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Tag: STAR’S END

In the Branches + Bluetech: Behind the Sky

Behind the Sky

Behind the Sky

In the Branches + Bluetech: Behind the Sky
Released: 8 June 2018
www.behindtheskymusic.com

Whirling through the halls like a wild wind Behind the Sky (60’54”) offers the listener relief from the plight of The World. In the Branches + Bluetech ask nothing more than our quiet attention, as unpredictable swerves and drifts of their conversation apply logic to sonic symbols. Dedicated electronic tinkerers Shane Cotee and Evan Bartholomew work through their influences to achieve an uncanny directness. A realization for large forces Behind the Sky offers seven scenes of a vital analytic gravity. Thanks to the musicians’ subtly heightened, fiercely focused energies, this album advances, not at the speed you would expect of space travel, but at a rate determined by the motion of atmospheric fronts. Each section is quite distinct, moving each into its own collective texture. Sounds are quietly yet forcefully flung at the listener. In a rush of darkness, thoughts dissolve into a waking prayer – each track a moment of authentic inner expression. Round synthesizer tones form consonant melodies, slowly praising the beautiful unknown. Cycling notes echo through reverberation, uncoiling over cloud covered landmarks – as spare guitar strings ring under heavens lit by stars. Masses swell and expand then recede into less reckless zones. Conductive to thinking, Behind the Sky is yet excitingly alive. In an outflow of music there must be something more than what is called force. There must too be distinction, and a rarity of feeling. Waiting for a sign in the sky, or a word from the stars, Cotee and Bartholomew express the soft fire of collaborative moments, and the elation of transcendence between the terrestrial and the interstellar.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END19 July 2018

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Robert Rich & Markus Reuter: Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018

Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018

Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018

Robert Rich & Markus Reuter: Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018
Released: 4 July 2018
www.robertrich.com
www.markusreuter.com

People pray in a church. On 19 May 2018 Robert Rich & Markus Reuter played in a church, and did something that was truly new. Their program for The Gatherings Concert Series merged the aesthetics of Classical Music with the profanity of improvisation; as this duo did not just acknowledge the mystery of existence, they celebrated it. Their album Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018 presents the full concert – where Rich performed at the grand piano and Reuter with his Touch Guitar and digital processing before a rapt Philadelphia audience. Some audiences sing along, or clap, while others may drink, dance, sway or bob. Symphony attendees read the conductor’s notes. At The Gatherings we listen, which provided Rich & Reuter with an opening to delve deeper into a new set of explorations – of a magic they had first encountered in the making of their 2017 studio album Lift a Feather to the Flood. These guys know all the notes, chords, scales, majors and minors. Yet the works found on Flood Expeditions are about the subtle power of sound – not for decorating the live space, but for a glimpse into something spiritual. With its ever-fading atmospheric tones and digital haze their realizations may seem a formless vacuum, yet everything is balanced by optimism. Rich’s piano notes resound through reverberation, surrounded by surreal fluttering environmental textures. Whether playing the keys seated, or reaching into the piano to pluck, scrape and strum its inner workings, he seems to produce emanations from a lifetime of receiving and expressing wonder. Reuter waits deep in the soundscape to find many electric moments. His guitar first breathes lowly, then asserts a color of succinct distortion in heated lead lines, expanding soon into ethereal consonance. Using a uniquely routed echo, he even manages to wedge in a conversation with himself. Rather than root the audience to where they sit, together Rich & Reuter transport us to an immaterial realm – where an internal guidance awakens. This music represents something outside of ourselves, upon which we project our thoughts and contemplations. There are no instructions for listening to Flood Expeditions, there is only the sensation of hearing. As we endeavored to hear their message in the darkened sanctuary this performance reminded us of the nature of possibility – of what we can become. But Robert Rich & Markus Reuter cannot play us into the answers, we must live into them ourselves.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 July 2018

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

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

Erik Wollo: Threshold Point

Threshold Point

Threshold Point

Erik Wøllo: Threshold Point
Released: 27 April 2018
www.projekt.com
www.wollo.com

The music of Erik Wøllo has more places to chill than an igloo. His album Threshold Point (60’37”) features nine tracks that run in cool, unpredictable swerves and drifts of conversation. Always meeting the harmonic demands of his audience, Wøllo clothes supple melodic lines in a blanket of synthesized consonance. Climbing gradually and gracefully to its highest point, then with dignity traveling home again, his guitar solos conjure places known to but a few contemporary musicians. While so many rows of notes dance in all the pleasant complexities of syncopation, echoing up and down their scales, we listeners may rest – contently attuned with this beauty. In building Threshold Point Wøllo used rhythm, tone and pitch as his raw material. Here, rhythm is an appeal to the feelings, rather than an exercise of mathematical faculty. Tone combined with mood delivers a distinctive atmosphere, and tuneful arrangements of pitch brings the listener to a point of emotion – which then (as an element in the structure of each piece) leads to a feeling for climax. We will find no formal border between Wøllo’s music and the mainstream, as his work resides safely at the northern fringes of this realm. Identified by its boreal cursive elegance, Threshold Point displays a level of inventiveness that most musicians have not yet reached. So much of modern music and art is meant to provoke – inciting us to apply meaning. Erik Wøllo does believe that the world needs more people thinking, learning, and thereby becoming better. But he knows that society grinds on us enough so why should his music? From the steady and true creative engine of this man we hear his art, and cannot help but feel his humanity.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 June 2018