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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Sequencer

Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen: Weathering the Storm

Weathering the Storm

Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen: Weathering the Storm
Released: 17 February 2023
www.spottedpeccary.com

Craig Padilla and Marvin Allen are forecasters of a new and better tomorrow. Weathering the Storm (61:13) is their third collaboration of guitar and synth sonic statements – where again ambient space seems to become a physical location. Revealing itself across eight tracks this release conjures a range of aural atmospheres and complex climates. As ever changing layers of lush synthesized sounds and tight sequencer runs enlarge the listening space, tight guitar leads rise, fall and focus along a ribbon of electric melody. With each passing piece we become exposed to different intensities of mood and variations in tone. From bright motion-filled sonic landscapes and blissed-out plush textures, to overcast hollows of twilight realms, Padilla and Allen guide us safely through their well-crafted thought zones. Moving between the soothing, the unsettling, and the fiery, Weathering the Storm coaxes raindrops of melodic narrative from storm clouds of harmonic drama – playing out as a thousand beautiful dreams burn softly within. Whenever the maddening muffled beating of drums moves us passed the control of known forces, sputtering sparks of cycling note patterns restore us to the engine-room of the mind, and its shades of soft-hued introspection. Like wind walking quietly away from the tempest Weathering the Storm tells us that behind the clouds something incredible is waiting to be known. Made with human hands and hearts it is an album from two of the well-lived, well-loved, and well-played.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END 2 February 2022

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The Soviet Space Dog Project: The City and the Stars

The City and the Stars

The Soviet Space Dog Project: The City and the Stars
Released: 20 June 2022
sovietspacedogproject.bandcamp.com

Your brain patterns may have to be compared to those of the composer to know if you understand this music. With his excellent The City and the Stars (92:07) Andy Bloyce, under the alias The Soviet Space Dog Project, presents yet another transformative encounter with electricity. Life is nothing if not electrical, so making music with this form of energy is most proper in the search for the meaning, joy and flourishing that is ultimately the central aspiration of the arts. The alien beauty of these five tracks suggests transfer to another, more cerebral sphere. Beneath a measured, collected verve The City and the Stars runs full-speed ahead into a half-lit realm. In translating electronic currents into aural textures chords move from deep-toned and mysterious to light and radiant – melting the experimental mood under a sudden warmth of understanding. In a blend of transparency and secrecy the Berlin-School soundfield intertwines with cycles of electro swishes, bleeps and clicks, and ethereal modulated effects – all of it grounded by the fullness of a motoring bass riff. As echoing sequencer notes spark in undeniable daring across the lonely light-years of contemplative minds, diverging harmonies move us into a higher orbit. Where atonal tension rises, the narrative swiftness of rounded synth leads counter such sonic invention – all in service to finding that ever elusive marked musical moment of recognition. Listeners will not be criticized for assuming The City and the Stars was the work of a brilliant 18 year old just now discovering what they — and EM — can do. Throughout his decades long fascination with Kosmische Musik Bloyce continues to share with us a fervid inner self and path toward transcendence. As it pushes out into the space of possible thoughts we find this music, while made with machines, sounds fully human. Its ambition is to remind us of our collective potential, creativity, and spirituality – and allow us, if only briefly, to imagine something of our cherished, infinitesimal share of The Universe.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 January 2023

Nils Frahm: Music for Animals

Music for Animals Nils Frahm

Nils Frahm: Music for Animals
Released: 23 September 2022
www.leiter-verlag.com
www.nilsfrahm.com

Works by Nils Frahm always feel more from the heart than from the wall outlet. In a transformative encounter with electricity his three CD/four LP set Music for Animals (186:43) presents ten remarkable tracks of Ambient Spacemusic. Building wonder and suspense within an atmospheric system of minimalism, the air of this release is serious, but not dispiriting. Below its subdued sense, punctuated by passages of radiance and light, the meaning behind Music for Animals steals into the audience through the sides of the head. Subtly propulsive, then still, beautiful and strange, in translating electronic currents into sonic textures Frahm’s chords move from deep-toned to light and radiant – melting an experimental mood under a sudden gravity. Underpowered sequencer lines hold space and reduce the mechanical-motor pulse into something more secret, lean and potent. Above the rounded machine patterns floats an ethereal glow of quietly yearning synths. Transported from another purer realm these arrangements counter the shallowness of the mainstream – and pose that life is nothing if not electrical. Every zone is mood chilling, yet heart warming. Such is the beauty of Frahm’s music that each moment is an enigmatic delight. The tone that comes so naturally to him floats somewhere between dreams, memories and the fragments of a time yet to come. Music for Animals does everything we ask of great music: it enlarges our world, expands our attention outward, and opens up our hearts and minds. For musicians like Nils Frahm EM is about mobility, mobility of expression. In its many meetings in recognition, along dimensions that cannot be articulated with mere words, the realizations illuminate an inner reality, but long for real life.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END17 November 2022

Ian Boddy: Coil

Coil

Ian Boddy: Coil
Released: 14 October 2022
www.din.org.uk

Contemporary EM is rife with the rapid and the vapid. The work of Ian Boddy has always risen above such wreckage by taking on poignant extra dimensions. The studio release Coil (39:19) is a partnership of ear, mind and hand – of listening, conception and touch – qualities that distinguishes all of his work. An album of six electrical episodes, a hexad of dreamy brain games, it ventures along interior frontiers in an involved tangle of instrumental polyphony. Adorned with grace notes of murderous intent as well as tender timbres of splendor the listener bears the paradox of mutability. Yet further in, supple tracks cool this flame and help harmonize the systems-based rigor of minimalism with the impulsive beauty of sonic invention. In the reflections and refractions of sound this stylistically restless release exudes both technical prowess and artistic vision. Eruptive and exacting, then spare and starry-eyed, Coil holds us in a particular awed fascination. On a few compositions Boddy seems more interested in the heat of the beat than in its meaning. These passages rumble and rattle their way forward beneath echoing pulse patterns. Sonics gradually rise in intensity before discharging in a deluge of dancing arpeggios. Sweeping, swelling, pumping bass and synth themes wind out in the deep dark of blackening space. Shifting sequencer patterns escalate the mood through a series of heroic progressions. Jumping from one key to another the pace careens and beckons the listener to follow the reeling transfers. As night falls the music wanes in transparency. Shadows hold their breath. In a display of tones, textures and skills Boddy’s effort here becomes a mirror – as Coil revels in the flawed, fleeting beauty of the present moment. Remembering yesterday, while writing the story of tomorrow, this interweaving of atmosphere, texture, mood and feeling has been overseen by a rouge spirit – heard glowing and growing within his superb gift to the world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 October 2022

Caterina Barbieri: Spirit Exit

Spirit Exit Caterina Barbieri

Caterina Barbieri: Spirit Exit
Released: 8 July 2022
www.l-years.com
www.caterinabarbieri.com

Electronic Musicians are as different from each other as they are from the dominant styles of their day. In keeping with this belief on Spirit Exit (55:53) synthesist Caterina Barbieri locates the action in her synthesizers and brings to bear an unmistakable and true personal voice. Unfolding in an atmosphere of charged equilibrium its eight tracks prowl each their own musically distinctive surround. As one idea takes off in an unpredictable, unstoppable play of innovation, the next fuses into a seamless, dreamlike texture of ingenuity. Disciplined, machine-like galloping notes wind outward, emerging in a sprawling upward, downward theme. Extending the rapt mood spacey singsong vocalizations rise in contours shapley and measured. Barbieri intones with force, then finesse – her coolness prophetic of another kind of power. As branching sequencer structures cycle through light and dark designs, intriguing pulsing patterns echo, expand and conspire throughout our sound space. In a soaring clockwork precision of restless exploration Spirit Exit unfolds under Barbieri’s practiced naturalism. Synth chords seethe beneath deliberate changes in meter – the intention of the invention in support of rhythmic energy. With its imaginative sudden swerves and diverse sonic designs, those following closely may behold the sublime character of this work. Here is a musical world brimming with rhythmic complexity and dynamic variability, yet is supple and approachable from every perspective. One could imagine spending years with this album – light years of discovering new meaning and beauty as its maker is continually revealed.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END6 October 2022

Cosmic Ground: Isolate

Isolate

Cosmic Ground: Isolate
Released: 23 September 2022
www.cosmicground.de
www.tonzonen.de

With new technology comes the promise of styles and expressions that we have never heard before. Under the name Cosmic Ground Electric Orange keyboardist Dirk Jan Muller has for over a decade been amassing and deploying synthesizers beneath the beacon first lit over 50 years ago during the Berlin-School era of EM. Supplementing our sense of the possible this style of music, and the gear used to produce it, offers the potential for a remarkable range of revelations. With a strange beauty that borders on the forboding Muller submits his seventh studio album Isolate (73:14). The depth of each of the six electronic journeys is striking – with each realization providing a spellbinding sense of a place in space. In this full-speed ahead trip behind the beautiful forever of Kosmische Musik the listener encounters all that Spacemusic can be. Energizing and invigorating, emotionally piercing yet thrillingly alien, Isolate will exhaust those who cannot surrender to it. In the headlong drive of spiraling sequencer runs patterns of notes ascend in an echoing motor-motion. Settling into a careful clockwork, saturated Mellotron strings bestow a heightened sensitivity to the cosmic covenant. As creative energy moves from the musician’s interior to that of the audience, bold dissonances ring and spark across an outburst of dramatic imagination. From desolate soundscapes of darkening drones and chilled fallout fields, to the brooding sweep of sustaining sci-fi zones, Isolate easily pulls listeners into its specific sonic realm. This genre was, in ages past, all about the future. These days it is about survival. Synthesists dream about tones, and wake up thinking about them – which connects the artist to the story of the sound, and to what their music should be. But among us fans the act of listening is an act of trust. Along the upward arc of such resolute works of perpetual becoming we rely on Cosmic Ground, our keeper of mysteries, to lead us further – and to not displace too many of us during our drifting, dreaming voyage of the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 22 September 2022

[‘ramp] happy days are here to stay

happy days are here to stay

[‘ramp]: happy days are here to stay
Released: 29 August 2022
doombientmusic.bandcamp.com

Whenever a label named “Doombient” releases an album called happy days are here to stay (73:15) we might wonder, can the end of the world be that far off? The irony emitted by such an incongruous view and title is the stuff of Stephen Parsick‘s favorite mania, and how he processes the world. His work under the name [‘ramp], with its shifting myths of sound and unrelenting territory of timbre, emerges from a place of wonderment and integrity. While the self-aware nostalgia of happy days are here to stay brilliantly conveys a Berlin-School enlightenment, as well as the mysterious mood and aura of discovery from this era, we must ponder what Parsick is not telling us. Across eight tracks a spirit of infinity seems alive – taking flight with enough force to place each listening spirit safely into Earth orbit. In exhilarating lateral shifts come simplified lines of ordered notes and rich colors of sound. Although of a monumental quality this realization may be heard better as an intimate chamber drama possessing an expansive cosmic overlay. In subduing the impulse for embellishment a quiet longing of soft Mellotron flutes hovers above a spare soundfield – an elemental simplicity softening the controlled riot of pumping sequencer patterns below. As finely tuned as anything by [‘ramp] happy days are here to stay is dense, prismatic, mesmerizing, and capable of imaginative leaps. But with this ironic title, it may be trying to catch the current moment… when actually the moment it succeeds in capturing is from a long ago age of truth and hope for the future. Complete brain engagement from the listener is not required, but it would help. Full of Spacemusic’s transformational promise, cosmic yearning and diverting abandon this music trusts you to have not outsourced your thinking. As the musician is revealed to the world through their actions, through their art, we should not miss even one split second of this aural adventure. Because with intimacy exhibited at this level, sometimes we learn more than we should.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 September 2022

Chuck van Zyl: Skyspace

Skyspace

Chuck van Zyl: Skyspace
Released: 7 August 2022
chuckvanzyl.bandcamp.com

On 10 June 2022 an informed audience assembled within Chestnut Hill Skyspace in Philadelphia for a unique concert with noted Electronic Musician Chuck van Zyl. Skyspace (73:13) presents the complete continuous set. The concert realization Last Light was made live in the moment before an affectionate, informed audience. As these conditions are known to reveal an innovative spirit, we find the musician and listeners experiencing this extraordinary music together in the act of it being made. Energized equally by the pulse of the Berlin-School and the hope of the New Age, the remarkable setting and welcoming company brought out a substantial, expressive and meaningful performance.

In order to fully enjoy Skyspace one must accept the fleeting essence of this live improvised recital. Chuck van Zyl’s perspective on live performance remains particularly singular. An enactment of self-discovery his unschooled spark produced an undeniable dramatic energy throughout the venue. This exquisitely crafted concert, meant for the extraordinary open-roofed space that looks out onto the night sky, allowed this artist to do more than simply share his work. Set against the mystical grandeur of the heavens just above the heads of the audience, Chuck van Zyl was able to search for and share something of his true being.

Addressing the dreamer inside all of us Skyspace begins with bold dissonances. A spare sequencer pattern emerges, barely, amidst cross-modulated tones, synth string tritones, and a roiling Mellotron choir. As the wandering notes organize into an orderly pulsation, fluttering effects generate trailing spacey references. Once the rhythm becomes more mechanized additional lines emerge. The cycling tones interweave, overlap and wander across the inevitable arc of this extended set. In a passionate outburst of dramatic imagination melodic lead lines and key changes add a narrative force to this expansive nocturnal adventure.

In an act of shear concentration Chuck van Zyl oversees the ceaseless adjustment of his system of instruments. In refusing to work with a laptop or other kinds of pre-recorded, pre-programmed, pre-set resources his approach remains innovative, maybe even radical in our digital era of music making. In this space where compelling forces converge and combine – this mutually reinforcing circle of validation – it is only after a trial such as this one that this musician can become aware of himself, of what he is capable of, how far he has come, and how far he can go. Please lend your heart to this album. If you can, Skyspace will leave the trajectory of your thoughts surely changed for the better.

Skyspace was released by Synkronos Music on 7 August 2022 to coincide with the Chuck van Zyl on-air concert for Star’s End Space Camp 2022.

  • From the Press Release 7 August 2022

Steve Roach: What Remains

What Remains Steve Roach

Steve Roach: What Remains
Released: 5 August 2022
www.projekt.com
www.steveroach.com

Steve Roach beckons with the promise of fantastic escape. A meditation on fugitive beauty his What Remains (70:22) glows with an air of cosmic yearning. Subtlety has always been one of Roach’s strengths, and the four tracks here are so well-stated and precise that their complexity seems to come quite easily.

This music, while made with machines, has been made for humans. Succinct and eminently re-playable What Remains drifts from moods of exuberance and wonder, to nocturnal befogged views and synth soft poetic power. Breathing his tetrad of realizations into our imagination, one by one Roach engulfs the listener in a sonorous minor-key semblance of ambience.

Shifting to a spectral plane handsome and imposing drones give way to a simmering groove. As electronic percussion moves under, over and through adjacent sounds the mind may sense a polyrhythmic texture. Only hinting at its ethno-origins this energy feels forged deep beneath some indefinite surface.

Slightly cloudy, reverberant synthesizer chords give way to echoing sequencer patterns. As the resulting restless energy, space and time are strikingly transformed, Roach is found to be pulling from different emotional poles. In the gathering gloom a collage of sounds – free-floating, rounded metal edged, linked within cavernous reverb – emerge from roiling digital effects. The slow burning closing piece erases all bearings, leading us back into the silent now.

Throughout What Remains Roach’s quiet compositions of connection and reflection gently articulate an intense well of feelings behind even the simplest gesture. United by the sense of discovery which may be felt by informed listeners he continues to re-imagine the potential of his music. Yet, no matter how far it is pushed, or how hard it is played, it never forgets the abiding creative energy that first put it into motion.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 4 August 2022

Martin Sturtzer: Epsilon Eridani

Epsilon Eridani Martin Sturtzer

Martin Sturtzer: Epsilon Eridani
Released: 20 July 2022
www.phelios.de

With Epsilon Eridani (40:55) Martin Sturtzer shares his LP length window on the cosmos. Charged with a brain chilling energy this most majestic machine music involves all sorts of human choices and interventions. Across its three tracks the pitch-dark universe seems to become lit by a flicker of electronic grace. From dense sounds carrying an air of displacement to undulating fields of synthesized chords, Epsilon Eridani expands and contracts in a slow motion of round sounds and tamed timbre. We may imagine a set of concentric spheres – echoing sequencer patterns progressively revealed – as we move further along this sonic detour from linear thinking. Delving deeper into the the second half of this release we find tonal differences dominating the realm. Through the placement of contrasting harmonies this piece expresses texture, atmosphere, and all else that eludes the spoken word. Throughout all his substantial spacey interludes Sturtzer encourages the listener to follow the music in all its unfolding detail. In his idea of what may exist between the stars we should experience an unfamiliar feeling of lightness, like being on another planet where the force of gravity is only a fraction of the earth’s – a world where the low hum of possibility is constantly reverberating.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END21 July 2022