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The Versatile Electronic Music of Der Spyra

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Der Spyra (aka Wolfram Spyra) is a German synthesist with strong roots in the Berlin school of electronics. With the release of the "Elevator to Heaven" box set, Spyra rises to deserved prominence in the field of contemporary electronic music.

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DER SPYRA: ELEVATOR TO HEAVEN (triple CD boxset on Manikin Records)

Disk 1: "Live in", 71 minutes.

Moody atmospherics dominate the early portions of this live set. The music slowbuilds to more energetic passages with powerful hints of Klaus-Schulze-like tonalities, gaining melody and soft rhythms with each subsequent minute. Gradually, the tuneage reaches momentous proportions with accreting layers of bubbling sequencers and sweeping keyboards and synthetic percussives. Cycles overlap to produce a gentle flow of vigorous electronics, chords and sequences compressing and melding into complex structures of enticing mesmerism. Moving through elongated stretches of melodic tension, the music achieves frequent crescendos with charming and satisfying effect, only to sink back into subdued demeanor in order to begin another meticulous ascension to the next pinnacle.

The temperament is generally somber with furrowed eyebrows, music intended to inspire serious contemplation. Often displaying very Schulzesque tendencies, the performance is rich with demonstrative power, carefully restrained to generate a sense of impending drama. Such foreshadowing pay off with numerous outbursts of dynamic passages, as the sonic mass swells in stature, rising with majestic grandeur into the heights to cavort overhead with stately abandon.

Among the multitude of electronic equipment employed in this live performance from November 2000, Spyra played a set of bow chimes, an obscure instrument designed by Bob Rutman in the early Seventies. (For more data on this unique instrument, go here.)

Disc 2: "The Bright Side of the Sun", 63 minutes.

This disc of studio tracks follows Spyra's sonic evolution through the late Nineties and into the new millennia. The last of the six pieces was recorded live in Croatia in 2000.

Blending sinuous E-perc and innovative electronics, the music possesses considerable body and impact, pursuing dreaminess into more active territory. Engaging riffs unwind with ricocheting patterns undulating amid a bevy of trance threads, producing lush and vibrant melodies that seem endless without growing tedious. Clever deviations enhance the flow, keeping the tuneage entertaining and fresh despite its cyclic nature.

The notion of ascension is dominant here, with tuneage that continues to rise yet never strays beyond the atmosphere. While spacey in overtone, this music explores very terrestrial abstracts, delving into human emotions that are not lost in bewildering technology.

The track "Last Train to Beyreuth" is Spyra's personal interpretation of the classic theme from "Beyreuth Return" (from Klaus Schulze's classic 1975 "Timewind" album).

Disk 3: "Motion Picture Music", 72 minutes.

In marked contrast to the long, flowing music exhibited on the previous two discs, here the tracks are short and more direct, possessing exact drama and evoking action. Not surprising, since this music is a sampling of soundtrack material composed by Spyra.

The lush electronics share the sonic stage with light-hearted synthetic orchestral passages, conveying captivating widescreen moods. The range of styles is diverse, from peppy pieces to stately drone to electrified jazz. The addition of more traditional percussion injects a liveliness to some tracks, while flutish influences give other pieces a haunting glimpse of heavenly altitudes. There are even some vocals lending particular tracks languid joviality.

The overall effect of these cinematic pieces is one of versatility, displaying numerous moods while remaining loyal to Spyra's densely flowing style. Here, the music is definitely rooted in earthly matters, replacing the uplifting disposition with a sense of prowling through human conditions. Drama runs high, though, as each track focuses attention on the moment instead of future portends.

Included is a nine-minute remix of Spyra's original score for Stellmach & Montgomery's Oscar-winning animation film "Quest."

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