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Zoetosis Reviews

Telomere space music CD - Zoetosis
From Brian Bieniowski, Ambient Review:
Somewhere along the line, space became unfriendly. Michael Moorcock wrote in his novel The Black Corridor, "space does not care" and it seems that many of today's ambient and space music artists have taken this phrase to mean that space should be infinite blackness and cold isolation. I'm not in a position to argue, especially when "black space" ambient can be some of the most potent drift around (Celestial Geometries by Oöphoi and Tau Ceti comes immediately to mind). With all this uncaring space around, arguably the most realistic interpretation of space travel, it becomes all the more refreshing when an artist comes along and creates space music in its classic, positive, bright aspect--all fantasy travels with none of the sugary sweetness of new age music.

It is in the spirit of classic space music, planetarium music, music for interstellar journeys, that I come to Telomere's second album Zoetosis. This is an album in the grand tradition of Michael Stearns' Planetary Unfolding and Jon Serries' And the Stars Go With You. Zoetosis is an overwhelmingly positive sounding record, the kind of swelling music you feel in your heart when you imagine space as a place man was meant to commune with via exploration and discovery. This is not the sound of a dark Michael Moorcock novel, but of Arthur C. Clarke's proud forward movement to man's destiny amidst the infinite universe.

Zoetosis depicts Earth's surface from orbit on its cover, and this is an entirely apt description of the album's contents. From the opening sounds of track one, "Awakening," we begin with that greatest of metaphors--the comparison of the sea to space. Washes of the tide mix with deep synth washes (most of this music is created on the Serge Modular, making another notable Stearns connection); eventually some dramatic low-toned sequencing enters the fray and we suddenly liftoff on breathtaking synthwork as we shoot right out of the atmosphere into orbit. This track descends gradually back into tidal movement, and bleeds directly into "Microcosmos"--an entrancing, nearly psychedelic, rising and falling of synth tones. Here is where the Michael Stearns comparisons break down. While Stearns' early work with the Serge seemed to be more interested in showing off its capabilities, the work of Telomere has fully digested the instrument's use and is content to create powerful music with understated virtuosity. "Idiochrome" continues the beautiful synth washes of the preceding track, but also serves to remind us that though the Serge is by no means a new artifice for creating music, it is still capable of portraying the timeless. "Ancient Uplift" (a fantastic title) finds us gazing at a completely alien artifact, chattering to itself electronically--this thing is incomprehensible, but by looking at it we are somehow pushed forward into an ancient future where mariners sail the spaceways instead of the sea. "Evocation" is just that--slowly building an evocative orbital journey, at once in motion and motionless. "Dawnlight" contains a breathtaking theme, as if a paean to astronomy by starry-eyed, scholars--the equivalent to a planetary love song. Finally, "First Forest" brings us back to the beginnings of Earth, when nature was still somehow connected to the celestial--before humans could create an imaginary barrier between the ground beneath and the stars above. With this track, the atmosphere is no longer a barrier, but a transitional movement into infinity.

Zoetosis is a flawless record. It manages to portray the awesome majesty of the heavens (and Earth) without resorting to needless dramatic flourishes or strained mysticism. While rooted in classic space music of past decades, Zoetosis is fresh, perfectly produced, entrancing. You will not find a better space music record, bar none. Somehow, Christopher MacDonald (the man behind Telomere) has distilled the essence of space travel and the distinct feeling of the otherworldly inherent in the cosmos. If I could similarly distill this review to one word, it would assuredly be: breathtaking. I give this my highest recommendation--truly Zoetosis is a testament to the power of space music and its ability to transport listeners simply by hitting the play button.

From Chuck van Zyl, host of Star's End:
Chris MacDonald is better known to STAR'S END listeners as Telomere by way of his 1998 debut album ASTRAL CURRENTS. On this recording, Telomere established himself as one of spacemusic's foremost deep-drift stylists. His fresh insight into the relationship between sound and psyche continues on ZOETOSIS. With barely a rhythm or melody, Telomere produces engaging harmonies and evolving timbres to convey profound musical ideas. Drones swell up deliberatley into a slowly sweeping soft mass while tones change continually between pencil thin lines and dripping wet brush strokes. Within each piece and throughout the album is a sense of movement - a slow motion of cosmic ideas. The spirituality of the synthesizer can be felt fully as electrical current is transformed into synthesized sound. Telomere's music ascends with a clarity of vision found only far above the earth's atmosphere. So much a completely transportive and reassuring experience, that silence at album's end is unsettling.

From Bert Strolenberg, KLEM Magazine:
Zoetosis is the 2nd cd of space-music composer Christopher MacDonald, inviting the listener to another fascinating virtual trip into space. Like his former album Astral Currents, Zoetosis is primarily made on the Mighty Serge Modular (which still remind me of Stearns’ masterpieces Planetary Unfolding and Chronos) and offers handsfull of amazing soundtapestries which Christopher has melded without sounding pretentious. Listening to the 7 long tracks, 54 minutes in total, on the album gives you a feeling of timelessness as you travel through stargates and float through the overwhelming cosmos and beyond. Zoetosis is planetariummusic at its best and comes with an extraordinary soundquality and production. For those who want to encounter the depths of the galaxy , this is another intruiging entrance next to Astral Currents!

Bert Strolenberg - Klem magazine, The Netherlands-

(Dutch review text) De 2e cd van Christopher MacDonald die met voorganger Astral Currents al een prachtige staaltje spacemuziek afleverde. Eigenlijk is het met Zoetosis niet anders: wederom breed uitgesponnen, zacht galmende kosmische klankvlakken die hoofdzakelijk op de Serge Modular zijn gespeeld, waardoor de sound duidelijk in lijn met Michael Stearns’ Planetary Unfolding of Chronos ligt. Het gevoel van tijdloosheid en het virtueel rondwentelen door een oneindige kosmos tijdens het luisteren naar de 7 lange tracks van deze aan planetariummuziek grenzende soundtrip maken het geheel tot een waar genot voor de luisteraar. Zowel productie als geluidskwaliteit zijn dik in orde. Meer info op www.evenfall.com

From Bill Binkelman, Wind and Wire:
Christopher MacDonald, who records as Telomere, renews the promise of his excellent debut recording, Astral Currents, with this follow-up album, Zoetosis. Once again, the music is played mostly on a Serge Modular synthesizer, giving the music that soft lush luxurious texture of classic spacemusic from the golden years of the genre. While not remarkably different from Astral Currents, Christopher does indeed show some artistic growth and the music illustrates an evolution of his composing talent throughout the spacy soundscapes. Beginning with the subtle sounds of waves breaking on the shore (the nature sounds which are on the album, and there are only a smattering of them, were recorded on Maui), the opening track, "Awakening," is ushered in by light-as-air synth choruses before the mighty Serge slowly weaves its way onto the sonic landscape. Shimmering faintly and building in intensity, the music evokes an image of a huge yellow sun rising above the distant horizon over the blue ocean waters. However, being spacemusic, the image could also be that of moonrise over the curvature of the Earth as seen from outer space. "Microcosmos," the second song, is softer and quite lovely. Christopher adroitly layers the various keyboards and synths, with lower register drones flowing serenely over pulsing mid-tones and cascading shimmering higher register notes and chords. The music on Zoetosis is not the minimal ambient approach of artists like James Johnson or Stephen Philips. It's also not the overtly melodic approach of Jonn Serrie or Anthony Baskey. And it's not the darker side of space such as Steve Roach or Robert Scott Thompson. The closest comparison I can make would be to Meg Bowles, except that Christopher does not use any beat-driven rhythms or hand percussive effects, as Meg does on some songs. There is also is nary of trace of darkness on this recording, except for the blackness of outer space, that is. Of course, part of the uniqueness of Telomere's music is derived from the sound of classic analog synths and the Serge itself. Nothing quite sounds like it, does it? There are seven songs on Zoetosis - the shortest one being almost six minutes long - so there's plenty of room for the music to stretch out and develop, which it does with a sense of cosmic patience. "Ancient Uplift" begins atypically with deep rumbling effects, layered under some interesting SF synth textures, suggesting cyber-circuitry, with its bleeps and bloops. On headphones, this "robotic conversation" pans deliciously from one side to the other. As it fades away, it's replaced by a dramatic series of rising and falling drones, like huge slow motion waves. Eventually, the Serge makes its appearance with a gorgeous swelling of analog beauty. "Evocation" finally does offer some rhythmic elements, but they are derived from the synths themselves, not from any sampled percussion or drums. This may be the most dramatic cut on the album as well. If you've been listening softly up to now, you might need to turn the volume down on this track. In addition, there is a particular sound (on this song) made on either the Serge or other synth that sure sounds like a section of "Atmospheres" from the 2001 soundtrack. Mondo cool! This display of sonic power is followed by two rather serene cuts - "Dawnlight" and "First Forest." "Dawnlight" is beautiful - long patient washes of near poetic electronic bliss, sometimes with the Serge dominating and other times having a more subdued synth take center stage. "First Forest" incorporates birdsong with the softest synths heard yet on the album. A gently rocking rhythm lends a slight organic quality to the music, counterpointed by chords and washes that soar up and then down in pitch. Retro synth sounds playing an ascending-descending mini-scale in a variety of musical keys fleshes out the track nicely. The music eventually fades out and all that is left are the birds, singing in the "first forest." Unless your definition of spacemusic only allows for the more minimal and melancholic variety (which, by the way, those types are excellent too, of course), I can't believe you'd be disappointed by adding Zoetosis to your collection. Christopher MacDonald has refined his trademark composing style to a razor-sharp level of skill. While the CD is perfect for those who love the sound of "classic" electronic music from earlier days, it is by no means kitschy, overly-retro, or dripping with nostalgia. Instead, it's an inspired recording reminding the older listener (such as yours truly) that some things (in this case, the majestic sound of the Serge) only get better with age.

Astral Currents Reviews

Telomere space music CD - Astral Currents
From Bill Binkelman, Wind and Wire:
Space music is on the rise again. Maybe it's the weather or maybe it's the presence of Deep Imact and Armageddon. Whatever the reason, I'm hearing a lot of good outer space music. This release by Christopher John MacDonald, a.k.a. Telomere, is a great example of the new stuff being every bit as good as the classics.
From the opening long slow synth washes on the first cut, "Departure," any fan of space music knows he or she is headed into the deep but friendly far flung oasis of inter-galactic blackness. Christopher's music is melodic and warm like the best from early John Serrie. There is no mistaking this for ambient music, at least to my ears. That doesn't mean I can articulate why I'm so sure of this. Yes, the cover art (a nicely done photo of a distant nebula) helps set the stage. But, there is something about true space music that's very recognizable.
As the second song starts, I hear the sound of frogs, but these have to be galactic frogs, 'cause we're in space, right?. Well, maybe there are frogs in the Andromeda galaxy. This song is even more luxuriantly spacy than the opener. The synth washes just seem to go on forever. Christopher has a deft touch when blending his keyboards. The synth chords are a combination of other-worldly sounds and traditional textures. On "Lifecycle" the CD takes a slight side trip into a deeper area of space with a more minimalist sound - sparse, even more formless than the previous drifting style. This is less like Serrie and more like Meg Bowles to my ears. Warmth eventually returns with a very lovely series of synth chords in the background, gradually building into an almost Demby-esque crescendo of sorts.
"Visitation" is even more alien-sounding (so, maybe the CD is a little ambient-noirish). It's still build on long washes of synths, twisting inward then outward. The Constance Demby sound emerges again on parts of "Descent" as well.
Astral Currents is a polished effort in the space music genre. The seamless flow of song to song, with enough varying elemnts to intrigue even jaded ears, makes this a stand-out CD. Telomere is a welcome addition to the ranks of the best deep space drifters beyond the outer rim.
-Bill Binkelman-

From Bert Strolenberg, KLEM Magazine:
(Translated to English by the author)
Well, well, here we have a CD which features some music which is perfectly in line with those made some years ago in the classic tradition of spacemusic. Telomere is Christopher John Macdonald, who's "Astral Currents" is his debut-record. Christopher owns a nice piece of electronic gear, the Serge Modular Synthesizer (also called "The Mighty Serge" by fellow space-travellers Kevin Braheny and Michael Stearns), and therefore a great sound is already guaranteed.
And yes, the listener isn't disappointed at all: Telomere composes beautiful space music with great expanding sound textures that starts off with "Departure", and before you know it, you drift somewhere out there in space, voyaging along in your private spaceship toward stars, planets, and towards what may be behind all that to discover. There are enough mysterious angles, bits and details to be heard on this ongoing non-rhythmic journey, which is very nicely produced and of splendid sound quality throughout. Some nice atmospheres are encountered when enjoyoing this music, as we enter both deeper & lighter regions/aspects of our cosmos. For those who like the first CD's of John Serrie or are still clinged towards Michael Stearns "Planetary Unfolding" should absolutely buy this one. This would be a great companion to a cosmic IMAX-film or planetarium show. I only wanted that the CD lasted longer than the featured 42 minutes, as I think this is too short according to nowadays standards.
Hopefully this CD will soon be available through Groove Unlimited so that is can be shared by a lot of lovers of spacemusic over the world.

(Original review text)
Liefhebbers van traditionele en meeslepende spacemuziek zijn met deze schijf van Telomere aan het goede adres. Telomere is Amerikaan Christopher John McDonald, en deze "Astral Currents" is z'n eerste CD. Voor het maken van dit album maakte Christopher uitsluitend gebruik van niets minder dan de Serge Modular Synthesizer, die door collega-bezitters Kevin Braheny en Michael Stearns ook wel de Mighty Serge wordt genoemd. Het eindresultaat mag er dan ook wezen: prachtige, breed uitwaaierende kosmische muziek met een prachtig mysterieuze ondertoon en nagenoeg geen ritmische elementen die zo kan aansluiten bij genre-klassiekers als Serrie's "And the Stars...." of Stearns "Planetary Unfolding". Lijkt me perfecte muziek voor bij een planetariumshow of kosmische IMAX-film. Voordehandliggende conclusie na bovenstaande is dan ook dat dit goed geproduceerde spacemuziek is die echter naar mijn smaak wat langer had mogen duren (de CD bevat net 42 minuten muziek). Het is het hopen dat deze "Astral Currents" spoedig via Groove te bestellen zal zijn.