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Posts Tagged ‘space’

Jaja – Ascend

“Ascend” is the second solo album by the German musician Jaja (Jana Rockstroh), and is released on the netlabel she co-founded, CYAN Music; its predecessor “Oum” was issued in 2011. She is also one half of the psytrance duo “New Age Hippies“. Jaja describes her music as live electronic compositions, where she plays and arranges nearly everything live on her keyboard, which always makes for interesting listening.

The album is an epic project, clocking in at over two-and-a-half hours. “Aero” has a stately opening, with grand washes of synths pulling around vortex-like under an ethereal choir. “Entity” is dark and dense, with snippets of alien speech floating above huge dramatic chord clusters and a Vangelis-like lead. “Stellae” is the longest track here at 21:00, its massive textures rolling around the soundfield, almost filling every last atom in the air, leading to breathtakingly gorgeous note shifts. It’s utterly stunning.

“Ever” starts quite unsettled, before minor chords lay out almost hymnal tones under static ticks and long, low rumbles, offset by distant piano-like keys; the track is somewhat restless, never quite resolving itself. “Novae” shimmers and shifts elegantly above an undercurrent of dark activity. “Devoid” opens with alien speech as a centre-point, almost percussive in nature; warm spacey chords drift lazily around under light oriental bell-like sounds.

“Once” is a gentle journey, lone notes ringing out slowly above clear skies like an anthem. The music is much more minimal than the previous tracks, which provides us with a great contrast. The long minor pads of “Connect” slowly shift to major and back as unearthly rain bounces endlessly to and fro, and lonely string synths paint sadness. “Talis” has great cosmic roars and smaller metallic coils rotating around thin bellows of keys. Again, there’s no resolution to the music – it shifts and whirls, conjuring a gigantic picture.

“IO” has Jaja’s voice (I presume) talking, then reversed, over slow-moving synths and light piano melodies; a dense stack of notes piles up before fading away. “Rain” is light and almost acoustic in nature. Cello-like strings are accompanied by guitar, weaving an intricate, evocative pattern. The closing track, “Run”, is a solo keyboard exposition, lovely reverb tailing off of single notes; there are no real chords as such, other than those created by the overlapping tails. It’s very pretty, and a lovely finish to a fine album.

Label: CYAN Music   Cat: CYAN 014   Artist: Jaja   Price: Free

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This double-CD equivalent from Jarguna is fresh from the Earth Mantra netlabel. With seven previous releases listed in the Italian artist’s discography, this is his debut release for EM.

“Waiting for a Call From the Unknown Part 1” is the longest cut on the album, running at just over 36 minutes. Long slow drones set the pace for the first four and a half minutes, before being joined by a single note repeating pensively over the drones as they begin to circulate restlessly. Dark synths begin to weave in and out, and mysterious burbles float around the soundspace. There’s a sense of slow, tentative movement as a quiet rhythm starts around the nine minute mark.  Twenty-two minutes or so in, it seems as if contact might be made, but there’s no certainty.

The second track, “Dark Side of Calliope” is the shortest of four, but still weighs in at nearly sixteen minutes. It’s discordant, and dark as the title suggests. Great swells of synth washes veer off to left and right; there’s little in the way of comfort here. Long metallic drones clash with one another in a struggle of titanic proportions. Around half way though, chords begin to form, and the mood lightens, though only a little, as the sound changes from conflict to a feeling of wonder. As we float towards the end, it really feels as if we’re suspended in the vast coldness of space.

“Commutator” starts out on something of a lighter note. There are some major chords here, overlaid with percussive metallic sounds and long bass rumbles. But there’s something very otherworldly about the music; something not human. It’s almost as if we’re inside a giant machine, witnessing activity taking place that’s too difficult to comprehend. A rhythm begins around a third of the way in, and starts to shape the music into something we might be able to understand. The beat grows thicker and denser, propelling the track forward with malevolent intent. Snatches of alien speech appear, vying for our attention against a scattershot, almost Berlin School synth sequence.

The closer, “Waiting for a Call From the Unknown Part 2”, is the second longest track on the album, at just shy of 32 minutes. An eerie drone throbs underneath a minor chord and they begin to fold and unfold, like a double helix. Around the sixth minute, the drone and chord fall away leaving us with breaths and organic noises. The buzzing of unfamiliar machinery pans rapidly left and right, disorienting the listener before suspending us in darkness. Seventeen minutes in, and it feels as if the awaited connection has finally been made. Communication takes place; there’s an exchange of knowledge and information as two species, light years apart, share their experiences. The album closes with a bright, positive view towards the future.

Jarguna explains in the notes that the album is “a distillation of my musings when I focus my thought on empty spaces, the Universe, and its mysteries”. For me, it strikes a fabulous balance between space music and ambient, though leaning heavily towards the former.

Label: Earth Mantra   Cat: earman194   Artist: Jarguna   Price: Free

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Andrew Lahiff, a composer of ambient, space and electronic music, started to make his music available via the web in 2002. This is his nineteenth release, and his first to be issued on the Pocket Fields netlabel.

Andrew opens the album with “An Image of the Earth”, which glides in and pins the listener into a space between bass and high treble.  Liquid notes flow across the room, burbling and gurgling gorgeously as the track opens out. Little high notes dance elegantly above huge organic pads, evoking the beauty of the earth’s globe balanced perfectly in space. Next, “Oak, Snow and Ice” finds us in winter, but with a warm glow from the sun, even in this cold. The use of the stereo soundfield here is vibrant and engaging. Gentle metallic coils suspend themselves above reverb-laden pads, which become notes, which become pads again.

Track three, “The Dream Lives Forever”, is the album’s longest, running to eleven minutes. It’s very enigmatic. Moving slowly, and almost with hesitation, it shifts across long spans of scintillating synth chords in a soft ambient swathe. This is truly ethereal and sublime music. In “Alpine Glaciers”, gentle drips of melting iceflows tap away at the surface below, as we observe the endless conversion of ice to water. Cold, yet with an ever-beating heart of warmth inside.

“Stones and Ornaments” places us among both forgotten and remembered objects. A sense of nostalgia is ever present, but it’s almost as though we’re not sure what it is that we’re trying to remember. Stones and ornaments can be one and the same, but there is internal conflict in the music about which of those we see. In “Cliffs at the Edge of Time”, there’s a sense of unease and foreboding. This piece isn’t dark, but it seems to be full of questions about the future. Crackles ripple off to the left and right, and the structured centre tries to halt that fragmentation with a long, shifting pad which appears and recedes again, and is gone.

The final third of “Quiet Correlations” starts with “New Beginnings”, a tender piece which has just the right amount of yearning for the birth of something new. Never cloying, never over-seasoned, it’s life-affirming in a subtle, positive way. Something new is definitely upon us. “Luminous Approaches” begins as the edgiest piece on the album, heralding imminent changes which bring with them a degree of internal conflict. The instrumentation here is wonderful; everything is in exactly the right place. The highest notes of the music hang over us like a thin, gently moving canopy.

The penultimate track “Follow the Mountains” is somewhat mysterious. Long ambient pads stretch out, as far as we can know. The planet turns slowly, and distant creatures cry out in the night. There’s a sense of everything moving back into the right place – into correct, new-yet-familiar spaces. It’s disquieting, but not foreboding. The track closes with a repetitive synth trill which fades into silence.

For “Night on the Plateau”, we are left feeling chilly and bereft of shelter. Cold pads draw out in long voices. The noises of the unsettled night creatures continue; periodically, a bell rings as if to draw them ever closer. The album draws to a close with a seemingly unanswered question.

Andrew recently joined the roster of the wonderful Relaxed Machinery label, and his first release there is highly anticipated, both by the label and by this reviewer.

Label: Pocket Fields   Cat: PF027   Artist: Andrew Lahiff   Price: Free

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