Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: synthesizer

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


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

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

Caterina Barbieri: Spirit Exit

Spirit Exit Caterina Barbieri

Caterina Barbieri: Spirit Exit
Released: 8 July 2022

Electronic Musicians are as different from each other as they are from the dominant styles of their day. In keeping with this belief on Spirit Exit (55:53) synthesist Caterina Barbieri locates the action in her synthesizers and brings to bear an unmistakable and true personal voice. Unfolding in an atmosphere of charged equilibrium its eight tracks prowl each their own musically distinctive surround. As one idea takes off in an unpredictable, unstoppable play of innovation, the next fuses into a seamless, dreamlike texture of ingenuity. Disciplined, machine-like galloping notes wind outward, emerging in a sprawling upward, downward theme. Extending the rapt mood spacey singsong vocalizations rise in contours shapley and measured. Barbieri intones with force, then finesse – her coolness prophetic of another kind of power. As branching sequencer structures cycle through light and dark designs, intriguing pulsing patterns echo, expand and conspire throughout our sound space. In a soaring clockwork precision of restless exploration Spirit Exit unfolds under Barbieri’s practiced naturalism. Synth chords seethe beneath deliberate changes in meter – the intention of the invention in support of rhythmic energy. With its imaginative sudden swerves and diverse sonic designs, those following closely may behold the sublime character of this work. Here is a musical world brimming with rhythmic complexity and dynamic variability, yet is supple and approachable from every perspective. One could imagine spending years with this album – light years of discovering new meaning and beauty as its maker is continually revealed.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END6 October 2022

Cosmic Ground: Isolate


Cosmic Ground: Isolate
Released: 23 September 2022

With new technology comes the promise of styles and expressions that we have never heard before. Under the name Cosmic Ground Electric Orange keyboardist Dirk Jan Muller has for over a decade been amassing and deploying synthesizers beneath the beacon first lit over 50 years ago during the Berlin-School era of EM. Supplementing our sense of the possible this style of music, and the gear used to produce it, offers the potential for a remarkable range of revelations. With a strange beauty that borders on the forboding Muller submits his seventh studio album Isolate (73:14). The depth of each of the six electronic journeys is striking – with each realization providing a spellbinding sense of a place in space. In this full-speed ahead trip behind the beautiful forever of Kosmische Musik the listener encounters all that Spacemusic can be. Energizing and invigorating, emotionally piercing yet thrillingly alien, Isolate will exhaust those who cannot surrender to it. In the headlong drive of spiraling sequencer runs patterns of notes ascend in an echoing motor-motion. Settling into a careful clockwork, saturated Mellotron strings bestow a heightened sensitivity to the cosmic covenant. As creative energy moves from the musician’s interior to that of the audience, bold dissonances ring and spark across an outburst of dramatic imagination. From desolate soundscapes of darkening drones and chilled fallout fields, to the brooding sweep of sustaining sci-fi zones, Isolate easily pulls listeners into its specific sonic realm. This genre was, in ages past, all about the future. These days it is about survival. Synthesists dream about tones, and wake up thinking about them – which connects the artist to the story of the sound, and to what their music should be. But among us fans the act of listening is an act of trust. Along the upward arc of such resolute works of perpetual becoming we rely on Cosmic Ground, our keeper of mysteries, to lead us further – and to not displace too many of us during our drifting, dreaming voyage of the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 22 September 2022

Ian Boddy & Erik Wollo: Revolve


Ian Boddy & Erik Wollo: Revolve
Released: 16 September 2022

Night occurs while our side of the planet is facing away from the sun. During the darkness it may be easier to view the moon above studying us here on the surface – and receive the potential and possibilities La Luna brings us. Also perfectly happy traveling their own orbits Ian Boddy and Erik Wollo have changed trajectory just long enough to make Revolve (51:38) – a studio set of climactic chords, bewitching themes and richly arrayed wonders of rhythm and pulse. In a compulsively detailed mix of moods and impressions this duo pulls toward a hard chill. Across eight tracks momentum rises and falls in measured motion. Swirling under a circulation of synthetic sound, harmonies play and progress in a concord of affecting chromatic steps. Passing through assorted effects, Wøllo’s lead lines are poignant, ethereal and elegant – conjuring zones and tones known to few of his guitar contemporaries. Supporting the swell and contraction of scale we find Boddy’s passagework underpinning the luxurious lyricism. While shifting sequencer patterns run through a series of imaginative progressions, heart-felt strains and refrains unfurl in a rising ribbon of silvery silk. The direction theses tunes take is ever upward, with each resolution redolent of the future this music promises. Their sonics feel less supplied than turned loose. In one place exuding an ambient melancholy, then further in hitting the listener hard with expertly marshalled beats and grooves, a rapt, expectant air of exuberance vents. As voluptuous melodies become embedded in spacey structures the energy level rises by scalar steps. The back and forth between Boddy and Wollo shows a reflective tenderness. This heart-first doubleton derives meaning from simple forms, vague vibrations, and the unknown energies collaboration may release. Their magnificent album has been so carefully constructed that by the time the concluding notes bring us back to ourselves we are ready and willing to truly listen. Revolve feels from outside our own time. It speaks to an era – an era that has yet to come.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END8 September 2022

[‘ramp] happy days are here to stay

happy days are here to stay

[‘ramp]: happy days are here to stay
Released: 29 August 2022

Whenever a label named “Doombient” releases an album called happy days are here to stay (73:15) we might wonder, can the end of the world be that far off? The irony emitted by such an incongruous view and title is the stuff of Stephen Parsick‘s favorite mania, and how he processes the world. His work under the name [‘ramp], with its shifting myths of sound and unrelenting territory of timbre, emerges from a place of wonderment and integrity. While the self-aware nostalgia of happy days are here to stay brilliantly conveys a Berlin-School enlightenment, as well as the mysterious mood and aura of discovery from this era, we must ponder what Parsick is not telling us. Across eight tracks a spirit of infinity seems alive – taking flight with enough force to place each listening spirit safely into Earth orbit. In exhilarating lateral shifts come simplified lines of ordered notes and rich colors of sound. Although of a monumental quality this realization may be heard better as an intimate chamber drama possessing an expansive cosmic overlay. In subduing the impulse for embellishment a quiet longing of soft Mellotron flutes hovers above a spare soundfield – an elemental simplicity softening the controlled riot of pumping sequencer patterns below. As finely tuned as anything by [‘ramp] happy days are here to stay is dense, prismatic, mesmerizing, and capable of imaginative leaps. But with this ironic title, it may be trying to catch the current moment… when actually the moment it succeeds in capturing is from a long ago age of truth and hope for the future. Complete brain engagement from the listener is not required, but it would help. Full of Spacemusic’s transformational promise, cosmic yearning and diverting abandon this music trusts you to have not outsourced your thinking. As the musician is revealed to the world through their actions, through their art, we should not miss even one split second of this aural adventure. Because with intimacy exhibited at this level, sometimes we learn more than we should.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 September 2022