Over the course of his musical existence Chuck van Zyl has developed a signature exploratory style. By blending the primitive machine beauty of classics like Ricochet with the highly formed values of more recent groups such as Redshift and Arc, his solo studio works are the result of a persistent creativity. With Cenotaph (70'22") Chuck van Zyl has melded the intimate with the epic. Fans will find the results of this release riveting. Its tone veers from synthesized and atmospheric, to the reckless energized pulse of tumbling sequencer patterns, on down to a somber interiority - moving between the three in an impressive aural narrative. With plenty of cool modulated effects, ethereal Mellotron begot harmonies and melodies, and interlinked shifting arpeggios Cenotaph seems timeless in its purity.
Along with an arsenal of electronic instruments, key in producing the hallmark sounds of classic cosmic music, is van Zyl's sense of pacing, arrangement and contour. His lead lines hover wistfully above the throbbing pulse of interlocking, multi-layered sequencer patterns which race ahead then diminish into swirling ether. The compositions are restrained, rendered without any sharp edges, and posses a Berlin School authenticity of both tone and spirit - right down to the yearning of a generation seeking to find its place in the cosmos.
With his solid melodic invention, atmospheric modulations and heroic shifts in tonality, van Zyl masterfully realizes the fascinating patterns, riffs and pulses that dominate the tracks on Cenotaph. As the five pieces form, climb and sustain, listeners are pulled into a highly distinctive mindscape. Tone patterns weave and collide as go-for-broke keyboard lead lines dance above - while synthetic strings draw long lines across a cool digital plane. Chuck van Zyl is at home in this endlessly inventive genre, offering ample muscle for the adventurous, archaic modulations for the experimentalist and dreamy floating space for the cloudwalker.
Layers of mechanistic patterns grow, synchronize then switch direction and color in breathtaking dexterity - mixing, shifting and dividing in a twisting double helix of echoing electronic tones. Progressing through their brawny phase these performances then gently turn ethereal and otherworldly. Moving into the quiet drama and dark imaginings of the misty reality between sleep and wakefulness the delicate blending of sounds and re-circulating structures pulls us into deeper levels of our own mind.
Exercising his capabilities for symbolism, imagination and creativity van Zyl summons a mysterious cosmic energy - emanating from the nexus of technology and thought. Spacemusic fans know of a new way of listening, as the construct of music has dematerialized into a heightened inexpressible experience. But the greatest music reaches past the initiated.
Chuck van Zyl hits on all the major aspects of this genre, his melodies are human, rhythms machine-like, harmonies ethereal and the range of timbres he creates to voice his music are original and extraordinary. This music is a sincere exploration of the mood and mystery of the Spacemusic genre. With a strong core idea and strong execution Cenotaph offers vast sonic riches. Here we find an intelligence extending beyond the cold logic of machines - as well as a significant contribution to a most intriguing musical universe. The man who made this music is in this music - attending to his own inner theater. Chuck van Zyl makes us believe that we have not just listened to his work, but lived it.