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VAN ZYL, CHUCK - CENOTAPH (2012 ALBUM/TRIPLE-PANEL DIGI-PAK)

Product Format: CD               ** Regular Stock Item **

Price: £16.66 (exc) £19.99 (inc)

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Excellent Berlin School influenced USA Space Music musician / DJ who since the 1980’s has lived, breathed & played electronic music in the classic TD style!

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 TANGERINE DREAM’s ‘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’ Chuck Van Zyl has melded the intimate with the epic. Fans will find the results riveting. Its tone veers from synthesized and atmospheric, to the reckless energized pulse of tumbling sequencer patterns, on down to a sombre 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 strong 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 cloud-walker.

Layers of mechanistic patterns grow, synchronize then switch direction and colour 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 “other worldly”. 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. Space Music fans know of a new way of listening, as the construct of music has de-materialized 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 Space Music 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 theatre.
Chuck Van Zyl makes us believe that we have not just listened to his work, but lived it.

It’s hard to believe it wouldn’t, but just in case the excellent description of CVZ’s music above hasn’t been enough to have you reaching for the “Order” button, here is our track-by-track rundown on ‘Cenotaph’…

‘Angelos’ starts out with cosmic synth ripples flowing over the stereo spectrum, to be quickly joined by sombre Mellotron strings and a pulsating sequencer beat, creating the effect of moving fluidly in some kind of spaceship looking out the porthole and watching the planets and stars go by. Mellotron flutes take over the lead melody-line as the rhythms subside a touch for a while, then synth comets shoots over the soundstage amid a hail of miniature bird-sounds emerging from solid space and flying off all around.
A haunting synth melody breaks through and wails it’s high-register theme over the stratosphere in dream-like fashion. This is all a bit mid-70’s TANGERINE DREAM-like in terms of the sound and construction of the music, with loads of psyched up analogue synth sound really letting rip all over the place.
As we enter the final 10 minutes of this twenty-one minute piece, a new bell-like synth sound accompanied by angelic female Mellotron choirs takes up a new stance as we go head-on into ethereal cosmic territory, evoking images of entering a beautiful alien-like world where a whole new range of sounds and aural textures meld with sequencer rhythms in a kaleidoscopic scene of colour and textural effects. The final six minutes settles down initially to a sombre, more desolate atmosphere filled with deep swirling keyboard textures, then a simple echoed electric piano tone hovers languidly in the air before finally ending in a thin mist of hazy echoed effects and distant pictorial effects.
A strong, extended synthesizer swirl open ‘Sentinel’ with layers of ethereal Mellotron choirs following close behind, creating mind visions of a heavily cosmic “other worldly” atmospheric world, only interrupted by the odd vapour trail of a passing synth comet or two. Amid the rumbling thunderous cumulous clouds of sound, the skies start to clear in patches as beams of melodic light emerge from above in the form of dancing flute-like sounds as they flirt with the power of the darker side created by the walls of heavenly “tron” voices, which are eventually phased and contorted as the track draws to a close.
This track really is the sounds of Mellotron chorals all the way, creating a panoramic view of dark space mixed with elements of colour - a bit like Chuck’s take on ‘Mysterious Semblance At The Bridge Of Nightmares’ or parts of ‘Rubicon’ – a real gloomy Mellotron (or is it a Memotron? fest!
‘Visitation’ is a much shorter, but no less sombre piece where the Mellotron strings take on a “tinier” ethereal note. With no other instrument involved, this is a very sombre, thought provoking piece of symphonic Space Music that is actually quite heart wrenching at times!
‘Charon’ is the total opposite, starting our with a cheerful, jolly, almost playful sequencer riff that is soon joined by bird squalls and other effects. A melodic synthesizer improv comes in on top and sweetly sings over the steady 70’s TD style flowing rhythmic backdrop. At the six-minute mark the sequences set a new course and work their way through floating mists of rippling and swooshing synth effects and textures with the rhythmic flow dipping in and out of clouds of psychedelic cosmic sounds. A high register synthesizer-line takes up a new tuneful improv and drives the track towards a pulsating final three minutes where, all of a sudden, all hell seems to break loose for a while. The emergence on a echoed electric piano sound calms thing down somewhat as the final minute and a bit sees the emergence of an eastern sounding synth tone and squalls of bird-like sounds and swirling synth textures, before finally ending on a deep keyboard note that carries us into the beginning of…
‘Forever Distant’ where that deep, dark sound takes us into a cavernous place where droning synth themes seen to be emerging from all corners of the soundstage, with that deep pulsing heart at dead centre. As the synth sounds emerge they start to slowly revolve round the deep heart of the piece. At nearly four minutes in a higher pitched sequencer rhythm rolls in and builds a healthy rhythmic flow for the keyboard melodies to evolve around. Further rhythmical textures are subtly added as time moves on and at around the seven-minute mark a powerful melodic synth improvisation roars in to weave a magic spell over the now fluid sequencer runs. The melody dies away after a couple of minutes, followed by a dimming of the sequencer rhythms, making way for a wave of high register cosmic twitters just prior to a cascading flow of dark, wallowing Mellotron strings that lead us back into the cavernous place where the track began, but the sounds of the “tron” stands with added flutes and high-reg synth melodies bring an air of heavenly light to the dark surroundings. A bright display of angelic synth themes and effects project fine beams of sunlight to close the album on a reflective and very beautiful note.

Apart from his experience in the ‘EM’ trade allowing the use of more modern technology to create his music, not much has changed with Chuck Van Zyl since we (Centaur Discs) released his first two CD releases back in the early 90’s – As a listener, you can always rely on Chuck to give you what you want, and plenty of it at a consistently high standard. As with his work as a DJ in the States Chuck’s music mind is still very much way out there in the stars, and this album is a further reflection of this.
If your thing is in the area of TD’s ‘Pheadra’ and ‘Rubycon’ period then you will hear plenty blasts from the past on ‘Cenotaph’, but not presented in such extended fashion – This is much for dynamic and varied, but the core sounds are ever present and even more descriptive than they were back in the 70’s.

Also available:
CHUCK VAN ZYL: MEMORYSPACE (2010) - Stock # 1449612
CHUCK VAN ZYL: REGENERATION MODE (1996) - Stock # 317169
CHUCK VAN ZYL: SOUND MUSEUM (2001 Remastered 1991 Cassette Tape) - Stock # 484960


CHUCK VAN ZYL: CENOTAPH Track List:

01. Angelos (21:31)
02. Sentinel (14:39)
03. Visitation (4:48)
04. Charon (13:05)
05. Forever Distant (16:19)

TPT- 70:24