e v e r l a s t i n g m o m e n t r e v i e w s
e v e r l a s t i n g m o m e n t
Art Cohen (electric guitar) and Chuck van Zyl (synths) have had the opportunity to play live at a variety of interesting venues over the past several years. While their music touches on many of the hallmarks of Berlin-School Spacemusic (cyclical sequencer patterns beneath soaring lead melodies contrasted by passages of deep synth tones and glissando guitar), they bring their own influences and innovation to the process. The result is a sound that is uniquely individual. Better known as The Ministry of Inside Things, the duo released a new 2 CD set at their performance at The Gatherings Concert Series on 15 November 2003. EVERLASTING MOMENT is the first conventionally replicated CD release from MoIT. Music from this double disc set has been drawn from several year 2002 performances including those on Star's End, Nocturnal Transmissions, Emusic and Soundscapes and features definitive live versions of classic MoIT pieces like "Neutron Flux", "Function Four" and "VM-75". Each disc plays for about one hour, easily flowing through a variety of themes, moods and styles of Spacemusic.
Synkronos Music - 15 November 2003
The master of time and space music Chuck van Zyl combines here with space age Ax-man Art Cohen to create a double disc extraordinaire of cyclic sequencer patterns, soaring lead melodies, deep synthetic tones and glissando guitar. A classic homage to the Berlin School sound as channeled through the creative lenses of musicians from the good old USA.
- Archie Patterson/Eurock (5Jan04)
...As I'm sitting here listening to "Neutron Flux", I'm thinking how well this disc blends synthesizer music and rock music, in Ashra fashion. The guitar solos on this track are fantastic, sizzling and dreamy at the same time. A moderate synth sequence keeps pace. The two elements are contradictory and yet complementary, a strategy that works throughout this 2-CD set. Sometimes, as on "Contour Adjustment" and "Chromatix," the result is subtle, almost ambient. "Contour Adjustment" in particular conjures up images of deep space, nearly silent at times. But other times, like on "Voyage for Guitar and Synth" and "Function Four," it practically rocks... "Grateful" is a beautiful closing number, combining a gentle guitar melody with warm Mellotron strings.
- Phil Derby/Electroambient Space (2004)
...The Ministry of Inside Things... contains a mix of electronic music dominated by sequencers and guitar as well as more atmospheric and spacy-tinged works. On their new double CD Everlasting Moment the guys go further along the same lines. Sometimes pleasantly relaxed and a bit Ashra-like with rippling guitar and the next moment flashing TD-like with lively guitar and synthesizer pieces over juicy sequencer parts in the style of the Berlin School, subsequently seeking the mysterious and remote depths of the universe in partly dreamy, yet often expressive and somewhat spooky parts. Certainly the more dark-tinged numbers remind me a bit of the music of their British colleagues Radio Massacre International, but The Ministry of Inside Things has nevertheless a face of its own.
- Rob Hanemayer/iO Pages (Feb04)
Atmospheric textures unfurl with amiable E-perc accompaniment. These snappy rhythms usher in the guitar for excursions into celestial territory and raw, almost bluesy, riffs. The penchance, though, is toward savage space guitar, soaring chords that scrape the ceiling of the sky in their efforts to confound gravity. These instances are ecstatic and enthralling. The notes are crisp and astral, ascending into the air like clouds of glittering stars that coalesce to form entertaining galactic swirls of passionate vibrancy.
The electronics are hardly passive, generating looping riffs that compound with each cyclic turn, growing more complex and engaging as they combine to form ambrosial harmonies. Such foundational passages provide a relentless propulsion for the listener, urging everyone's ears to experience velocity as a tangible condition without ever leaving their heads.
One can expect ambient intros to soothe the audience with their tenuous presence, relaxing everyone in preparation for the sonic launch into more sprightly tuneage. Meanwhile, these livelier passages undergo a slowbuild to more consequential pinnacles. The harmonies cluster, gathering momentum with each additional riff that emerges to join the flow. By the time the space guitar appears with explosive fury, the listener has been mesmerized into a state of receptive bliss.
While dedicated to pursuing the Berlin School of electronics, MOIT has evolved their own take on these historic influences. Their music reaches beyond traditional structure, exploring the universe with their individual perspective. These tunes display extreme dazzle with modern flourish, achieving rapturous instances that seem without end or exhaustion.
- Matt Howarth/Sonic Curiosity (Feb04)
In comparison to the mid 1990s, when he was signed to Centaur for a while, Chuck van Zyl has had a much lower profile in the UK of late... But as this double album proves, he and guitarist Art Cohen have been putting together some rather good material. In comparison to his Centuar releases this is far more varied, skillfully mixing teutonic, abstract and cosmic styles so that, overall, none of them dominate to any degree and the listener is always left wondering what will come next... what with Cohen's unique guitar style adding a much-needed dose of originality. Indeed, his contribution is every bit as vital as van Zyl's as he not only manages not too sound TOO much like Edgar Froese, even on the more teutonic tracks such as "Voyage For Guitar and Synth" and "Function Four" where his red hot licks set the sequences on fire, but he also has this 'method' of producing notes that seem to melt, bend and glide; which is especially important on the more abstract pieces such as "Chromatix", which should appeal to fans of TD's "Zeit", and "Induction Loop", where the abstract sounds are mixed with more melodic ones. The rocking riffs of the closing "Grateful" seem to be a tribute to Jerry Garcia (or a cover of a Grateful Dead track, any Deadheads reading can put me right on this one!). The final bells add a nice christmassy touch, [appropriate considering when this review was written] and make for a most striking finale (striking? bells? geddit? oh, never mind!).
Moreover, the more rhythmic tracks, such as "Heatseeker" (which ends disc one) and "VM-75" (which bears a resemblance to some of Ian Boddy's recent works with some excellent synth soloing) add an important variety to this album... and make both discs into seemless suites as the latter track leads directly into "Tectonic Motion" where monumental guitar chords stand out in stark contrast against the rhythmic backdrop while the touching tone poem that is "Hibernation Dreams" means that not only are the duo taking on board a wider group of influences than the usual Berlin-School suspects, it's also impossible to tell how much of this album was improvised and how much was pre-planned; and that's what makes it such a success. Rather than ambling along aimlessly, it feels like everything happens because it's supposed to - and that is the sign of a successful improvisation, nes pas?
The Ministry of Inside Things is the improvisational duo of synthesist Chuck van Zyl and guitarist Art Cohen, offering up this sprawling live double set of electronic bliss that seems to take its cue from Phaedra-era Tangerine Dream. van Zyl is probably best known for his Pennsylvania-based electronic music [radio] show Star's End, now over twenty [five] years running, and his "Gatherings" electronic [music] concert series; he also has a number of releases out, both on his own and in collaboration with others. For his part Cohen offers many effected and heavily treated guitar parts that blend in smoothly with the synths, creating myriad sonic textures that energize the sound and provide some structure amid the flow of spontaneous creativity. Cohen's influences might include Manuel Gottsching and David Gilmour, and the final track "Grateful" is no doubt a tribute to Jerry Garcia's fluid soloing style. The sequenced synths overlaid with blistering guitar leads on "Voyage for Guitar and Synth" seems to tap into Ash Ra's Inventions playbook, and with excellent results, being one of the set's most energized pieces. Sequenced percussives offer some rhythm in many parts, and "Chromatix" employs some sampled, treated voice loops to good effect. Each disc contains a number of tracks, but they are provided mostly as index points in what will seem to the listener like one continuous improvisation, although a quick look at the liner notes shows that the program was recorded at four different shows in 2002 and edited together after the fact. In all, this is an excellent release that fans of the Berlin electronic style would do well to check out.
Peter Thelen/EXPOSE (Apr04)
This album is not only fun to listen to, but it brings back pleasant memories of the golden age of prog-rock without being "dated." The long-haired duo calling itself the "Ministry of Inside Things" includes Chuck van Zyl on synthesizers and keyboards, and Art Cohen on electric guitar. This 2-CD set presents the "best moments" of a number of live concerts which they played in 2002, mostly in Pennsylvania. Their styles range from hard-driving synthesizer rock in the timeless (at least since the '70s) German manner, to spacey Dead-style mind-trips, to long-winding guitar heroics in a classic, modal style. You may already know Chuck Van Zyl as the impresario of the "Gatherings" ambient concerts held in Philadelphia [several] times a year.
It's always nice to hear a time-honored style done right. The sounds that Cohen brings are all familiar, even including echo machine twiddling, feedback howls and weird string-plinking usually associated with, uh, altered states. But that doesn't necessarily mean either "boring" or "trite." I am much impressed with Cohen's clear, powerful melodic lines, articulated against the synthesizer's accompaniment. He can ramble solo for quite a long time. They follow the style of switching the synthesizer pattern's key every so often, and Cohen's improvisation keeps it fresh.
The best moment in the album, in my opinion, comes on CD 2, at the end of track three, "Contour Adjustment," which flows into the beginning of track 4, "Hibernation Dreams." I don't know whether these two pieces were from the same moment at the same concert; it would be perfect if they were. This transition flows exquisitely from atonal noise to a single, soft minor chord, and then a thoughtful, slightly melancholy return to a slow synthesizer pattern with Cohen's guitar smoothly sustaining notes over it. In fact, it's one of the finest passages in ambient music I've heard for quite a long time.
As a kind of afterthought, and to erase any doubt as to who they admire, the last cut on CD 2 is called "Grateful," and features a loving, guitar-rich tribute to Jerry Garcia, his band, and the languid nostalgia of their sunlit dreamworld. The album closes with a surprise "environmental" soundclip of a real carillon, which I suspect was in the bell-tower of one of the concert venues. There's a lot here to like. Just think of this album as "classical music" of the last century, played beautifully by modern musicians.
Hannah M. G. Shapero/EER (26Apr04)
Chuck van Zyl is an e-music icon. He is the host and producer of Star's End, a weekly radio program in Philly dedicated to electronic music. He is the organizer, promoter and host of The Gatherings, a concert series -- again, in Philly -- that features some of e-music's finest. Chuck is also a venerable e-music performer. As a soloist, collaborator and group member, he has created some delicious Berlin school e-music.
Art Cohen, while not quite an icon, is an e-music legend. He can be seen at every Gathering, running the soundboard and interacting with the fans. He is low key, unassuming, knowledgeable and very friendly. He is also a veteran electronician, specializing in the electronic and ambient guitar.
Together, Chuck and Art are The Ministry of Inside Things, a legendary east coast ensemble. Everlasting Moment is a double CD of live Berlin school and European electronica. Chuck and Art combine sequences, guitartronics, atmospheres and experimental timbres expertly. The sound design gives each feature its proper voice. They also combine organic and metallic textures smoothly. That speaks clearly to the skills of Chuck and Art as much of the music on these discs was improvised in concert.
This set is a must-have for e-music fans. It has a little bit of something for everybody!
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