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Stephen Parsick: Excessive Doombience

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Stephen Parsick is a member of 'Ramp, a German band that excels at creating soundscapes of portentous moodiness. Parsick's solo work continues to pursue this ambition with remarkable results.

Most of the releases discussed below are extremely limited edition items featuring distinctly unique packaging. They are intended to delight fans of extremely dark ambient music.

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STEPHEN PARSICK: Traces of the Past Redux (CD on SP Music)

This CD from 2007 features 75 minutes of dreamy electronic music.

Joining synthesist Parsick on half of the tracks is Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock on guitars.

It begins with fanciful ambience punctuated by sedate diodes whose cybernetic mutterings gradually imbue the drifting soundscape with a cosmic presence. Things adopt a livelier disposition as astral guitar seeps into the mix. The electronics surge with puissance and the guitars slide from astral somnambulance into a celestial blaze. The music ascends, in power and weight, lifting the audience to airless altitudes with sweeps of heavenly sounds and pulsating riffs.

While versatile in detail, the electronics are deeply dedicated to the desire to mesmerize through slow-building harmonic waves. Gurgling passages approximate a resolute course through interstellar realms. Airy bridges lend a pastoral flair to the space music. These pensive movements dependably reach points in which the compositions (which are technically mostly improvised) achieve lush density which exhibit velocity and a sense of urgency.

There are even occasions of e-perc that inject pep to the transcendental flow.

Building from gaseous formations of relaxation to understated pinnacles of stratospheric vitality, Hoffmann-Hoock's guitars lend a strong appeal to the retro sound.

Although most of these recordings come from the mid-Nineties, their power and charm are undeniably modern and bewitching.

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STEPHEN PARSICK: Deltaplan (limited edition CD on SP Music)

This release from 2007 offers 54 minutes of atmospheric electronic music.

German synthesist Parsick is joined by Martin Stürtzer (aka Phelios) who provides drums on one track.

In much of Parsick’s (and ‘Ramp’s) music, ambient spirits are utilized as a foundation from which peaks and rhythmic structures emerge. Here, though, the emphasis remains on tranquil harmonic structure, unbroken by pinnacles or beats. Here, the tuneage seethes with a slow grinding determination that evokes a subtle uneasiness instead of a soothing lull.

Almost subliminal belltones punctuate an aquatic landscape of delicate tonalities that flow with luxurious resolve, indulging in majestic upsweeps and ponderous descents. Elongated pulsations sway from airy intonations to ominous temperaments tinged with a mechanical fury.

The illusion of stratospheric flight is accomplished with muted percussives, as if the beats are propelling the audience with each momentous impact. Once a proper altitude is reached, the electronics set to establishing a distinct sense of awe with expansive tones washing over each other like a gaseous surf.

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STEPHEN PARSICK: Gronland (Music for Glaciers) (limited edition CD on SP Music)

This release from 2007 features 65 minutes of fluid electronic music.

Rolling thunder approximates the geological crawl of glaciers across a tundra. Desolate textures of a dark nature generate a roiling atmosphere for these climatic surges. Rising and falling with periodic vigor, sustained tones function as a background milieu, lending an icy, foreboding presence to the sedate compositions. An impression of never-ending progression is achieved as the soundscapes breathe with grand scope, spreading an arctic chill across virgin soil with each exhalation.

The audience becomes sympathetic to this relentless frozen influence, sinking deeper into the music’s thrall with each frigid victory over diffusive warmth. It is not a cold that inspires trembling or discomfort; instead luring the mind into a state of decreased expansion, barricading out external reality and turning thoughts inwards.

Recordings like this illustrate how ambient music can possess substantial gloom yet remain unthreatening.

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STEPHEN PARSICK: Tektonik (Music for Earthquakes) (limited edition CD on SP Music)

This release from 2007 offers 57 minutes of gritty electronic music.

For this recording, Parsick delves beneath the Earth’s surface and explores the sonics of tectonic interaction. Floating on a molten sea, the vast rocky plates of the planetary mantle drift and collide with each other, producing sounds humans will never hear...and so Parsick has composed music to approximate this experience for the listener.

Monumental forms loom forth, occluding the sky and banishing all perspective with their geological enormity. The movement of such colossal masses is superbly captured by this music. Gigantic tonalities achieve bulk that defies imagination. As these aggregates pass each other, they scrape and rasp and generate sounds of earth-shattering scope. Collisions blossom into muffled explosions of geological proportion.

Filtering between these masses like tenuous buffers, are moody pulsations. Fragile notes coalesce to fill these gaps. Stretched into limitless passages, these chords establish a serene medium that separates the monstrous concussions.

Certain passages echo with the emptiness of a vibrant vacuum, conjuring rest spots in this excursion into the planetary core. Incredible depth, atomizing heat, crushing pressure--all these conditions are supplanted by the noises Parsick has created, supplanted and substituted and transformed. Sound epitomizes an experience no human can ever behold. And you are the lucky witness.

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STEPHEN PARSICK: Schwartzschild (Music for Planetariums) (limited edition CD on SP Music)

This release from 2007 features 77 minutes of astral electronic music.

With strikingly satisfying results, this release explores the realm of dark ambience evoked by man’s fascination for outer space and alien worlds.

Murky sounds throb and amalgamate into a chorus of dark forces. There are no coherent melodies. Notes do not trickle off each other with jovial intent. Instead, they crawl into being and strive to outlast each other, growling and grinding into realms of ethereal distinction. Through seemingly minimal structures of sound, vast expanses are created, spaces that defy measurement as they elude easy description.

It’s quite suitable that these compositions capture the mystery and charm of the interstellar void. Like the uncharted depths of outer space, tunes devoid of active melody can be alluring, especially when played as a backdrop for everyday routines, transporting the listener from their mundane surroundings into regions of pure marvel and celestial intrigue.

Two tracks (a version of the Vangelis song “Creation du Monde”, and an interpretation of a Charles Ives composition) feature structure and identifiable chords. In the former, swelling keyboard layers float into view, peppered by delicate electronic embellishment, producing an infectious mood of growing imminence. The latter is more atmospheric: ephemeral but emotionally stimulating. The darkness is more theoretical in this pair of pieces.

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PHELIOS & STEPHEN PARSICK: It Always Rains in Wuppertal (limited edition CD on SP Music)

This release from 2007 offers 64 minutes of musique concrete.

Recorded live at Sophienkirche Wuppertal on November 24, 2006, the music is broken into three movements: one by Phelios, another by Parsick, finally merging into the pair working together for the finale.

Parsick plays synthesizers, loop devices, and lap steel guitar, while Phelios (aka Martin Stürtzer) plays synthesizers, electronics, treated acoustic sound sources.

Grinding machinery sets a remote backdrop for celestial tonalities that ebb and flow. Deeper tones rise from unknown depths, accompanied by chittering hints of a grander melody which become swamped by buzzing diodes and a resurgence of mechanical clattering.

Most of the time, though, the general soundscape is dim and remote, oozing with ominous portends. Clearly, the rainstorm is muffling all extraneous sound, confining the audience to a desolate mood of murky limitations.

Drums of monstrous proportion appear for an emphatic finale.

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