, while gentle beats and grooves speed up, then slow down – moving these compositions beyond squishy IDM and into the realm of intriguing thought experiment. Unique tones, novel arrangements, comprehensive synthesis and Stokes’ joyful intensity provide fuel for the listener’s mental adventures.

This work could not have been realized outside the intimacy of the live environment. The immediacy of the moment, the consistent pattern of change and the spark of inspiration all act upon Stokes, as he produces continuous currents of sound for his spellbound audience. This venue, and its patrons, have become known for revealing to musicians what they are capable of – and believe that a new idea in music is worth the challenge to make it. The music Saul Stokes made at The Gatherings now has a second life as an album release. The Gatherings 16 November 2013 was made live, in the heat of the moment, before an enthusiastic, informed community. As these conditions are known for revealing the creative spark, we find both the musician and his listeners experiencing this extraordinary music together in the act of being made.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END15 November 2018


Proceeds from the sale of The Gatherings 16 November 2013 by Saul Stokes 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.

Bluetech: Liquid Geometries

Liquid Geometries

Liquid Geometries

Bluetech: Liquid Geometries
Released: 16 November 2018
www.din.org.uk
www.bluetechonline.com

Free spirited and possessed of an Inner Light, the album Liquid Geometries 58’14” is loaded with monumental stuff meticulously realized. As a sonic traveler preparing for a new journey, Bluetech (aka Evan Bartholomew) surely revisited Spacemusic classics such as Phaedra and Rubycon – not for their equipment list, but to re-experience their directness. The hypnotic hymns of electronic dreaming found on Liquid Geometries move easily through somewhere barren and otherworldly to an inverted slowcore electronica – a place where the power of electricity is harnessed by the human mind. Liquid Geometries is a work that slowly reveals its power and complexity – such that the climax of each track may be noticed only in hindsight. Possessing a lulling beauty swirled in Berlin-School atmosphere and culminating in nine sky-high tracks, the dexterous cadence of each piece escapes the absolute. Aiming for a slow-burn build, the temperature of this release rises from cool to simmering. Sounds build out, and lines of rhythm are introduced. Minimalist sequencer runs motor on, brightening gradually along their course. Individual notes are transposed, echoed and repeated, altering minutely the pattern, then quickening the pace of the music. While 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. Where dramatic chord changes help us ascend further still, the deliberate pacing in other areas slows the listener with its intellectual puzzle. This album plays in a way that makes us listen anew to the familiar. There is nothing not to like here. While some musicians just tend their machines, those at a more thoughtful level seem to be playing themselves into existence. Bluetech takes full possession of his impulses as he shapes music into something that far transcends the limits of his time. He never loses sight of the wonders he is attempting to capture, nor of the nebulous mysteries we are all trying to fathom.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 November 2018

 

Pollard/Daniel/Booth: Eight

Eight

Eight

Pollard/Daniel/Booth: Eight
Released: 13 October 2018
pollarddanielbooth.bandcamp.com

Throughout Eight (68’55”) Pollard/Daniel/Booth make an exploration into the uncharted depths of the imagination. Favoring the simple expression of complex thoughts, this trio visits realms they may never have discovered on their own. Over its four tracks Eight builds a mysterious drama. In varying transparence the exquisite turbulence of roiling modulations and sustaining chords supports vintage Mellotron lead sounds, red-blooded synth lines and expressive electric guitar tones – all in service to the realization of a dynamic sound experience. Following the dissipation of its vague dread and sonic voids, this area’s central mass gives way to the signature interlacing layers of pumping sequencer patterns expected of this ensemble. Within its geometric planes and compressed space we may find a labyrinthine web – revealing an instantaneous unity between multiple crisscrossing and planar fields. These splintered forms and kaleidoscopic flickering surfaces seem to evoke the energy and dynamism of traveling through space – but without ever a thought of the vehicle used to make the journey, nor the destination. As music making machines recast the artist as an engineer, armed with modular synthesizers in place of pianos and violins, the genre of Electronic Music would seem to downplay the role of the artist’s hand. But with the rapid advancement of technology turning us ever inward to investigate the expressive qualities of sound, the better players in this field have adopted an approach, not so much pertaining to what the instruments are capable of, but what is the creative mind behind the instruments capable of? For Pollard/Daniel/Booth, each encounter with the musical exercises found on their album Eight will reveal, not technicians merely operating an apparatus, but a collective spirit – as they examine and ascertain an atmospheric depth, and contribute again to the restless genre of Spacemusic.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END25 October 2018

Arjen Schat: AS

AS

AS

Arjen Schat: AS
Released: 1 September 2018
www.arjenschat.nl

Prior to spinning AS (44’29”) by Arjen Schat, try to imagine that this music is not residing on your digital player, but rather that it is waiting for you in some safe celestial space. Everything sounds better under starlight, and so from out of the galaxy deep this music will seem exquisitely formed. A heroic explorer, Schat’s reach is long. Representing either urges in the brain, or a sense of moving through an interstellar expanse, AS is loaded with pulsing synthesizers migrating in synchronized, echoing patterns. Along currents of dancing notes, each sequencer line reinforces the next – while full-throated lead lines rise like a strange hollow singing in our hearts. Designed to propel the listener endlessly through a trackless void, this album seems to confidently create its own space as it flies – however searching, tremulous and immeasurable this fascinating sonic realm may be. Carrying the light and line together we can almost feel the heat coming off of Scaht’s instruments. Yet, in this wonderful journey of four tracks, he manages to take us where his machines alone cannot. Who is it that knows how to navigate through the storm? That would be the person who has caused the storm. Being on your own, one can go deeper – and in his music Schat takes full advantage of this freedom. The sheer artistry displayed throughout AS is so expertly accomplished that we listeners cannot help but be seduced. It is remarkable how many fresh reserves of musical energy Schat teases out of such a well-established genre. Energy sparked by creativity is full of potential, and AS confirms that Spacemusic thrives when it provides an alternative to the doldrums of that which is common. This music is free to witness its own history, but has it lived up to the ideals that framed its founding? Possibly. If Schat can do everything right, control the chaos of electricity, move sound in the proper direction and place, he just might make something perfect.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END11 October 2018

Alluste: Alien Worlds

Alien Worlds

Alien Worlds

Alluste: Alien Worlds
Released: 24 May 2018
alluste.bandcamp.com

Piero Monachello is a propulsive musicmaker, and knows well how to keep the listener engaged. As Alluste his sequencers fire like the neurological mechanisms behind the mind’s functioning, and help better align thought and mood toward a more positive current. His Alien Worlds (61’18”) may be based on the 1970s Berlin-School, but it narrates from the present. Each work emerges and develops as in a slow gathering of hot blood. Still marveling at the beauty of synthetic sounds, the veteran Monachello sparks reactions and arouses emotions across eight tracks of brain beat Spacemusic. One does not listen to this music so much as drift into it. In a swirl of throwback synthesizers a tumbling latticework of echoing arpeggio notes dance along scales of nocturnal minor key chords. Lush harmonies sigh and whisper their celestial concord, as piano keys play out dramatically under digital reverberation. Full string sections may add warmth and fullness to one composition, as quickly as an ethereal vocal will leave us in a trackless void on another. Animated by the power of melody to convey emotions Alien Worlds stands strong against the harshness and cynicism that tears at the fabric of our world – and reminds us that we all still have our own feelings, questions and fears. While being all instrumental, Alien Worlds somehow manages to speak in a human vocabulary – requiring us to be beholden to something other than our own opinion. If you play this album, then you are agreeing to listen to Monachello’s story. There is a spirit that this music catches you up in, yet it is meant only to serve us – and that which stirs in our deepest of hearts.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 August 2018

Tony Masiello: Euphonic Interference

Euphonic Interference

Euphonic Interference

Tony Masiello: Euphonic Interference
Released: 20 July 2018
tonymasiello.bandcamp.com

The problem of Electronic Music has been left unsolved by the mainstream, and so – since it was never commercialized or domesticated – Electronic Music has followed its own path. Taking risks less adventurous others would not, Tony Masiello makes music so as to experience the shear pleasure of creation. His release Euphonic Interference (71’50”) favors the topical over the universal, with the main point of this invention being the method by which it was made. Fans of modular synthesizers and the skillful coaxing of these music systems will find much to savor throughout this album. Euphonic Interference is not a song you listen to, but rather a network you enter. Sounds invade the listener’s space in a line of continuing well ordered events. Masiello’s deliberate pacing establishes this work as more of a cold intellectual puzzle than a poem made of sound. Pulling us along with him on the studio performance odyssey, he wanders, looking for routes. This music is not about epiphanies; it is about discovery and potential. In a full examination of minute changes in timbre over time, we humans may hear the soul of a machine – in the care of a promising artist. Well into this long form piece of process dissolves into environment – an electrical formation of freestanding reality. At every moment popular music is explaining itself, while most of EM exists for the purpose of pure discovery. Is Masiello creating music? or just minding/overseeing an array of equipment? Euphonic Interference will never explain itself, unless the listener has the intellect of a technician, and the mental apparatus to interpret what is being heard. The rest of us will feel its volumes, vectors and densities – and austere lucidity.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END   23 August 2018