In Starless Space is my favourite of the David Reeves releases, either on or off the Fax label. I've owned it now for several years but, nobody should attempt to review his work (publicly) in my opinion until they've lived with it for a very considerable time ... those who already familiar will know what I mean! The music appears to emanate from a parallel universe where sometime familiar elements dwell, in dreamy and slightly sinister never regions - it's space Jim but, not as we know it. Being (even by Fax standards) relatively unknown Reeves manages, with considerable aplomb, to avoid placing himself in any of the conventional pigeonholes of the ambient genre. Music which is experimental and improvisational yet, richly rewarding and certainly not 'difficult'. Occasionally it soars, at other times the mood is minimalist but, always hypnotic - these are the sounds (to paraphrase Namlook) which travel from the artists mind to our own. The spoken voices are excellent, as usual, whether they emerge from a room down the corridor or, from Pastor Reeves' pulpit as he delivers us a marvelous sermon on the stellar heavens. A chronological track-by-track review might have tended to hint at a less than totally coherent work, such is Reeves' undeniably broad palette. However, to cultivate such an impression would be to do him some considerable dis-service, as the subtle themes and metamorphic drones which recur here are so deeply embedded and cleverly interwoven that they function on an almost subconscious level. There are several fine sequencer driven passages (suitably restrained) and an impressive rhythmic sophistication throughout although, not one which the listener will always find is overtly complex - in fact, this release is where the definitive Otraslab beats reside; rhythm is the lifeblood of Starless Space. So, prepare to endure termites in your speaker cabinets, relax and let the non-melodies wash over you; then ponder ... "how long is forever?"
(review by Paul Milligan)
With his third solo FAX effort, David Reeves ends his experimental trilogy begun with "Otras". This time he has abandoned some of the former epic grandeur of the Otras discs in favor of more intimate, refined sounds. The elements used here sound almost painfully detailed, seemingly processed over and over into their disclosed states, and show their scars of remodeling as beauty. The monolithic emotions of the Otras discs are revisited here, but where those previous works sounded more like hieroglyphs born from alien minds, "In Starless Space" sounds much more human and in places evokes images of Aboriginal sand-paintings; markings no less meaningful but perhaps more familiar. This disc also seems to include much more of a juxtaposition of themes, ranging from universal vibrations to ant-like tickings (and at several points these themes are simultaneously intermingled). While still maintaining the experimental ambient nature of the Otras discs, "In Starless Space" makes more overt use of percussion. Due to the excessively processed sounds, there's a predominant tarnished texture to almost everything, like an ancient artifact or monument which was once proud and great, but is now abandoned and holds only echoes of its former power...
Message Fragment- - -?
Luminous Flightpath- - -Eerie and earnest throbbing drones immediately ensconce the listener. A melancholy and insistent power starts off the disc and is soon joined by some very odd muted staccato tones. Is this a major or minor key? There's a strong emotion of whispering here although nothing is overtly quiet. A very secretive place to start off this album, and a theme that will characterize the rest. After the entrance of some NASA radio samples which provide nice underwork, a perfected percussive sequence makes itself heard in a compositional feat reminiscent of "In Suspension" from Otras. This is quite a delicious subtlety of drones, lightly tapping bass, muffled drums and restrained hi-hats. Certain rhythmic moments are punctuated seemingly at random, adding a nice free-form feel to the track. The sense of perpetual motion that Reeves seems to create so easily is perfectly exemplified here in one of his most cohesive, masterfully-constructed pieces. Things progress calmly until the staccato keys begin to intensify and a slightly more driving, forceful rhythm breaks in. Here the textural theme for the disc is established: staticy feel to nearly everything, hushed hi-hats, muffled percussion, a profusion of human samples (vocal and non-vocal). The beats start to disappear and the droning waves continue with micro-details and tracking ticks in either channel...subtle pulsings...the perpetual motion exists whether it be in light or darkness.
The Termite Oracle- - -This odd beast of a track opens with the hushed duo of a hollow rushing noise and a rapid popping tone. Minute scratchings and decaying static warp one another in an unnerving form of ambience. A shifting shadowy shimmer joins the cobwebbed murk and suddenly we're assaulted with distorted, primitive beats which instantly grab the forefront, a seldom-used tactic by Reeves. Textural subnoise and ethnic vocals samples form a fitting but bizarre background. There's a definite sense ofspace here, with the background elements echoed and the percussive noises fully frontal and plastered. Reminds me strongly of primitive cave-paintings. The beats suddenly drop off only to be ushered back in with another webbed collapse of static. Extremely alien, but intensely human. How is this possible? As the beats track on, hyperdetailed garbling and distortion decay all of the elements. A weary and rusted feel is present here as the rhythm begins to dissolve into tortured polychrome static. This static itself is a focal point all its own due to the fact that it sounds like highly manipulated foreign speech? A rotting, encrypted message of some sort that is extremely odd, highly compelling and not comforting at all. Mutated percussion drifts through abstract static, washings of sound. Raw and vital.
NGC 1961- - -Our tribal-sounding samples hang around to usher in quite a different track, and another unique one for Reeves. Here we get the closest David ever came to dance music, although that does not explain this oddity by a long shot. Some blunt but more upbeat analog patterns start us off and set a lively pace as an echoey Pastor Reese lectures us about the heavens. This leisurely speech is freakishly counterpointed by frantic, almost animalistic static bursts. Rhythmic elements begin to multiply and as a frontal skipping hi-hat enters, Reese ends his narrative to segue into the main body of the track. An enigmatic opening is followed here by an intriguing excursion into aboriginal psychedelic dance. Envision as you may. A continuous shifting drone is present throughout, accompanied by subtly changing sparse percussion and forlorn swoopings. A subdued track, but with a calm intensity characteristic of Reeves' work. The rhythms' simple sequences begin to overlap each other in strange ways. The track quickly becomes extremely primitive with more samples and a warbling collage. Acid-washed static fades out the track.
Free-Cyanatic- - -Here are some more defined and astral sounds. Key-shifting perpetual tones back some growing, spidery percussion. Calmly powerful driving rhythm breaks in, the tones become more individualized and highlighted with expansive echoes. Percussive elements whisper themselves into existence and establish the structure almost before you notice they're there. A sudden transformation to a vigorous and almost harsh tracking rhythmic section, receding garbles and desperately warbling 'melodies'. Ends in a melancholy droning segment. This disc is getting weirder and more comfortable by the moment....
Aurora 7- - -Whipping whooshes and repetitive hi-hats introduce other heavier elements including some pulsing bass and higher-pitched whips of sound which fill the listening space. A soothing/seething analog pattern emerges and holds sway over all, including some more nicely simplified but effective beats. This intensifies dramatically and as it fades, a tiny ticking in the middle channel joins pace with it and their respective rhythms sync and disjoint intermittently, a wonderful and super-subtle compositional element. The analog disappears and only the ticking is left which is visited by some soft rattling static. This builds and intensifies in a vibrating crescendo.
Catalytic- - -A serene analog pattern which sounds like a perpetual throbbing harmony opens and stays througout the track. Bird samples and rapid muted static bursts fill out the background. A distant chiming is also present. A somewhat disconnected beat fades in and is apparently a slow-motion cousin of "Luminous Flightpath". The melodic elements are warped and changed. An ascending, ragged analog sequence claws up from the sublevels with a repressed but commanding force. Elements transform and metamorphosize and interact at a marching pace. An entombed cacophony. The track travels progressively and disturbedly-dreamily with yearning, cryptic drones revisiting. Bizarrely, a cat enters the fray. The perpetual harmony closes the track.
Starless, Endless- - -A deep, mysterious sample...then the final tracking chords of the disc. Like those of "Luminous Flightpath" these chords seem to be subtly shifting their harmony and key ever so slightly and continuously. A sad, lonely melody drifts over and over, harmoniously bonding with the linear melodic dottings. Ever-present embellishments sound corroded but functional and oddly melancholy in a way that is hard to describe. Nostalgic and yet foreign. A trademark Reeves-overlapper roils in the underwork. There's a fragile interaction between the secondary elements here, they all seem to be shuffling about in the dark, setting each other off at random in a manner that might induce paranoia were the emotions not so lulling. After about 12 minutes, the overlapper finally begins to intensify as the percussion drops away...Here as in much of Reeves' music, there's a feeling of constantly present emotions and spaces that continue to exist whether or not the listener is present.
"In Starless Space" was a disc that i completely could not understand at first. But now after many listens I'm starting to understand how good it really is. This trilogy is perhaps the best example of beat-oriented ambient i've experienced, with tracks like "Catalytic" and "Starless, Endless" being the epitome of such music, the percussion taking the background and becoming a shifting, pulsing tapestry. The dusty texture of many of these tracks is rather unnerving in its insectile detail. Also, with many of the pieces it seems to take the entire cast of elements to gain any sort of melodic interaction, the melodies seemingly constructing themselves out of nonmelodic elements. This disc also seems to hit upon the often visited theme of primitive-futuristic synergy, but with striking originality and accessibility. A highly thought-provoking and emotional work which binds together Reeves' three FAX discs in a true trilogy rather than merely a series. Truly outstanding music.
(review by Auraphage)