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Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: spacemusic

Meg Bowles: Evensong: Canticles for the Earth

Evensong: Canticles for the Earth

Evensong: Canticles for the Earth

Meg Bowles: Evensong: Canticles for the Earth
Released: 22 June 2018
www.megbowlesmusic.com

Meg Bowles makes us vulnerable to the beauty of our planet. In doing so, she shares something of herself with us. With each album release she is becoming new herself – in ways that matter. Evensong: Canticles for the Earth (63’13”) is a beautiful original, with echoes of the greats. It is rapturous music that grants us passage into a fair land where worry follows us no more. The seven soundscapes afford space for both melodic pleasure and probing reflection. Verdant harmonies, spacey modulations and lustrous tones float through these tracks, but what lingers is the overall aura. While beautiful synthesized chords and effects drift randomly between tones and textures, rounded string pads extend above a dramatic rumbling darkening realm. Along with its ethereal choirs, murmuring bass and delicate atmospheres, Evensong: Canticles for the Earth also offers glowing bursts of energy – yet it still feels like a refuge. In an engaging, converging arrangement of sounds Bowles exerts a force on our imagination. Blurry chords of keyboard tones and the occasional gently pulsating sequencer pattern provide sleek propulsion across shimmering sonic terrain, the musical equivalent of crossing a majestic landscape, over the earth and beneath the stars. Playing with an unforced tenderness and warmth, Bowles tries to help connect the listener with terrestrial currents. But as reassuring as this work is it does remind us that we live with many questions. People seek certainty and meaning, but all the world seems to give us is ambiguity. That is because the Earth lives in its own kind of deep time, moving at a rate we cannot comprehend. So better we embrace the beauty and impermanence of the human condition, celebrate the mystery and the unknowing of life, and add our voice to the chorus of humanity.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END5 July 2018

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Hotel Neon: Means of Knowing

Means of Knowing

Means of Knowing

Hotel Neon: Means of Knowing
Released: 14 May 2018
archivesdubmusic.bandcamp.com
www.hotelneonmusic.com

Hotel Neon decorates our condition with music. They draw on old photos, crumbling landscapes, mythic archetypes and their own restless sonic imaginations to realize albums that seem less made than discovered. As if plucked from the cultural ether and given color, voice and form, Means of Knowing is a work for large forces. Offering the audience relief from the plight of Mankind, if this release suffers from anything, it is that, in delivering that ease, it is, at times, almost too gorgeous for its own good. Their work moves, not at the rate you would expect for Ambient Music, but at a speed determined by the motion of atmospheric eddies – like the turbulence of refracted effects on unresolved distant sources. Thanks to the players’ subtly heightened, fiercely focused energies, Means of Knowing resounds with emotional and intellectual acuity. Using primarily electric guitars and a synthesizer, the occasional addition of field recordings or room noise adds a dimension of place. With pure harmonics spiraling around us, sound seems to hang in the air, at once diffused and enriched. Routed through various levels and kinds of processing, the vibrating steel strings of their instruments blur into interference fringes, the result of unique sonic diffraction or subtle distortion. Below this vague churning mass, electronic emanations hold forth in a foundation of low-lying drones. Across 12 waking prayers Hotel Neon’s studied imaginings have a tug of an inescapable gravity. Evoking a feeling of somber introspection, some pieces are as still as death, in a representation of the eternally forlorn. Black as winter branches, these passages deepen quietly, with a ghostly flourish and the rush of darkness. Here a frost wrought stillness mingles with the void. Later, the sound of a rough edge on a surface tugs from the edges, echoing and pulling attention away from the center. Further in, tracks gradually evolve into an intense aural field. Finally stretching across all instrument ranges, the expanse of notes becomes so large that the collective layering of instruments are treated as one single entity – just texture, loudness and tension. As the spell unravels, we shield our eyes – with the night yielding once more to day. As warm as sunlight on your face, a winged spirit does rise in day glow tones. This taming is a quieter action that calls upon us to grow. In addition to being masterfully made, Means of Knowing is an honest exploration of human qualities. Some will find it a balm for the troubles and griefs that pull people together, while others will use it simply to still the wheels of an over-worked mind. Hotel Neon lends enduring form to the stuff of their lives. You sense their sound on the skin, but feel it in your gut.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END28 June 2018

Klaus Schulze: Silhouettes

Silhouettes

Silhouettes

Klaus Schulze: Silhouettes
Released: 25 May 2018
www.spv.de
www.klaus-schulze.com

It may seem that when Klaus Schulze releases an album the whole history of contemporary Electronic Music lines up behind it. Yet from the audience’s perspective, the pure experience of listening to his music pushes thoughts towards the future. Silhouettes (75’00”) is for people wanting an intelligent, sophisticated production, not kid stuff. Its urgency and subtly heightened, fiercely focussed energies evoke a feeling of somber introspection. Silhouettes deepens quietly, as a deep dark something happens around the edges of its four tracks. With a tug of dire, inescapable gravity the world seems in absolute suspension – nothing moving, everything centered. In brighter passages exuberant harmonic gestures calms the formless questions gnawing at our souls. Where the music is spacious and uncluttered, sustained notes, sustained chords, and progressions of chords speak an utter truth with sound. It is a dense work expanded by inventive scoring and powerful narrative ideas. Light sequencer patterns arise, hurrying the interior current within, adding dancing tones to our teeming, gleaning minds. This kind of music usually benefits from simplicity, a point Schulze understands well. Silhouettes has a weightless allure built out of droning spaces and populated with cloud melodies that float and hover. While not exactly minimalist, because the layers are too involved and full of forward motion, Schulze’s achievement continues to be an assured, calmingly quiet atmosphere, which allows you to escape reality in a way unique to this venerable musician. However, his most enduring effect may be that he made our world appear to be a better place, by helping us keep the outside world outside – as you listen for the infinitely precious sound of the universe rhyming with one’s own brain.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 21 June 2018

Steve Roach: Molecules of Motion

Molecules of Motion

Molecules of Motion

Steve Roach: Molecules of Motion
Released: 1 June 2018
www.projekt.com
www.steveroach.com

Those who have traveled the farthest have gained the most perspective. Steve Roach invites us to listen with him, granting us privileged access to a hopeful view. His work exerts a force on the imagination, and brings much news from a distant corner of life. The album Molecules of Motion (73’18”) feels new and electric. Excitingly alive, this CD finds its dramatic momentum and action situated in Roach’s sequencers. Focused with full-beam intensity he lends musical energy to the language of ideas. Like many armed sparks sequencers issue tones and tumbling grooves break out of the controlled voltages. In an appreciation of complexity wordless structures explore forces – as the circulating fractals of tone patterns embody greater themes: the speed of life passing, the burden of memory. In an apt blend of vigor and momentum we become bedazzled by the sound of echoing synthesized riffs running on beneath swirling textures of atmosphere. Molecules of Motion has its soft spots too. As Roach occasionally idles the engine, late scenes are filled with serene sonic beauty. This taming is a quieter action, a simpler transaction of sound. Falling into infinity, we are unable to name the upper realm. This release rewards the deep diver – as we find the undercurrent of each track includes a whispered confidence shared with every listener. In streaks, flares, and charges in the open air, each of the four tracks transport our thoughts through space and time – just as easily as they may guide our attention down to territory more microscopic. The imaginary soundworlds Roach creates have an entrancing effect – enfolding such optimism in an era of blank desolation. He never loses sight of the natural wonders he is trying to capture, or of the nebulous mysteries he is attempting to fathom. Molecules of Motion reaffirms our sonic joy as the sustaining life force that it is.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END14 June 2018

Cosmic Ground: Cosmic Ground IV

Cosmic Ground IV

Cosmic Ground IV

Cosmic Ground: Cosmic Ground IV
Released: 21 May 2018
www.cosmicground.de

It may be argued that we are drawn to whatever in music that is boldly marked with personality. The brawny, brooding, primal realm of electronic sound realized by Dirk Jan Müller, in his highly personal effort as Cosmic Ground, does offer a distinctive synthetic substance – as well as access to the feelings of the lower plane. The album Cosmic Ground IV (78’26”) wanders to bizarre, distant and involved coloristic regions. If a synthesizer is a tool to make sound, then electricity is the raw material – which works its will within us across this CD’s seven tracks. Utilizing the darker portion of the audible spectrum the composer subjects the listener to a range of daring and captivating mental experiences. Phantasmal sonic events seem to confront underworld demons, as we move away from any concluding serenity. Along with all its foreboding, Cosmic Ground IV does give the impression that Müller takes some pleasure in the rhythmical arrangement of sound. Large-scale discharges lead to episodes of stormy grandeur, yet a swollen waltz of dancing arpeggio notes soon lights our shaky steps. However, in spite of a cerebral climax of overpowering sequencer sonority, we may still feel this music becoming darker by degrees. In ominous oscillations between Mellotron black and the comforting chords of a soft electric organ, this music is trying to say something for which words have not yet been invented. Many albums of Spacemusic simply provide pleasurable feelings to the listener. This one goes further… transmuting vague sentiments into the human sense of wonderment. Following the course of thought, Cosmic Ground IV provides a contact between two minds: that of the author and of you – who benefit from being open to the refreshment, the strengthening, and the stimulation of this work.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END24 May 2018

Node: Node Live

Node Live

Node Live

Node: Node Live
Released: 18 May 2018
www.din.org.uk

Before the audience ever even heard the music, they knew it was there. On 27 February 2015 the concert hall at the Royal College of Music in London was staged for a rare live show by Node – the celebrated collaboration between Dave Bessell, Ed Buller, Mark Ellis (aka Flood) and Mel Wesson. In front of those seated was a city of synthesizers, arranged and wired together in a menagerie of boxes, cases and modules… warmed up and standing ready to be played by these four men. Sparking ideas about music’s ritualistic role, attendees surely felt that they were going to be part of something great – as when electricity is converted into music something wondrous is born into the world. Node Live (65’53”) provides a record of this psychic income. Like the thunder, the heaviest of this album’s five live tracks will awaken a primitive emotion within us. In parts where is present a bass so heavy that it can almost be stood upon, we feel an unrestrained directness of expression. As the inward spiral of echoing sequencer patterns are introduced, the brainwaves of the audience seem to align – as if in a combining of forces. Node Live captures the newness of this fleeting experience. Cross-modulated oscillators give the feel of being bombarded with cosmic rays, alongside classic Mellotron tones sounding out through cavernous reverberation. Electronic tones skip, dance and amble up and down chromatic scales in machine-like precision – supported by synth harmonies, glittering effects and the occasional electric guitar lead. Abstract thought zones provide a place to rest, without giving the impression of undoing or finality. It is hard not to celebrate the look of Node’s machinery over its function. But seeing all this gear (which nearly slipped from the world’s memory some years ago) assembled for a live performance may remind us that although we think we have control of it, electricity is working its will within this music and directing its every action. While Node’s work may originate at an AC wall outlet, it comes to us through our ears, and truly reaches us only through our understanding. Existing in stark contrast to mainstream music, which reflects the current values and trends in society, music by Node (and their contemporaries) achieves so much more – as it reflects the current state of the human mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END17 May 2018

EFSS: Tidal Shift

Tidal Shift

Tidal Shift

EFSS: Tidal Shift
Released: 9 April 2018
efss.bandcamp.com

If you are seeking an easy way to shift your mind set, then just cue up Tidal Shift (54’23”) – the collective collaboration between Jörg Erren, Bert Fleissig, Jochen Schöttler and Christian Steffen. This album selectively activates neurochemical systems and brain structures associated with positive mood – as its music travels from the brain space of the creators directly into ours. Each of the seven tracks vibrates inside us, one by one conjuring a different color and atmosphere. The tempo may prowl then race outward with machine-like focus. A sense of serenity mutates into unease, setting us down amidst oxidized tones and an eerie beauty. Metallic drones, churning within collapsing worlds, are soon joined by ethereal strings and ticking percussion – with fat synthesized blobs marking time beneath flights of echoing sequencer runs. A rhythmic grid locates itself in space, and is promptly foregrounded by glittering modulated effects and raw energized sparks. Ghostly assemblages of drifting electronics become absorbed by a restless surge of synchronized patterns, only to plunge us back into the stillness of a close and holy darkness. All this and more makes Tidal Shift an exhilarating document. EFSS spends only a few days a year working together urgently on this music, and here reaches a new plateau. This release reasserts their originality as musicians – operating in the luxury of an underground haven where ideas can be explored freely with no worry of how they will land. This secluded existence is built around the contemplative pursuit of making music. By purchasing this CD, playing their work, and listening, we are granted permission to go with them on an intimate journey of creativity.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END10 May 2018