Exposé print issues (1993-2011)
Spacecraft — Cybersphere
(Space for Music SFM32001, 2001, CD)
As recently as our interview with the band last year, Spacecraft was a four-piece (then up from a three-piece on their earliest recordings). Now they are five, adding electric cellist Josie Phelan to the lineup, and as they grow, so too does the scope of their music. Their sound is based in the Berlin electronic (sequenced) tradition, but also has (now more so than on previous releases) an equal footing in the floating ambient style, and as such are not unlike many of the artists on the Spotted Peccary label. When these two elements mix freely, we have the band at their most explorative and satisfying. The opening twelve-minute “Creative Acceleration” is a good case in point: some floating and very relaxed sections are energized when an electronic sequence just suddenly grows out of them, like a volcano rising up through a calm sea. Voices are used liberally to enhance and give added life to both ends of their electronic based spectrum. With four synthesists in the band it’s hard to know who is making what sound at any given time, but truthfully it doesn’t matter, as this is not “chops” based music, but instead something of a single, complex living and evolving organism. Later tracks like “Pink Side of the Echoes” and “Reach Out” veer more toward the pure floating style, with voices, percussive samples, and shimmering electronics. Spacecraft’s best effort to date, highly recommended.
by Peter Thelen, Published 2001-12-01
This is a return to top form for Tony Gerber's ever-evolving electronic space music collective. The core group of players is still intact, with the addition of Josie Phelan on electric cello. After a couple of diversions into different styles, such as the minimal, earthy Summer Town, and a collection of short melodic works, Kaleida Dreams, the band goes back to their strength, a blend of classic space and electronic music with a perfect balance between improvisational floating and structured melodic passages. "Creative Acceleration" begins the disc with beautiful, ethereal guitars and slow, spacey synthesizers. A light, bubbly sequencer passage then ensues. All the touches are just right. Recorded live at the Cybersphere Planetarium, it's hard to believe that this was largely done on the fly. The music shows a deft touch throughout, with delicate gems like "Fragile" interspersed with more energetic, intense pieces like "Tunnel." The latter has a low rumbling bass sequence, soaring strings, and Diane Timmons' wordless vocals softly flowing in the background. The sounds are quite varied, including fairly dominant church organ on "House of Gaudi." Booming tympani somehow isn't out of place on "Reach Out," an otherwise very expansive, spacious piece, again nicely featuring Timmons. Phelan's cello is a welcome addition, notable at several points throughout. Cybersphere ranks with Hummel and Earthtime Tapestry as the band's best.
by Phil Derby, Published 2001-12-01
The gradual expansion in Spacecraft membership has given the sound an equally gradual evolution. I haven't had a chance to investigate any of their CDs since 1999's Earthtime Tapestry (and evidently there have been three (!) since), but the sense of improvement on Cybersphere seems palpable. Spacecraft is now Tony Gerber, John Rose, Diane Timmons, Giles Reaves, and cellist Josie Phelan. The tracks on this CD consist of music recorded at the planetarium in Tennessee of the same name. Spacecraft seem fairly rooted between both the Berlin and ambient traditions, and they swing back and forth between sequencer-driven moments and more spacious, atmospheric, textural sections. The former moments compare favorably to the best of the genre, clustering early on in the CD, and they tend to be the group's collective strength. The latter moments tend to be more unique to Spacecraft, soft, plaintive music with a chance for Phelan's electric cello and Timmons' voice to take the spotlight. The poignant sense of melancholy reminds me of the work of both Constance Demby and Kevin Keller, drifting far from the electrically charged sequencing of the early moments. The tonal qualities of the cello and vocals seem very unusual in this format, and they tend to set Spacecraft apart from similar electronic-based ensembles. This quintet demonstrates that it is possible to be highly prolific while still continuing to improve their game plan.
by Mike McLatchey, Published 2001-12-01
Related artist(s): Spacecraft
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