Spacemusic Reviews


Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen: Weathering the Storm

Weathering the Storm

Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen: Weathering the Storm
Released: 17 February 2023

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


Christian Wittman: Music for Unknown Worlds

Music for Unknown Worlds I Music for Unknown Worlds II Music for Unknown Worlds III

Christian Wittman: Music for Unknown Worlds I II III
30 April 2022
14 July 2022
5 October 2022

Christian Wittman speaks in timeless, celestial statements about our place in The Universe. His Music for Unknown Worlds I, II & III seems to be asking us to consider the furthest reaches of space, as much as it wants us to examine what is happening inside our own thoughts. So extraterrestrial are these releases that the more careful members of this audience may hear the night sky filling their listening space. In these moments of sonic wonder a little of mankind’s awareness shows itself. Moving our minds in the familiar outward direction of the best Kosmische Musik Wittman conveys a restless invention. His immunity to harmony, melody and rhythm allows these albums to exemplify the truest expression in pure manipulations of sound. With the delirious, doomed Universe as his subject, ideas condense out of the mental cloud to form music. The thrill of their provocation, the unpredictability and undeniable daring exercise many an aural eccentricity. Teeming with potent indeterminacies, intimate dimensions emerge in a nocturnal glamour and untamed beauty. Music for Unknown Worlds I II III is infused with enthusiasm and delivers Electronic Music that stays with you. Further in, otherworldly synth emanations, like gravel wrapped in velvet, transform into smooth tonal textures – dwindling from atmospheric heights and establishing an ever-evolving spatial scale. Yet, human moments do seep into this music of machines. A real, if exhausted tenderness carries forward this high enterprise. Yielding to emotional currents within, Wittman ultimately conveys a tender sensitivity. His work, like his reasoning, is always in motion. From the quietly anguished, to the outsider’s sense of longing and abandon, his thinking is too dreamlike to be described – and so he makes music to transmit his beliefs.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END26 January 2023

Isostatic: The Forest Abides

The Forest Abides

Isostatic: The Forest Abides
Released: 15 November 2022

Covering a wide sonic terrain, from luminescent beauty to anonymous landscapes, The Forest Abides (57:25) by Isostatic (alias Sean Costello) offers edge to edge motion. Each track, a singular flowing thought, asks us to tune into the quieter frequencies of music. These eight works unfold distinctively in the dreamy brilliance of slow harmonic climaxes, then vaguely in the thickening air of electronic dusk. With little in the way of discernible rhythm to meter distances, nor melody to accompany us on our trek, The Forest Abides shivers in stretches of atonal textures, sparkling effects and ascending atmospheres. Transcendent, yet tethered to Earth, across this release harmony and timbre reinforce each other on a nuanced journey into sonic and terrestrial vistas. Murmuring drones brighten then blacken against pristine field recordings as Ambient whispers stir soft chimes. Faint bells casting about above luminescent chords provide a slow contemplative pace, while further in breathing synth strings shift from dark keys to light. The experience is quiet and contemplative – and meaningful to those open to such declarations. In most places consoling, but occasionally questioning, The Forest Abides means to move the listener out of the dissonance of the everyday, and into bewitching thought zones of telluric richness.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END19 January 2023

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

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

Anne Garner: Dear Unknown

Dear Unknown Dear Unknown (Instrumental)

Anne Garner: Dear Unknown
Released: 1 April 2022& 6 May 2022

Encountering these two albums back to back, Dear Unknown feels as though it is entering us at a level different from that of other music. Anne Garner straight away creates a distinctive listening zone of real, if exhausted tenderness – while the Dear Unknown (Instrumental) version gently settles atop the beautiful bliss brought on by the first eight renditions of this superb venture. Through both releases you believe you are in sure hands – always aware of what the storyteller is attempting to convey. The most significant feature of most of this effort is Garner’s vocal work. There is a spacey, special beauty in the way she pulls lyrics apart, elongating them so that they stretch toward the infinite – which is the entire point of the Spacemusic genre. With its rush of tearless tones, palliative piano, fragile flute, and droning drifts of daybreak, all mingling with an ethereal alien beauty of voice and words, Dear Unknown seems to be breathing more than manufacturing music. We hear the musician alone wavering and fragile above hazy electronic chords, then further in such otherworldly energy makes it seem as if this star has seen more than others of her kind. The designs are intimate and exact – with a self-generated glow radiating beneath the chill shadow of a despondent beauty. The character and energy of the music making, the level of detail, the freshness, all lead the listener to a sense of having strayed into someone else’s dream. With its message of hope and healing Dear Unknown has the qualities of an experience outside of time. As useful for thoughtful introspection as it is for forgetting oneself entirely, in every outing with this music we receive much more than we seek.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END5 January 2023

Palancar: Music for Stargazing 1 & 2

Music for Stargazing One Music for Stargazing Two

Palancar: Music for Stargazing Vol One & Two
Released: 8 September 2022 & 11 December 2022

If words are latecomers to truth, then Darrell Burgan must make music. Under his Palancar alias he has long displayed an adventurous, innovative spirit. Music for Stargazing Vol One & Two (159:01) offers another call to adventure for the imagination. Luring us into a nomadic journey of heart and mind Burgan provides electronic wonder in every single note. Inspired by cooly distant images from out of the night sky, this Music for Stargazing series plays perfectly – even when encountering radiation from outside our solar system. Evanescent as a flicker of starlight traveling vast distances to reach us, track after track exude power in their boldness – only to swiftly veer off in passages of delicate invention and sonority. Warming the breast and focusing the vision, well-crafted sounds stagger around their meanings. Beneath a series of intersecting aural planes we find clarity and momentum, while further in finely tuned balances diminish in tension and improbability. Within this zone the more abstract pieces exhibit an elevated separateness. Marvels of continuous transformation, colossal themes reveal in atmospheric textures, then take full thundering flight. The terracing of dynamics seems expansive and transparent – on a shared quest into vectors of nowhere. From Prog sparked bluster to glossy New Age sonics of space and romance, to the propulsive rhythms, shifting harmonies and conquering melodies of a more galactic drama, this diverse work courses across Burgan’s inclusive growth mindset, and on into the interstellar realm. The result is an extraordinary listening experience, a remarkable two and half hours realized by a charismatic Electronic Musician who knows how to hold his listeners. Music for Stargazing, from the electrifying to the tenderhearted, will have you feeling like the first person on planet Palancar – or maybe the last. As the scene darkens around you, in the midst of this music it should be easy to remember that no matter how far you travel, or under what sun, you carry with you always the light of the divine and the flame of the human.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END29 December 2022

Paul Ellis: Five Bliss Machines on the Infinite Stage

Five Bliss Machines on the Infinite Stage Paul Ellis

Paul Ellis: Five Bliss Machines on the Infinite Stage
Released: 4 November 2022

Five Bliss Machines on the Infinite Stage (78:01) does not court headlines. Here Paul Ellis and his Spacemusic brain reset our idea of what is possible from contemporary Electronic Music. Decidedly different, across the five tracks there is a sense of the future speaking back to the past – without becoming completely mired in it. In places thrillingly alien, then submitting glimmers of clarity this release moves assuredly from shimmering sonic jolts and high wattage surrender, on down to a secret breathless intensity. Combining a refined musical intelligence with deep artistic convictions Five Bliss Machines on the Infinite Stage resolves into a great sounding heady album of ideas. It is energizing and invigorating in an unconventional way, which is how the music is able to so well reach you emotionally. As we listen we feel Ellis’ synthetic textures creep into our room and over our skin. With little in the way of rhythm or accepted structure, an extended ambience pervades the space. While demonstrating an impressive melodic agility and tonal variety, its richness of phrasing and sense of fantasy serve to elevate Ellis to that of an unplaceable presence within his music. Yet, this work is obviously his. Hang onto this thread as each realization falters and advances, breathes and discharges – all somewhat touched by the madness of sound. Does Paul Ellis daydream about timbre? Experience delusions of drones? or fantasies of aural encounters? About more than just the world he is inhabiting, Five Bliss Machines on the Infinite Stage is about a realm that he is moving toward. It is an exclusive excursion through the mind of one of our community’s most respected practitioners. Please listen carefully as something new, beautiful and honest emerges.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END15 December 2022

Meg Bowles: Voices from the Ethereal Forest

Voices from the Ethereal Forest

Meg Bowles: Voices from the Ethereal Forest
Released: 2 December 2022

Out of a darkling underworld comes a voice of calm. Dreamily from the depths Meg Bowles touches technological wonder as she hymns crescendoing keyboards and indulges the Spacemusic brain. Her Voices from the Ethereal Forest (57:18) provides seven tracks of meticulously layered, dreamily flowing, ambient music. In this aural adventure Bowles warms us in an air of reverence and mystery. Conjuring vibrant vocal tones atop sustaining serenity drones, her arrangements confer the verdant, timeless words of nature. Mingling with stir soft chimes an aura of harmony clings to the ears and whispers in the heart. As searchlight timbres luxuriate in electronic colors, somberly swelling textures tell of a dissonant distance. Above a room filling radiance Voices from the Ethereal Forest floats its diaphanous melody. Echoing through stacks of lustrous sustaining synths a hint of sonic invention beneath the haze of harmonic play compels shadows to hold their breath. While further in, other detours delight the mind along murmuring currents and billowing spells. Layers of sustaining warm notes slowly gather, build into lulling, seemingly infinite moments – only to recede quietly before advancing descendant chords. Drifting and ranging to resounding effect Voices from the Ethereal Forest moves the listener across lush landscapes and bewitching nightscenes. In nurturing our sensitivity to beauty Bowles hopes to build a better world – through the deepening of each listener’s cherished, infinitesimal share of The Universe.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END8 December 2022

Nils Frahm: Music for Animals

Music for Animals Nils Frahm

Nils Frahm: Music for Animals
Released: 23 September 2022

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

Forrest Fang: The Lost Seasons of Amorphia

The Lost Seasons of Amorphia

Forrest Fang: The Lost Seasons of Amorphia
Released: 4 November 2022

Forrest Fang treats the mind as an area of activation – a dense meaning-space where each of us experiences subjective reality. Exceptionally rendered, his The Lost Seasons of Amorphia (68:48) offers an encounter with some superior realm of the psyche. Intricately balanced, invariably surprising, in a density of detail Fang plays the music of the world he knows. From lulling dreamscapes and somnambulant bliss to the vigorous whorl of sharply conceived moments his studio and its implements provide plenty of room for inventiveness. Each of the seven tracks seem like a drama unto itself. In an abundance of color and presence the sounds and notes tell us something about the space they are resounding through. Sensuously swollen shapes recede into a soft-focus mood under points of starlight clustering in vastness. Measured and finely modulated, scene after scene are calculated to colonize the listening mind. Some will hear melodies in the dancing, pulsing rhythms – as seductive percussion runs shift the shape of the palpitating drive – while others will be more attracted to the explorations of fabric and form, structure and tonality, timbre and pacing. In a unique intermingling of acoustic instruments and those more overtly electronic, patterned compositions float along an arc of lustrous synth tones and gently resounding gu-zheng, gongs and gamelan. Pushing through a dreamy, verdant realm we recognize this album’s sheen, unanimity and teeming complexities. So where does this music really come from? Is it from a region to our North, South, East or West? Is it from another world? …or from the future? The Lost Seasons of Amorphia is alternately dark and intense, dense and impenetrable, gentle and delicate, and ultimately conjures an atmosphere under which the truth of the composer is briefly known – as Forrest Fang continues to beautifully reveal himself to us one album at a time.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END10 November 2022