Straight out of the heart of Philadelphia’s Berlin School-loving electronic music scene, here come Ombient (aka Mike Hunter) and Chuck van Zyl, with three long, majestic-in-their-analog-glory pieces on Space Patrol. For me as a listener, this doesn’t have to be anything other than what it is: a classically cool hour of bouncing, intersecting sequencer lines, spring-loaded bass tones, and all manner of nostalgic knob-invoked electrosound. Hunter and van Zyl land squarely in my old-school wheelhouse, and I am oh so very content to coast through the cosmos with them. “Space Cruiser” is exactly that, a 26-minute coast that opens with the high melodic tones of a Mellotron flute to establish the piece’s base before the sequencers kick in like the comfortable pulse of the star-drive. Familiarity takes over, and that pulse, those lines, these elements we’ve heard before and which are raised here in homage, act like gravity upon your body—you will move to it, however slight. van Zyl’s synth leads are fluid and calm, little zero-g drifts full of grace. As we enter into “The Zone” the duo take us into strange, uncharted regions filled with wayward sounds, dark drones, and scattered sonic detritus. Church bells (maybe repurposed from the Ministry of Inside Things track “Grateful”?), applause, clattering sounds, voices—all this spins past as we drift through a space that feels nicely improvised. (These tracks come from live performances.) It seems like Hunter and van Zyl knew they would spin us into this place, and then challenged each other to pull the strangest possible tones and thoughts from their gear. It’s pure atmosphere, of the Twilight Zone variety. There is a sense of passage to this track, with the end of it sliding us into the closing piece and a return to brighter analog thoughts. “Outland” has energy to spare, doled out in shiny lines and spirals of Jarre-esque twitter. And, of course, it closes ever-so-smoothly by bringing us back to the high tones that kicked off the ride, which means (again, of course!) that Space Patrol loops back on itself virtually unnoticed to keep the ride going as long as you like.
It’s no surprise that I enjoy Space Patrol a whole lot. I’m an old-school electronic fan, have enjoyed van Zyl’s work both solo and as part of Ministry of Inside Things, and became familiar with Hunter’s work when I saw him perform live at the electro-music.com gathering. This is the stuff I’ve loved for years, perfectly rebuilt into something that makes me need to turn up the volume when I listen. It’s solid Berlin and an excellent paean to the range of the analog synth. This will absolutely resonate with knob-heads like myself, and will please anyone who like good, straight-up electronic spacemusic. Buckle in, take off.
Available from the Ombient web site.