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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Sequencer

Beyond Berlin: Totem

Totem

Totem

Beyond Berlin: Totem
Released: 6 April 2019
www.groove.nl

For many of today’s Spacemusicians, their inspiration comes directly from the Electronic Berlin-School of 1970s Germany. Almost 50 years ago this highly independent group built an entirely original genre based on their own new principles. Along with the use of new music technology, one of the main features of this so-called Kosmische Musik is its idea of de-limitation. The synthesizer ensemble Beyond Berlin (Rene de Bakker, Martin Peters and Oscar van den Wijngaard) is making its mark by exploring this ideal. Their CD Totem presents five studio tracks which, while based on the work of their heroes, are not mere mindless replications. Balancing a technological precision with personalized artistic expression, this trio references the order and harmony of the contemporary mainstream – all the while leading their listeners into a new sonic realm. As gravity bends light, so Totem bends time. In a clockwork clarity of layer upon layer of building ostinato figures, each piece plays out in a pleasantly melodic dreaminess. With its skipping sequencer strategies and animated chord progressions, the overall mood of the album is embracing – as warm as an analogue synth, yet as cool as digital space. The patterns blend, displace and divide in a warping coil of echoing notes. Totem has been designed with care, and carefully carried out as an exploration of expression. In anticipation of a better tomorrow Beyond Berlin realizes a dynamic and mesmerizing sound. With thought leaders telling us that nothing ages as fast as the future, it is good to find each successive generation of artists reaching far into it – in blatant disregard of the doubts of today.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END13 June 2019

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TJ Porter: Darkness

Darkness

Darkness

TJ Porter: Darkness
Released: 18 April 2019
tjporter.bandcamp.com

TJ Porter professes a profound influence from the Berlin-School of Kosmische Musik, and proves it throughout every one of his album releases. His Darkness (41’56”) is loaded with throbbing sequencer patterns, and winding motor notes – echoing through space in synchronized machine precision. In lines of dancing tones, each row reinforces the next – while heroic chord progressions pluck both heartstrings and gray matter in equal measure. A vital energy courses through Darkness. In a brilliant adventure into an electronic wonderland of seven carefully conceived works Porter embraces the ideals that framed his music’s founding. The melodic content unfurls above and below the pulsing foundation. Wide open synth lead lines energize and brighten the air, and shift mood pleasantly – only to slow dramatically within a bubbling, undulating pace. There are also thought zones where the feel becomes more settled, locating a less energetic and more reverential atmosphere. With darkness on the horizon, the mind of this musician can still imagine events beyond cynicism and mistrust. Let us hope that Porter’s Darkness is what we experience just before the dawn.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END6 June 2019

Ian Boddy: Altair

Altair

Altair

Ian Boddy: Altair
Released: 17 May 2019
www.din.org.uk

Following his 2018 visit to Philadelphia, we find that there is still plenty of fight left in Ian Boddy. Altair presents concert music from this trip. Dazzling and engaging, the first disc of this double album unfolds in the fast-moving, unerring style Boddy has become known for at The Gatherings Concert Series. Providing a comfortable feel, amidst neat beats and pulsing sequencer patterns, Altair veers between fearsome acceleration and a breathtaking stillness. Boddy’s talent for harmonizing aural pleasure and vanguard ideas is in full play here. The rapturous strings, expressive solos and machine tone patterns ask us to feel something, while atonal clusters and metallic rumblings challenge the listener to ponder deeper mysteries. Synth leads edged in platinum bring melodies played with poetic sincerity, and pleasure the ear with caressing phrases. Riding above an insistent bassline, interlocking sonic structures wind around each other in fragile synchronization. The potent effect of the seven tracks on the audience (and the musician) was intensified within the reverential performance space, and may be felt again at each listening session. The second disc in this two-CD set matches the celestial scale of the STAR’S END radio program – where it was recorded. An elaborate musicalized dreamland the five tracks of this volume finds consonance retreating into a separate territory – as modulated effects wear down harmonies with deliberate pressure and howling electronics bellow through cavernous reverberation. These portentous soundscapes, rendered in dark gauzy layers, are offset by passages of focused energy and a sense of rocketing between star systems. This fifth such transmission by Boddy creatively uses well the dynamic range available to artists invited to these sessions. Sonic fragments were mixed and matched and layered one upon another. A glassy calm begets a serene interiority, until an enchanting discord clouds our heads. Whenever a scalding, raspy roar wails in caustic disquiet, the negative space enlarges – straight on to nowhere. Boddy, like all other Electronic Musicians, makes music out of electricity – but his true material is time and space. Altair exists so that others outside the moments of these recitals may hear the truth of his work, and know the magic of traveling in place.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END23 May 2019

Thom Brennan: Imaginary Conquests

Imaginary Conquests

Imaginary Conquests

Thom Brennan: Imaginary Conquests
Released: 1 May 2019
www.thombrennan.com

With his musical compositions realized from a reverence for the natural world, Thom Brennan hopes to help restore the habitat of human thought. His CD Imaginary Conquests (70’59”) is perfectly in tune with itself and its maker. Luxuriating in the contours of harmony, Brennan finds a form of life in contemporary electronic textures. Each of the four tracks seem like a singular flowing thought – each asking us to tune into a unique, quieter frequency. Electric ribbons of sound sing of a synthetic landscape in sustaining chords, interlocking tone patterns and ethereal effects. With layer upon layer of arpeggio triads and tetrads, the entrances and introductions of subdivided rhythms settle the listener into a lulling reverie. Ringing melodies and rounded notes unfurl steadily, sweeping us away in an enveloping sense of magic. A spirited energy of consonant complexion and spiraling spacey effects imbue this music with a cerebral energy, while pulsing lines of echoing sequencer scales run parallel to one another in increasing levels of intricacy. In constant transition, these patterns seem just like the world in which we live. Simple in its construction, but endlessly complex in effect, Imaginary Conquests manages to sustain our imagination over a prolonged span. From its silvery and warm tones to a humming, gently charged atmosphere, Brennan’s synthesizer expressions draw us into his realm completely. So often do we humans look to music and art – and also to nature – for that which we are not able to find within ourselves. Imaginary Conquests is a deep musical environment meant as much for contemplating such mysteries as it is for guiding those merely adrift.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 May 2019

Bernhard Wostheinrich

Elsewhere

Elsewhere

Bernhard Wostheinrich: Elsewhere
Released: 7 December 2018
www.iapetus-media.com
www.redundantrocker.com

Bernhard Wöstheinrich really puts the “extra” in extraterrestrial. Suspicions of his unearthly origins will be upheld upon listening to Elsewhere (68’44”), an album of Electronic Music that confirms his expanded ideas of the cosmos and infinite space. The classic works of the original Berlin-School have nothing to fear, as Wöstheinrich is more comfortable with self-expression than with translation. This wayward album will arouse the imagination of listeners, as it explores an aural space along contours which remain obscure. Sounds arise, vibrate, and recede, but do not travel along a linear plane. Conveying a unique ambiance the mood moves through a vast emptiness. The upper strings tremble over a thickening bass, then, with cold deliberate pressure, chase the harmonies into an upper atmosphere. With echoing patterns of sequencer notes, we are treated to a delightful acceleration in energy. Repeating motifs motor up, propelling us through distant starlit stretches – then reorder down into a languid drift. As the spacey lines meet, combine, and evaporate each of the four tracks move into a distinctive section of stillness. In tones edged in platinum Elsewhere rings of a far-ranging sonic intelligence – which is felt in its unrestrained directness of expression. By overcoming the limitations of contemporary music Bernhard Wöstheinrich better expresses his un-conforming ideas. Existing in stark contrast to the mainstream, Elsewhere communicates the harsh and heavy reason for staying awake in a world of the self-anesthetized.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END11 April 2019

d’Voxx: Telegraphe

Telegraphe

Telegraphe

d’Voxx: Télégraphe
Released: 15 March 2019
www.din.org.uk
www.dvoxx.com

Along with a great number of new sounds and sonics, the recent modular synthesizer movement has also generated some new terminology. One such entry into the technical jargon of this field is the phrase, composing with “on purpose notes”, or what many of us once thought of as the recognition of tonality – a most very basic aspect of contemporary music. While the works of d’Voxx (the duo of Nino Auricchio & Paul Borg) may be attributed to an elaborate matrix of electronic components, their CD Télégraphe (56’00”) is the full flame, and not just a flickering idea found in their technology. A knowing blend of strict strategizing and the acknowledgement of the necessity of a greater precision permeate Télégraphe. To convey the sweeping complexity of their ideas this duo arranges a music system so that they may wander easily through its structure. Like a letter within a word, each module plays a role subordinate to the composite whole. In pulsing, complicated spheres of energy emanating into the world around us, the pulse of this music comes, not so much from the rate of its LFO or clock divider, but from the entwined creativity of its collaborators. Stringing together nine realizations with field recordings of the urban underground each piece moves rapidly from audio art into a contemporary groove. The music’s heated circuitry yields an excitement and urgency of hot, real and sudden energy. Just as body-beat drums roll and crest dramatically beneath propulsive figures, strands of sequencer notes mix, shift and split in a twisting double helix of echoing electronic tones. Above this torrent rises consonant chords traversing the scales – exerting a serene, secure authority. The kinetic and moving head-music found on Télégraphe will appeal to those with an ear for rhythm – even as it gently swings back and forth between dynamism and contemplation. Auriccho & Borg have woven their themes and forms into a strikingly intricate whole. They have brought this music into the world so as to feel the satisfaction of being heard – and in doing so generate an intimacy to which we may often return.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END4 April 2019

K Markov: High Voltage

High Voltage

High Voltage

K Markov: High Voltage
Released: 1 February 2019
kmarkov.bandcamp.com

From a realm of sonic wonder comes High Voltage (49’02”) by K Markov. This release and its like are not a retreat from the world, but rather a re-imagining of what can be. Drawn in by a vivid imagination and high spirit, we find something cool, real and sudden. Each of the three tracks found on High Voltage have been designed to flow as a whole, gradually infusing our listening space with Markov’s sense of wonder at existence. The music is absorbed before we even know we have heard it. As thrilling contrasts move between the poles of chaos and order, the composer steps outside himself to dream up new realities. Upon the workings of some powerful engine sequencer patterns emerge and echo through the purple dusk of twilight into a perfect pitch dark night. Passing the control of known forces sputtering sparks heat the circuits of our brains while consonant synth melodies foretell the destination of dreams. With all reference points left behind we enter new space, guided only by a refined artistic sensibility. There is no one way to play this music, and so at each new outing we find new things about sound, mood, atmosphere and texture. Attracting the ear and stirring the mind we again find Spacemusic to be the only genre that can support a thousand ideas all in one performance. K Markov is a persistent and prolific composer, proof that music is an urgent calling. On High Voltage he touches the untamed forces of our internal lives, and weaves these themes into a striking album – to help us focus on our won truth. Such imaginative work shows people there are other ways to create and live, as it trains our thoughts. Markov’s condition is as with many who have come before him, as he stands in wonder at the unfailing stars.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 21 March 2019