Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Tone Science

Various Artists: Cosines and Tangents

Cosines and Tangents

Cosines and Tangents

Various Artists: Cosines and Tangents
Released: 18 October 2019

For those contributing tracks to Cosines and Tangents, music is a more precise way to communicate. This volume, the third in the Tone Science series, presents nine works – every one made using a unique modular synthesizer system. Each component within these cases and cabinets is a discrete part chosen and arranged according to the taste and direction of the individual artist. Filters, oscillators, mixers, ring modulators, envelopes, and other even more esoteric pieces provide an unprecedented flexibility in sound design and music making. They are systems that are not fixed in the way conventional instruments are, and attract an interesting mix of musicians and engineers. Represented on Cosines and Tangents are a compelling cross-section of talented people from out of this body. From the raw power of Berserker by Redshift, to the intellectual vigor of Cyclosporum by Robert Rich, then down to the unpeople space of En-Edge by Radek Rudnicki, on up to the gentle mental popping pulse of Round #2 by Benge, this collection, in turns, offers the feeling of coming home, followed by the sense of leaving Earth. Overtly synthetic, these realizations all confer a particular electrical power – in hopes of awakening possibility in listeners. As there is no one perfect way to perform this music, we are well served by the select imaginations uplifting this group. Threading between the forces of chaos and order Cosines and Tangents produces a fascinating energy – a trait which has yet to be fully explained. However, what may be explained is why the field of Electronic Music has over these many years remained so innovative, so ahead of its time. This is plainly so because its practitioners have not forgotten the first principle of their work… the expressive manipulation of timbre – and remained true to a faith… that just as the soul animates a person, so timbre animates a sound.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END10 October 2019

Various Artists: Elements and Particles

Elements and Particles

Elements and Particles

Various Artists: Elements and Particles
Released: 19 October 2018

It has been said that a scholar collects, and so with his Tone Science series we find Ian Boddy (of DiN Records) continuing a fine job of just that. Now let us welcome Elements and Particles (60’23”), the second anthology of nine musical realizations that have never before been. The raw material of this art is electricity, which is forged into sound and music by dreamers and builders. Their wordless structures offer everything from technological complexity to the simplicity of a prayer. The artful sonic organization of the works found on Elements and Particles can stem only from a developed instinct. Timbre has always been a secondary consideration in music, yet in the field of Electronic Music it is the key medium of artistic spiritual intensity. In a genre this wild and ungovernable, each piece exerts its own specific force on the imagination. In an ever-fading atmosphere, the artists presented on this collection are shaping the character of sound in a thousand small ways. Finding their internal guidance the nine come alive to transform gently vibrating tones into a commotion of motion. As the worrisome low trill of LFOs gives way to a formless vacuum, another track goes bone deep cold. When chaotic modulations upset the spirit level of our minds, conventional access points recede – and we are left with only the sensation of hearing. There are also places of unspeakable beauty. In this innovative modular synthesizer realm, oscillators may sing of the quiet power behind their volume, with tempered circuits humming in ascent. Chirping rhythms echo lines of melodious machine patterns, and scatter above the round warmth of slower purple notes. In metallic voices and synthesized verse this gear can reference its technological founders, but in this worship we only diminish a power meant to amplify humanity – to further advance our state. The nine musicians represented on Elements and Particles always choose the light – as their lives are meant for discovery. With each new musical endeavor they dare to be more human. We may be considered mad by those who cannot hear the music – yet for all those who understand, it is a wonder beyond all dispute. But as steady as we are in our pursuit, we must wonder… what is this strange compulsion that drives us to create? We all do live this question, and must live into its answer.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END27 September 2018

Various Artists: Structure and Forces

Structure and Forces

Structure and Forces

Various Artists: Structure and Forces
Released: 16 March 2018

It can be hard to explain the appeal of modular synthesizer systems to outsiders. Magnificent in its potential, the work being generated by this group and their gear is far too big to be just one thing (and to easily explain to the commoner). Expansive in its range, the proud topic of the anthology Structure and Forces (66’59”) is sound. Its nine tracks were chosen and ordered by Ian Boddy. While averse to boundaries, Boddy has chosen artists from a select cadre of friends and colleagues – which gives this CD the feel of an album despite the differences in approach and ambition of each contributor. The experience of listening to Structure and Forces will be as equally wondrous to the techno-file as it is the stationary traveler. With no shared system of notation, these pieces are passed to one another by playing and listening… and just as these artists are enraptured by the making of this music, so are we in giving ear. From soul-deep vignette to sonic invective, each musician translates, transforms and wanders through a realm rooted in electrical current. Even passages where little is happening seem suspenseful. Idiosyncratic phrasing and articulation result in further steps toward abstraction, yet the flow of this release may just as easily land us in the comfort of blissful tone and reassuring harmony. At about the midway point the music becomes grounded in rhythm, and we are roused from our synaptic free-form yawn zone with a thought aligning pulsating groove. Mounting percussion echoes into a brave chord progression, drops, then resumes in a regular time signature. But however engaging, this is just a different kind of story of sound. Dedicated to the humanity behind this music Ian Boddy has decades of chapters behind and ahead of him. Structure and Forces (his Tone Science project) reminds us that Electronic Music has never been tied to a single identity, and that neither is it temporary. With its streams of potentially endless variations this genre seems to attract people with an internal clock out of sync with that of society – which these days slips so easily into bored indifference. While its unifying theme is the contemporary modular synthesizer, this machinery is of little importance – when we compare these systems to the works they are used to create.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END3 May 2018

Ian Boddy: Tone Science

Tone Science

Tone Science

Ian Boddy: Tone Science
Released: 26 February 2016

Much like the apes struggling to comprehend the monolith, there are those among us who will not understand Tone Science (60’46”). But, this music is not for them – as it, and its producer Ian Boddy, benefits more from intelligent company. To enjoy Tone Science it helps to partner with its author, and leave all mainstream musical concepts behind. Here Boddy plays with an ear for color, motion and texture, forsaking conventional narrative clarity. It is an experience by way of the senses, rather than through pure mental interpretation. Our focus expands beyond sound, to the sources of that sound, to its imminent fragility and a state of unbeing. It may be difficult to lose ourselves in Tone Science, as its negative space is constantly asking us to make sense of it. One moment triggers the next so seamlessly that eventually chaos is re-engineered into the illusion of a natural order. Throughout the soundspace, tones flicker lightly across the surface, or burrow deep within it – and come into focus, or all but disappear. The gentle descent into incandescent timbres and rambling, fearsome energy has the ability to stir the imagination. Throbbing with texture, then snapping into focus, Boddy’s five lessons on loudness, denseness, sonority, and several unidentifiable musical traits, enmesh the listener in aural events that are impossible to live aloud. Taking refuge in a world of abstraction, sonic figments may summon mental imagery to supplement aural input, but really only offer spatial and cognitive distortions. As a fragile stability gives way to strange, vigorous explorations, we wonder if these works could actually be destroying Boddy’s studio equipment in their production. Beauty may be found in maximal passages, when the details (as here) are done right. Peaceful moments are few, with boiling oceans, frozen wastelands, disconnected time and states of imminent collapse arising out of Boddy’s most innovative electronic modulations. Without any concession toward standard Spacemusic plotting, Tone Science descends into artistic reverie – representing a state of total disengagement. Defying metaphorical interpretation, its most salient tension may be found in our fraught relationship between known and unknown tones. At times frustratingly complex and impenetrable, we do not reason our way through an album like this; we must allow it to just wash over us. In a journey through the sense of hearing Boddy hopes to re-diagram our impressions of time, memory and consciousness. He has the uncanny ability to infuse a familiar genre with deeper meaning, and leave the listener feeling exhilarated. With Tone Science we find a deliberate exposure of Boddy’s psyche, which feels even more intimate than his many more conventional works. From safely behind his thick walls, we feel the satisfaction of the master.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END14 April 2016