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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Soundscape

Tim Motzer: Inside

Inside

Inside

Tim Motzer: Inside
Released: 5 June 2020
www.1krecordings.com
www.timmotzer.com

In his younger years innovative guitarist Tim Motzer may well have been influenced by the classics No Pussyfooting, Evening Star or Discrete Music, but his many releases in the soundscape vein have always shied-away-from reproducing exactly the sound of these pioneering artists. If Motzer is channeling anything from the 1970s it is the forward-thinking spirit of innovation and the freedom to try new things that arose uniquely out of this period. His album Inside (61’01”) arrives in another, different era of transformation, one in which we have all been asked to re-think our lives. While Motzer admits that these days, many of us are spending more time indoors, his five tracks were realized for play, not really in our living rooms, but in a deeper interior space – a head-space.

It is the endless potential of live improvisation that puts this whole enterprise in motion. Under these conditions Motzer is arranger, performer, and accompanist all at once. In his rare world of spontaneous composition he achieves a beautiful, often dramatic cohesion. Does he make a plan beforehand? Yes, he plans to start playing and hear what happens. Initially made as a gift to individual friends and colleagues, it was soon discovered that others outside this circle were also moved by these works. Their fanciful wisps and sustaining mists ease the mind, as well as does the slow dance of dreamy, breathing tones fortifies the heart. These pieces should not unsettle the listener with difficult questions – rather, they are offering the certainty that their notes go good together, and, once the journey is complete, resolve in a soft, sure landing.

Traveling on drifts of shimmering steel strings, reverb laden phrases softly emerge into the sound-space, then recede. Where electric guitar solos rise in ever strengthening leads, a rolling slow flow of calm and color radiates below. The expressive array of sonic shades and whispering washes clings willingly to the ears – eventually sending listeners back to themselves anew.

The current consciousness of mortality has provided Inside with a soulful heft. This creative act of contemplative companionship, of listening and thinking together through music provides a refreshing edge that favors life. While the world outside erodes, Tim Motzer restores the space inside. But his arc of melancholy bends toward an awareness… something that is invisible, but palpable – which accompanies us spectrally, in the back of our minds, well Inside.

-Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 August 2020

Robert Rich: Offering to the Morning Fog

Offering to the Morning Fog

Offering to the Morning Fog

Robert Rich: Offering to the Morning Fog
Released: 24 May 2020
www.robertrich.com

Propelled by a striking new inspiration Robert Rich heads for the dreamlands. Sailing in the direction of dawn he realizes an Offering to the Morning Fog (67’52”). Content are those who tour this realm. A lavish aural voyage this album unfolds at a right roaming pace. Progressing along a slow-moving arc it builds a sense of tonal otherness that is enticing, inviting and subtle. As this release has been composed within an alternate system of tuning, one might expect the effect to be disquieting. To his credit, here Rich uses this unique technique to conjure six works of wonder – sometimes curious and questioning, but always meant to ease, not challenge his advanced listeners. Offering to the Morning Fog invites us to dream. With breathing drones and undulating tones the ebb and flow of Rich’s slow flute lines circulate through cavernous reverb. The measured use of glissando guitar adds a sinuous shimmering shine wherever it arises. But beneath this lightening plain electronic sound sources materialize in a lingering portent. It is these brief heartless voids and unsettled regions that so fix and fascinate Rich. Declaring a twilight sound space he summons a daybreak where infinity is nothingness and the unknown impels his craft. Offering to the Morning Fog is the perfect balm for an age that demands art and music penetrate surfaces and depict a more complex truth. So although your heart and mind will be unfolding in a thousand different directions, please do not forget to look for yourself inside this beautiful landscape. And please know that, as the long night passes with the cleansing sunrise always comes the promise of a new and better day – at which time there is no better moment to concede that it is the contrast of light and dark that give each other their meaning.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END25 June 2020

Hèléne Vogelsinger: Contemplation

Contemplation

Contemplation

Hèléne Vogelsinger: Contemplation
Released: 12 June 2020
www.modularfield.io

Although it seems that most musicians spend their time in the pursuit of being heard, Hèléne Vogelsinger seems to have taken some preliminary steps in pursuit of hearing her audience. Expressing herself in a way aficionados will appreciate, Contemplation (42’09”) is a release perfect for our time. Providing seven nimble synthesizer escapades, as well as a rival vision of what Electronic Music should sound like, this album lights up the dark space in a winsome way. Finding ongoing inspiration from her instrument the pieces on this album come about in the act of playing them. Vogelsinger takes notice of the sound output of her modular synthesizer system and shapes it into a captivating poem of electricity. Conjuring kinetic joy sequencer patterns echo, expand, and gently recoil through the sound space. As the warm circuits of technology emit layers of easy harmony, the tones of a clarinet or human voice stabilize consonance along a sensitive musical arc. While most resolving notes land softly, some are left marooned in the ether – floating lost in reverberation, eventually fading into velvet night. Each of the many parts of this innovative machine music interweave and meld into the fully and effectively imagined realizations found throughout Contemplation. Vogelsinger’s sonic identity deals with the ideas of light and dark, hard and soft, vastness and intimacy, all balanced by a musical intent touched by a profound cosmic yearning. Electronic Musicians do not write their music, they live it… and so Vogelsinger gets it right… and gets it right on behalf of the listener too. Her music gives us an experience of certainty, a structure we trust, a way things should go – and brings us to a realm outside of everything else. This facility is such a very powerful thing in a world where most of us do not have the tools to express the fullness of who we are. With her Contemplation, Vogelsinger shows us her self, and gives us the world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END11 June 2020

Jeff Pearce: Songs for The Gathering

Songs for The Gathering

Songs for The Gathering

Jeff Pearce: Songs for The Gathering
Released: 20 March 2020
www.jeffpearcemusic.com

The setting is a grand, although unrestored, church sanctuary in Philadelphia on Saturday 10 June 2000 where Jeff Pearce is set to perform a show. Along with his performance set he has on offer (produced especially for attendees) a limited edition six track CD called Songs for The Gathering. It was the perfect souvenir for The Gatherings Concert Series audience as it offered music from this formative era and remained out of print, becoming a collector’s item for a full two decades. Having now rediscovered (and remastered) this material, and added on two additional contemporaneous pieces, Songs for The Gathering (58’27”) has been given a proper re-issue – just in time to commemorate the porcelain anniversary of its first release, and also to remind us of the hope we all felt at the beginning of the 21st century.

Sending sound into space, each composition induces its own unique zone. Pearce’s six steel strings shiver under his light touch, with every tone challenging gravity’s pull. Each note builds on the promise of the one that came before, revealing a robust creative vision. Yet, in its inviting minimalism even the sparest of the tracks contain references to the cosmos. As sonic eddies form, slow yearning melodies reiterate at the rate and depth of a sleeper’s breath – and Songs for The Gathering deepens from the pleasant and consonant into the transcendent and moving. Arising from shorelines of unearthly radiance the mesmerizing impact of this music’s aural texture ventures to defeat space and time. Yet, when he commands it, this guitarist’s picking, looping and E-Bow echo techniques are exact and clear. In the dancing delicacy of arpeggio chords the spare procession of isolated notes articulate a soaring, confident energy – which settles down ultimately into a refuge of otherworldly beauty.

Songs for The Gathering is a lambent landmark from two decades ago, yet its bright message remains as meaningful as when it was first delivered. Written in a language and performed with a skill that has stayed with us across the 20 years since first hearing it, this music has been revived to help us through the times in which we now find ourselves. What can an artist expect to achieve in the shadow of disaster and doubt? For Jeff Pearce it has been quite a lot. In many a profound musical moment he has encountered glints of transcendence, and the hint of how things might have been in a less brutal world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END30 April 2020

Amongst Myselves: The Good Earth

The Good Earth

The Good Earth

Amongst Myselves: The Good Earth
Released: 24 March 2020
www.amongstmyselves.com

Steve Roberts continues the inclination to dream big. His works under the name Amongst Myselves are brilliantly crafted aural poems to all things telluric. Another precision built soundscape, The Good Earth (65’02”) has taken several years to fully realize. Its six tracks have a connection to the continent of Australia, which is where Roberts resides, but seems more a devotional work to the entire planet and the tender land which provides us with life. A curious mix of naturalist details and a fantastic sense of sound, this album may be admired as much for its simplicity as for its tangled sense of fury, solemnity and ambience. Granting the soothing that modern life does not, rather than merely suppressing symptoms, The Good Earth provides a lasting improvement in our countenance. Layers of sustaining warm notes slowly gather, build and recede in a lulling and harmonious infinite moment. In its swirling storm cloud chords and charged electronics we seem to hear this music in the same way we absorb sense data. Beneath the soft glow hovering above each composition, a varying layer of synthesizer consonance and imaginative modulations are grounded by detailed drones and plucked steel strings. In slow waves of sleep harmonizing neurons, bass notes writhe beneath breathing ambient spheres – re-ordering the mind in a restless meditation on atmosphere and texture. The collage of tones tunes the experience, from ground brown lows to clear blue high skies, and on into a sacred black. As vast as the soundscapes feel, we find that there are only two people in The Good Earth – the musician, and you the listener. Simultaneously beautiful and tragic, uplifting and haunting, Roberts hopes we will feel the weight and wonder of life, and the beautiful part we occupy in a much larger organism.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END26 March 2020

Kelly David: Meditation in Green

Meditation in Green

Meditation in Green

Kelly David: Meditation in Green
Released: 23 August 2019
www.spottedpeccary.com
www.kellydavid.com

Kelly David is exploring the Earth, and discovering that it is far bigger than he imagined. The release Meditation in Green (58’03”) allows us to project ourselves into his luxurious, long-view. Those open to the seduction of electronic drama and its beautiful symbolism will be substantially rewarded. Utilizing a variety of pristine field recordings, and layering them with gentle percussion and evocative synthesizer surfaces Kelly David produces passages of mystic bliss – where reverberant chords move like slow clouds on the horizon, and glowing tones flex and fade off into a buzz of jungle. From ethno-grooves to Forth World dreamscapes, the arc of this fantasy for synths, samplers and landscapes recedes and expands as the music flows across a leafy, watery and often intense sonic terrain. Some tracks add a ceremonial rhythmic propulsion, but we will recognize that most of Meditation in Green is pushing slowly through a dreamy, verdant realm. This work’s series of seven interludes build tension through minimal means, driving one to consider the larger questions of what it is to be alive. The listening experience is sensuous enough to become lost in, but so vivid that we might encounter ourselves somewhere along our travels. In its textured roar, wilderness sounds, ethereal atmospheres and thunder claps we find an escape from the broken world. The screens of our modern times offer so much to look at, from the trivial to the sublime. Yet, Meditation in Green proves to be a move vivid experience than any random feed could possibly offer. To give his perspective on the world and its ancient governing powers this artist’s vision reaches us through the act of listening, to be interpreted within the theater of our minds.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END17 October 2019

Robert Rich: Tactile Ground

Tactile Ground

Tactile Ground

Robert Rich: Tactile Ground
Released: 15 January 2019
www.robertrich.com

Robert Rich remains as content as ever reveling in his remarkable and imaginative designs. After initiating the audience into the bewildering mysteries of his art, he awakens particular responses. Again treating sound as a material to express ideas and feelings, his Tactile Ground is the realization of that which eludes language. A sonic landscape contoured by wonder, we may imagine the musician as an organism. With its recordings of the natural world, surrounded by strange modulations and washes of harmony, we arrive at a most unexpected setting. In some green Eden, or a primordial realm, it feels like these motifs have preceded the human race. With no discernible rhythm, it becomes difficult to maintain our bearings while within Tactile Ground. Sensations vary over 15 tracks and two discs. Where a slight but noticeable restlessness begins, further in the shivering quality of its atmosphere becomes unapologetically bleak. As granular textures are replaced by the smooth, stillness of sustaining drones, brighter passages support the spare, elegant notes of a grand piano. Beautiful tones do emanate from Rich’s steel guitar, slithering and sliding in slow serpentine glissando. Breaths of bamboo flute float through a glorious reverberation above a torrent of churning, murmuring synthesizers – and in this manner Tactile Ground creeps slowly along. Having found that his musical expressions affect other people, Robert Rich does them consciously and intentionally to produce that effect – and so his music is born. As we evolve into creatures with powers which at present we do not possess, we may come to understand fully how sound created thought, and how thought creates music. Until that time, the human mind requires a basic coherence and system, and once given systematic coherence can grasp ideas of ever increasing complexity. Yet, even given this, it will not be possible for us to know the meaning of Tactile Ground until traveling its complete course.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 February 2019

Robert Rich: The Biode

The Biode

The Biode

Robert Rich: The Biode
Released: 25 February 2018
www.robertrich.com

What will we be thinking about while we listen to The Biode (57’37”) by Robert Rich? Is existence a property? Or a state? How do we measure the modern world? What constitutes the self? A talent on a free course, Rich progresses, not in a straight line, but in alternate divergences from one side of creativity to the other. His work on The Biode re-awakens the discussion of music and the surreal. To the ear accustomed to soothing atmospheres, this album is a risk – as it deviates quite seriously from better known traditions. A great deal of its charm lies in its ability to confound and perplex. An exploration of new aims and tendencies, the ten tracks found on The Biode are each an exploitation of carefully chosen and contrasted tonal qualities. Rich’s harmonic lubrications are subtle, revealing the dim light of mystic musing. Instrumental tone colors are combined, yet each stands clear of the other – asserting a mutual independence. As a gathering of rhythmic threads arise and resolve in unconventional sequencer patterns and percussive structures, tiny snatches of melody pass like vain dreams – heedlessly into some other chord. From sweet, to pungent, to the primordial, a slow progression of pale hues test permitted concords and discords. Throughout this release Rich features his notable research into the qualities of timbre, into the effects of new combinations of tones. These imaginative modulations are highlighted as prominently as the more familiar reverberant flute solos, steel guitar leads and synthesized pads. The result is a wonderful zone of beautiful melodies and sonic grandeur, accented by glurping electronic utterances and an unsettling intonation. However scientific its conception may have been, The Biode proves very expressive. As faithful in detail as any of Rich’s best work, it represents the furthest progress yet in acknowledging the human subconscious, and the emotional and intellectual attitudes of the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 March 2018

Hammock: Mysterium

Mysterium

Mysterium

Hammock: Mysterium
Released: 25 August 2017
www.hammockmusic.com

Mysterium (58’07”) conjures a twilight, slow-motion realm. Hammock, the duo of Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson, here produce 11 tracks worth of shadowy blue nocturnes. While this work is an act of pure expression and atmosphere, it is concisely formed and executed to the standards of the Ambient Chamber Music style. Their lush instrumentation of strings, piano, horns, choir, and so many variations of electric guitar tones, sends us a soul-deep sonic portrait from a symbolic plane. With a poet’s flair for valorizing, their songs of withdrawn melancholy send the listener on a gorgeous journey into the elegiac. Organized with understated compositional principles, chords and melodic fragments float along, their sonorities given plenty of time to reverberate inside the mind of the listener. From its nearly stationary landscapes to structured, goal-oriented harmonic narratives, Mysterium is textured, precise and alive. Its arrangements of gentle gravity gains shape in recurring motives and portentous contrasts. Mysterium has been derived from expressive shades of sound. Long unhurried melodies emerge out of a soft aura of harmony, to cling to the ears and whisper in the heart – speaking to a place where words are unnecessary, as sound tells the story best. Quietists at heart, Byrd and Thompson make music for souls in transit. Mysterium reaches for serious moments. It is the product of years of purposeful effort – and an invitation to step inside the musician’s mind. Their personal realities are a special place to occupy. Meant for self-reflection, Hammock has released a transformational, lovestruck album – a beautifully colored collage of memories and daydreams, in which the players (and listeners) may become fortified in the aftermath of loss.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END3 August 2017

Robert Rich: Live at The Gatherings 2015

Live at The Gatherings 2015

Live at The Gatherings 2015

Robert Rich: Live at The Gatherings 2015
Released: 2 June 2017
www.robertrich.com
www.industryeight.com

Robert Rich is about more than just exhibiting himself on the stage. His many concert appearances are understood as substantial, yet ephemeral experiences in sound. Among the most notable are Rich’s numerous appearances in Philadelphia as part of The Gatherings Concert Series. This is a safe place for innovative musicians to explore creativity, and discover what lies inside – the listener and player alike. We now have a permanent treasure to add to the memory of one such concert. The double CD Live at The Gatherings 2015 presents Robert Rich’s 11 April 2015 performance, an album that will touch your mind, and may even invade your dreams. While Rich focuses on the brainy, metaphysical aspects of his live work, he is always solidly attentive to the more practical issues. Through contour, pacing and tone, he makes buying admission to one of his live events a ticket to a foreign land. In coolly assured advances, forthright flute solos ascend through reverberant chambers, then brood over their own worth. Thrusting percussive rhythms rumble beneath swooning steel guitar solos. Snapping with a seductive skill, drums invigorate the mood, but we find the foreground is commanded by a writhing fuzz lead line – moaning through electrical circuits. Remote synth strings project both fragility and flashes of brilliance. Further down below we encounter tectonically imagined realms of biomorphic abstractions meant to beckon and boggle. Here Rich seems to reach into silence – bringing back something which may glow warmly, or just as easily, feel cold and damp. A mist to the brittle spirit, Robert Rich in concert is an event which celebrates the complexity of the human mind. The transit between quiet cerebral musings and propulsive visceral thrills seems to generate this album’s own energy. Like Rich himself, and the music he realizes live, Live at The Gatherings 2015 is authentic. It both belongs to our era, and transcends it. We are the meaning-seeking animals, and Rich, at some great height, is constantly searching within himself for something deeper to express. Passion… is it the friction between the world and the soul? If so, then Robert Rich’s concert space is about passion, as well as pleasure. It also acts as an outlet for intellect – and a bit of musical virtuosity. So, while each audience member is entitled to their own personal interpretations, the common connection here is the ability of this experience to connected us to that which is humane, gentle and life-giving – a function which we see slowly receding from the modern life.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 25 May 2017