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Quarkspace - Drop. All Music Guide (****1/2)
AMG EXPERT REVIEW: Drop is Quarkspace's third "real" studio album (not counting the Spacefolds series, a collection of raw improvisations). It was released in the public domain as a CD-R on November 17, 2001, as the group was retiring from stage activities. It is available for minimal cost from various space rock vendors, free with every order from the group's record label, Eternity's Jest, and its duplication is authorized and encouraged. Since the lyrics deal with the abuses of a consumerist society, the bandmembers felt uncomfortable with selling the album and thus decided to give it away. And listeners can thank them for that, because Drop stands as their best effort, a fantastic swan song. The eponymous Quarkspace had good moments but lacked some studio proficiency. The Hidden Moon was impressive but a bit overstretched. Every track on Drop is dense, concise, and delightful. New songs (sung by a Chet Santia, still improving as a vocalist) alternate with fresh instrumental tunes. Guitarist Stan Lyon replaces Darren Gough, and a handful of guest musicians appear here and there, including Architectural Metaphor's Greg Kozlowski and Thom the World Poet reciting on the great 20-minute closer, "Blanket Hill." As songcrafters, Quarkspace has become very efficient Meddle-era Pink Floyd trippers. As jammers, they rise even higher than before — and Lyon's guitar work has definitely something to do with it. A group's best album available for free? Why should you pass? Fans and newcomers alike have all the reasons to be very, very happy. — François Couture
From Aural Innovations #18 (January 2002)
The cosmic voyages of Quarkspace, though still as spaced-out as ever, have returned to Earth. Drop has less to do with a "space drop", and more to do with Timothy Leary's famous quote, "Tune in, turn on, and drop out." Shortly after announcing their retirement from live performance, the band announced that their much anticipated third studio album, would be released free into the public domain. Considering the anti-corporate/anti-establishment nature of many of the lyrics, it is certainly fitting.
Musically, Quarkspace are at their strongest. Drop finds a midpoint between the more song oriented material of their first studio album and the longer, spacey freakouts of The Hidden Moon. The band's playing is tighter than ever, the songs are great, and Chet Santia's vocals have dramatically improved.
Song oriented tracks include the opening cut, Spinnin', showcasing some great piano work from Jay Swanson and Santia's searing vocals, and the excellent Sound Inside You, with its catchy melodic hooks, anti-corporate message, and harmony vocals by Bevin Lynch and Kendra Lewis. The Storm is a piano-based pop tune with a Beatlesque melody and nice psychedelic touches, which has a darker sounding sister in Drop Out From the World. Rounding things off is The Lie, which in the tradition of The Circle from The Hidden Moon, takes its cue from early Pink Floyd, and features mellow acoustic guitar and more excellent piano (one of the things I really enjoy about this band is the way they use the piano so effectively, something not a lot of space rock bands do).
Instrumental tracks include Pavlovian Causeway, a bouncy bit of electronica that sounds curiously like a lost Nash the Slash track, and features a guest appearance on synth by Architectural Metaphor's Greg Kozlowski as well as some outstanding melodic bass playing from Santia (it's deep in the mix, so listen for it). In contrast, the deeply spacey Newton's Dream has some eerie, almost bluesy bass, freaky twin guitars, brooding piano, and washes of intergalactic waves. VAZT is an intense electronic workout featuring three synth players, and Bonny Doon, another space fest, is full of complex percussion. Continuing on from where The Hidden Moon left off are Starbridge Freaks 2 and 3, the first a pulsing piece of cool electronica, the latter a moody rocker with nice work on the skins from Paul Williams and dark and edgy guitar-work courtesy of Stan Lyon.
The album ends with the thoroughly astonishing epic, Blanket Hill, featuring the spoken words of Thom the World Poet Woodruff, who theorizes that the tragic Kent State University killings in 1970 were a major turning point in the evolution of humanity. He goes on to explore the consequences in current events of today and the future of humankind being "unarmed as an evolutionary choice". Underneath his words, the band plays some truly frightening space rock that underlines the dark and scary theme of the lyrics (even more relevant after the events of September 11). As the World Poet finishes his musings, the band finally breaks out into an intense, high energy jam with several other guest musicians including Greg Kozlowski again, this time on synth and guitar, as well as Steve Hayes on synth, and Cameron Tummel providing excellent percussive backing to Paul Williams' drumming.
Drop may lack a bit of the conceptual feel of The Hidden Moon, but more than makes up for it with some of the best song writing and instrumental explorations Quarkspace have ever produced. And of course, you can't beat the price!
To download the entire Drop album in Mp3 format you can visit the Quarkspace web site at: http://quarkspace.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Eternity's Jest Records; PMB 212; 1487 W. Fifth Ave; Columbus, OH 43212.
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald
And so the American masters of intergalactic soundscapes, Quarkspace, grace the public with their latest studio album, Drop. Or give it away, more like. Feeling that commercially releasing a record with an anti-commercial theme running across it would be hypocritical, not to mention an awfully risible paradox, the band has refused to sell Drop and instead made available the record in its entirety as mp3s at the official Quarkspace website, not to mention the fact that it also encourages everyone (that's right, everyone including you) to get the music to the far reaches of the universe by whatever means possible, as long as the dirty smell of profit isn't intervening.
Mighty kind of these musicians, that's for sure. Because Drop soars just like the wonderfully hallucinatory Spacefolds improvisations, trips out on late sixties psychedelia with peaceful clouds of smoke floating away through the air, and closes the festival with a frightfully theatrical performance that…well, let's leave that for later, shall we? For the moment being, the space devotee will have nebulae and stardust aplenty to satisfy his astronaut shortcomings and dive through a musical wormhole of vast reach, tripping out on the swirling electronics of tracks such as "Starbridge Freaks 2" and "Vazt." Contact? Star Wars? Mere illusions of the astral domain that Quarkspace rules over in engrossing pulses of light and shadow.
Just as asteroids spin silently by and distant lights glimmer surrounded by a planetary system canvas, however, the album also engages in a time traveling mood back to the Earthly reigns of spacey psychedelia, where peaceful mental flight takes hold and tripped out hippies sing of integrity and identity in the face of modern control. And so it is that Drop alternates continuously between the outer reaches of the universe in electronic exploration and psychedelic songs with an ineludible retro sound, with the former constituting the most engaging part of the record and the latter an interesting series of interludes that becomes quite nice, although not adamantly unforgettable, after getting used to it.
But it is when a planetary collision of sorts occurs between the two that the ending piece, "Blanket Hill," acquires the revolutionary verve of Thorn the World Poet Woodruff and the band provides a chilling collection of synthesizer swirls and rock atmospherics that culminates Drop in an interplanetary musical orgasm. Teeming with the apocalyptic synergy of The Doors' "The End" and a frighteningly intense recital from Woodruff regarding the fight for peace, freedom, and equality in a world where oppression and control are juggernauts of power, the twenty-minute odyssey continues its stride relentlessly and viscerally, heading straight for the synapses in one's brain and setting fire to them with sheer atmospheric intensity. It takes someone extraordinary to give something like this away for free. It's happening. Now. Get off your chair and do something about it already!
-by Marcelo Silveyra
Quarkspace - "Spacefolds 7"
(Eternity's Jest Records 2001, EJ0022)
From Aural Innovations #16 (June 2001)
Quarkspace is back with yet another in their Spacefolds series of instrumental improvisations. The main difference on Spacefolds 7 is that while for some time Stan Lyon had been an unofficial second guitarist, he has joined the band full time since the departure of Dave Wexler late last year. I've long said Quarkspace would appeal to progressive rock fans as much as space rockers and this is true more so than ever on Spacefolds 7. Believe me, the cosmic elements are present in heaping mind expanding portions, but there's a symphonic quality to the music that proggers would love. There's also a complexity to the music that isn't easily apparent, but if you listen close you'll hear multiple layers of keyboards, ambience, and endless embellishing electronic bits that serve to build a beautifully sonic whole. There's even a detour into minimalist Frippertronics territory on the giveaway titled tune, "Chippertronics, Vol 1". And though these are improvisations, the music has a composed feel that allows the listener to jam along with the band while never questioning the certainty of destination. But this is only natural as these guys have played together for many years now. A large part of what I enjoy is the combination of bass and piano with ambient space to give the music a sense of rhythm and melody that Quarkspace excels at.
In summary, Quarkspace have an easily recognizable sound. No small achievement. And while comparisons are tenuous at best, it's safe to say that fans of Pink Floyd, Ozric Tentacles, Ash Ra Tempel, and the like would be thrilled with what they hear. And I have to throw in, as always, that the sound on Quarkspace CDs is top quality and listeners who submit to the headphones will find themselves in the first class section on the shuttle to the black, red, green, and blue stars beyond. Why pay the Russians $20 million when for $6 you can spend 70 minutes traveling to realms that mere human technology can only dream of?
For more information you can visit the Quarkspace web site at: http://quarkspace.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Eternity's Jest Records; PMB 212; 1487 W. Fifth Ave; Columbus, OH 43212.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz
All Music Guide Review (****) by François Couture
The seventh installment in trippy space rock outfit Quarkspace's series, Spacefolds 7 takes yet another direction and manages to top its predecessor in terms of quality improvisation and cohesion. The series concept is to quickly deliver studio improvisations in order to let the fans know of the band's evolution. While Spacefolds 5 was strongly influenced by techno and Spacefolds 6 came back to the prog/space roots of the group, this CD presents 12 soft journeying pieces. Paul Williams' electronic drums take a less prominent role, letting ripples of synthesizers and atmospheric guitar slowly unfold. The trilogy formed by "Black Star Shining," "Green Star Shooting," and "Blue Star Glowing" is reminiscent of Tangerine Dream (plus percussion) and Ash Ra Temple. It provides some of the album's best moments. Melodies and rhythmic patterns slowly arise, all backed by Chet Santia's bass lines. On "Chippertronics, Vol. 1," someone develops a loop piece à la Robert Fripp's early Frippertronics. The music on Spacefolds 7 is by no mean forced upon the listener: it flows and develop naturally and always remains light, ethereal. Even the busiest passages eschew the kind of hypnotic dance drive Ozric Tentacles usually lock into. This is a welcomed addition to the series and an enjoyable place to start exploring the band's catalog.
Quarkspace - "Spacefolds 6"
(Eternity's Jest Records 2000, EJ0021)
From Aural Innovations #12 (September 2000)
The latest from Quarkspace is yet another in the Spacefolds series of all-improvised instrumentals. And a fine set it is! Quarkspace have created some wonderful composed songs, but excel as a tightly knit improv unit and the Spacefolds series exists to showcase this side of the band.
The disc opens with "Sheep Farm". There's a clear sense of rhythm, and the percussion and bass set a steady and prominent pace while the guitars and synths do their exploratory magic. There's just barely enough here to make this dancable, but trippers can relax, secure in the knowledge that they can sit back, close their eyes, and tag along for the journey. "Sturm Und Calm" is similar though there's some very cool synth lines at the end that sound like an old dark Van Der Graaf Generator bit. "Bonzo's G.S.B." is more dancable, a bit funky, even with a bit of a cosmic lounge feel at times, but is also one of the more deceptively busy tracks on the disc. Multiple keyboards, synths, and guitars occupy themselves seemingly in their own world, yet it all comes together to create a controlled and cohesive whole, the hallmark of any great improvisational unit.
Another highlight track is "D.O.B.H. #1", a cool freaky electronica and guitar tune. The band tosses out the rhythm on this number in favor of freeform space meandering, reminding me of some of the great guitar/electronic combinations Ash Ra Tempel did so well in the 70's, but with the distinct Quarkspace sound. Finally, Quarkspace has several times in the past incorporated techno influences into their music and "Funkpalast At Brian's Wormhole" is probably the most overt example I've heard yet. Now the only reason I never explore techno as a genre is because it's so singly focused on the techno beat. Pound that dancefloor! Quarkspace, on the other hand, utilize techno as an influence and make it an element, albeit a strong one on this song, of a larger whole. And the result is a totally funky space groove.
In summary, the Quarkspace trademark sound hasn't changed, but the band continues to evolve as an ensemble of musicians and these are some of their best improvs to date. Quarkspace have major crossover potential as this music would easily appeal to spacerockers, progheads, and all manner of electronica fans. Also note that the production and sound quality of Quarkspace recordings is fantastic and a headphone immersion into this disc will be rewarded many times over.
You can visit Quarkspace at their web site.
Contact via snail mail at Eternity's Jest Records; PMB 212; 1487 W. Fifth Ave; Columbus, OH 43212.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz
All Music Guide Review (****) by François Couture
The sixth installment in Quarkspace's ongoing series of space rock improvs, Spacefolds 6 showcases the best "on the spot" material the band has released yet. The Spacefolds concept consists of capturing the band improvising, keeping the best bits, and releasing them. These CDs (cassettes in the case of the first three) were never treated like full-fledged albums (including very basic packaging) and it was true — prior to number 6, Spacefolds served as a laboratory for the band and the series couldn't be considered on the same level as Quarkspace or The Hidden Moon. However, the trend ends here, with Spacefolds 6. Still totally improvised, this material is very mature and stands on its own. The almost techno feel found on Spacefolds 5 is better integrated and sounds less alienating. Bass and drums are more prominent, giving the band's sound a drive close to Ozric Tentacles at times. Even the disco flooring on "Funkpalast at Brian's Wormhole" works nicely with all the swirling synthesizers and the Moog solo. The sound quality is excellent and the whole album is a lot less ethereal than The Hidden Moon, making it more danceable. "The Strangest String" is one of the band's strongest pieces ever, written or improvised. Strongly recommended.
quarkspace - "Spacefolds 5" (Eternity's Jest Records 1999, CD)
From Aural Innovations #3 (July 1998)
The newest release from quarkspace is a CD continuation of the earlier Spacefolds cassette series. The Spacefolds series is something of a musical band diary featuring recent improv instrumentals. quarkspace is still Chet Santia on bass, Jay Swanson on synths, Dave Wexler on guitar, Paul Williams on synths, drums, and loops, and Darren Gough on guitar.
There are seven tunes on this 70 minute disc, some of which are more cool quarky space excursions, and some venturing into somewhat different territory. The disc opens with "Recaesarian" which sees the band further exploring the techno territory that has been hinted at on earlier releases. But please read on if the techno term turns you off because this isn't your standard relentless rave beat muck whose only purpose is to keep you on the dance floor for a 24 hour stretch. quarkspace combines techno with the recognizable quarkspace sound to produce something far more interesting and listenable. We've got the techno beats, but we've also got the cool space excursions which somehow don't seem to contrast with each other at all. In fact, the band is exploring the possibility of playing raves, which could well expose that crowd to more substantial music while still giving them something to... uhhh... "rave" to.
"qspace Pixies" takes us into the kind of space territory that should please fans of quarkspace's Live Orion release from last year. This sounds essentially like two tracks as there is a several minute jam (with some brief Gong-like chanting) that fades out and then becomes something completely new. I love quarkspace tunes that prominently feature piano. The piano and guitar each carry a main melody while trading off the forefront role. The bass thuds away and occasional freaky synth bits pop up throughout. This is yet another one of those tracks that could be described as, "if the Allman Brothers were a spacerock band".
Another standout track is "Voyage" which, though firmly in the quarkspace mold, has a strong Pink Floyd sound in spots. Very much on the ambient side as well. This one will carry you away quietly while still holding your attention with music. "We Are QPR" is something of a space symphony and my favorite on the disc. The band explores a variety of moods and moves from quark jamming to quiet journeys into atmosphere and sound. A flute sound is simulated that embellishes the music very nicely.
Spacefolds 5 should hold us over until "The Hidden Moon", quarkspace's second studio CD. It will be a double-CD release and is due Summer 1999.
You can visit quarkspace at their web site.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz
All Music Guide Review (**) by François Couture
Spacefolds 5 is very different from previous installments in the Spacefolds series. The first volume to be released on CD, it features the band experimenting with electronic music. Many tracks have a techno feel (especially "Recaesarian"). The music is mostly loop-based, and that is why the band took this tangential direction. One must not forget that this series is like a laboratory, which implies both hits and misses. The band's relation to dance-based electronic music will grow and be better integrated into its sound on the studio album The Hidden Moon. Space rock and prog rock fans will probably still feel hungry after listening to Spacefolds 5. Pieces are longer but also more linear. Still, some improvisations are top Quarkspace material, the two best being "Qspace Pixies" and the 15-minute ambient jam "We Are Qpr." This is not the best volume in this series; newcomers should begin with Spacefolds 6.
quarkspace - "The Hidden Moon" (Eternity's Jest Records 1999, CD)
In my goal to discover new and interesting sounds for lovers of progressive rock, I present you the last album -a double CD - of this wonderful band from Columbus, Ohio, Quarkspace. The line-up is Chet Santia (bass, acoustic guitar, voices), Jay Swanson (synthesisers), Dave Wexler (guitar), Paul Williams (synthesisers, drums, loops, voices), and Darren Gough (guitar).
Their music core is cosmic space rock, to which brushstrokes of krautrock, progressive, techno and blues are added. This is their fourth official CD, in a discography that includes an impressive first CD Quarkspace, a second live album Live at Orion that shows their improvisation capabilities, and a third minor album of improvisations Spacefolds 5. In the past, the group also published a series of four cassettes of improvisations. Dave and Paul have also released an album as National Steam in 1998, more spacey and less complex.
After this brief introduction to Quarkspace, let us now analyse their last CD, The hidden moon. it has a really beautiful cover, with pictures from the artist David Gulotta, on a very similar style to that of Dalí, which already provides us an indication of the musical path these gentlemen walk by. As I have already mentioned, it is a double CD, with more than 145 minutes of music. Obviously, it is difficult to maintain a constant clarity and quality of ideas for this long time, and this is in my opinion the only global defect of this album. Nevertheless, it is very easy to condense in one hour a selection of the best moments, which would really deserve 5 stars.
In my opinion, it is worthwhile to highlight the easiness with which these four musicians move around different styles, being driven by music, without any hurry, improvising, and always maintaining interesting and complex structures. Their music presents clear influences, but they are perfectly integrated to create their own sound and advance a step forward.
We can distinguish four different styles in the 15 tracks of this CD, always with the departure point being an omnipresent space, cosmic sound:
1) In my opinion, the less attractive songs are those that include a more techno-electronic influence (as The Orb, Orbital, or Ozric Tentacles). The space-sound base is fabulous, with a spectacular work of the different musicians, but my brain is not able to mix the sound of the samples and loops with that of the remaining instruments. Nevertheless, I believe that we can expect from them that in the next CD this amalgam of sounds will be more precise. The best examples in this album are "Starbridge Freaks" and "Park rangers".
2) A second group of songs adds to the stew influences from krautrock, as that of the best Can or Amon Duul. In this album, the best example is "Krautball's demise", a fabulous song with heart-breaking guitars, keyboards that invite you to get up and dance and jump and fly, and a happy bouncing bass/drums sound.
3) Many tracks take us on a trip into the interstellar space flirting with psychedelia and blues, with well used influences from Hawkwind, the first Tangerine Dream, Soft Machine or even the Meddle - Atom Heart Mother period of Pink Floyd. Worth highlighting are "Nebula", and the monstrous and long (19 minutes) "Where Galaxies collide", a marvellous sample of head music. Listen to this in darkness and silence, and fly away….
4) Finally, in each album of the group, some delicate and brilliant progressive melodic jewels are included: those songs in which Chet Santia sings. A sensual and ethereal voice, similar to that of sweetest Peter Gabriel (sometimes I could believe Peter is in my room) or Nick Drake, in wonderful mid-tempo songs -please enjoy the 13 minutes of "Somebody else's dream" and "The Circle". In these pieces guitars move smoothly with slide guitar riffs and passages on the style of Camel or King Crimson, keyboards drift and create a pleasant ambient base, while the rhythm section plays in our ears. These songs, that at first, surprise us for being far from the habitual style in the group, are jewels.
In conclusion, Quarkspace has shown again their capacity to advance musically, with a very interesting album that although ends up being too long (almost two and a half hours of music), will transport you to the space and the stars. An advice, go to their web, listen to the sound samples, and buy their albums (firstly the first and the last one). You will not be defrauded.
José Nafría, Progvisions, Spain - January 2000
quarkspace - "The Hidden Moon" (Eternity's Jest Records 1999, CD)
quarkspace has had a hefty output of music since 1996, but The Hidden Moon is the first of what the band considers a regular studio release since their first self-titled CD. And speaking of hefty, this is a 2-CD set packed with over 70 minutes of music on each disc. From Columbus, Ohio, the band's lineup has remained stable and still includes Paul Williams on drums and keyboards, Jay Swanson on keyboards, Darren Gough on guitar, Dave Wexler on guitar, and Chet Santia on bass and vocals. Guest Stan Lyon adds guitar to "Teather" and has also added some fine work to a couple recent live quarkspace performances.
Eternity's Jest Records' motto is a dedication to freaky sounds and The Hidden Moon is packed full of all things freaky, dreamily flowing, and even fun. Right from the beginning we hear "attention alien aircraft!", and the disc one opens with "Prince", a song that has been a staple of the band's live shows for a while. This is a classic quarkspace journey packed with soaring cosmic space guitar licks that are like a musical meteor shower. Among the other highlight tracks on disc one is "Starbridge Freaks" which features the band experimenting more with samples. The song opens with a wild techno sample that provides the focus around which the band explores. "Starbridge Freaks" blends very smoothly into "Bone's Blues For Planet X", something a little different for quarkspace and one of my favorites on this set. The song is aptly titled as this is indeed cosmic blues. The song is a Wexler showcase as he trips along a solar Mississippi Delta. Things build to high levels of intensity with wildly shooting synths accompanying the space blues. "Krautball's' Demise" is, at 17 minutes, the epic of disc one. I'm a bit ambivalent about this track. On the one hand it's a classic quarkspace jamming journey with great sounds. But for this listener it doesn't quite justify it length. Too much else on Hidden Moon succeeds in retaining the quarkspace sound while managing to establish a sense of individuality.
Disc two opens strong with "I Bet He's Looking For The Spaceman", an ambient journey that feels like a quiet overture to a space symphony. True to the title we hear a sample of a boy's voice saying "I bet he's looking for the spaceman!". In the last few minutes the pace picks up a bit. A rapid fire percussion beat is accompanied by swirling synths and various other intermingled sounds. The pace continues to pick up until VERY abruptly cutting out... but we are led oh so smoothly into the "The Circle", a vocal track I'll touch on shortly. Other highlights from disc two include "Nebula", another ambient journey piece but with more of Wexler's bluesy guitar giving it a bit of a Pink Floyd sound. On "Park Rangers" the band is once again world soccers' spacerock poster boys. Computerized electro samples lay the groundwork for this bouncy tune and Eternity's Jests' dedication to the freaky is most prominent. "No. 5" is a similar electro sample based tune but even more freaky. Actually it sounds somewhat like Bill Nelson from his post-Be Bop Deluxe electro experimental days. Disc two's epic is "Where Galaxies Collide", a spacerock opera of sorts that does really rock out as it moves through a number of movements and tells it's tale (see sidebar).
Finally, the band's melodic side is present on Hidden Moon as well. "Somebody Else's Dream" and "The Circle" are standout vocal tracks, and Santia's acoustic songs getting quarkasized are a trademark of the quarkspace sound. I had long known Chet does solo acoustic shows but only heard him for the first time recently. His is a melancholy Nick Drake style (though he hasn't heard Drake) and this type of dark, laid back, but passionate song style works well in the quarkspace universe. "The Circle" in my opinion has the strongest melody of any quarkspace vocal track to date. Wexler plays what sounds like a space country slide guitar and combined with organ sounds great. The first time I heard this tune was live with the Solar Fire Lightshow swirling on the band so it's really stuck with me.
A word about listening to Hidden Moon... to fully benefit from all that is happening on this disc I highly recommend headphones if you don't have a really good stereo. I heard it probably a half dozen times (NOT a good stereo) before putting on the headphones and it was like hearing it for the first time. Contact Eternity's Jest Records at PMB 212; 1487 W. Fifth Ave; Columbus, OH 43212. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. On the web: http://quarkspace.com. - Jerry Kranitz, Aural Innovations Magazine
Quarkspace: The Hidden Moon (2CD, 1999 Eternity's Jest Records)
Quarkspace's spaceship is sailing at warp 9. Since the release of their first CD in 1996, projects abound. The Spacefolds cassette and CD series, the National Steam spin-off project, the excellent Live Orion CD released last year. And now, here they are with a new studio album, The Hidden Moon. A two-cd album. That's 150 minutes of a very special space rock.
Quarkspace is Chet Santia on bass, acoustic guitar and vocals, Jay Swanson on synths, Dave Wexler on guitar, Paul Williams on synths, drums and loops and Darren Gough on guitar. The band approaches space rock in a way that is their own. There is such a thing a "Quarkspace sound". A lot more laid-back than Alien Planetscapes, Ozric Tentacles or Tribe of Cro, Quarkspace's space rock gives support to the listener, it leaves him/her travel to his/her own pace, rather than pushing him/her in the back with an hallucinatory and insisting beat. At Quarkspace's, space rock flirts with psychedelia and even some kind of new age at times. There is less electronic percussion on The Hidden Moon than on the previous efforts and also less vocals, which is a good thing. Santia's voice is very peculiar and it can indispose an otherwise benevolent listener. The kind of voice you will deeply love or hate.
With its 150minutes, The Hidden Moon has a lot to offer. But I must say that the second CD is stronger than the first. There are few longish tracks on CD 1, songs that doesn't live up to the expectations ("Somebody Else's Dream" sounds like it'll never end), but every track on CD 2 is a must-have. "The Circle" recalls Pink Floyd's "Fearless", "Park Rangers" introduces some electronic elements to the Quarkspace sound (something hinted on Spacefolds 5). But the magnum opus is found on CD 2 in the likes of "Where Galaxies Collide", an 18 minute epic, an strange hybrid of space and prog. This is not an extended jam. Changes are numerous, the atmosphere is torrid, the trip is perfect. This track has the word classic written all over it.
If Quarkspace's music doesn't have the dansable pulse of Ozric Tentacles', it also doesn't have the repetitiveness of the latter. Quarkspace is surely the most original space rock band of this decade. The Hidden Moon is the dreamer's ideal companion. And the gatefold case is covered with colourful paintings by David Gulotta.
© 1999 François Couture, All Rights Reserved.
QUARKSPACE / Live Orion (1998, Eternity's Jest Records)
Quarkspace. Remember that name. Remember it well. Because today's space rock music conjugates with Quarkspace. If bands like Ozric Tentacles and Porcupine Tree gave back this musical genre its crown, Quarkspace will soon eclipse them.
Quarkspace is Chet Santia on bass and vocals (very ethereal : is he singing or just breathing?), Jay Swanson on keyboards, Dave Wexler and Darren Gough on guitars and Paul Williams on drums. The band records since 1996. First, four cassette releases in 1996 and 1997 under the title Spacefolds which present studio improvisations. Then, in 1996, an eponymous CD, this time focusing on shorter songs. Both projects were very promising and Quarkspace definitely earned their place among the American space rock newcomers like Alien Planetscapes and Architectural Metaphor.
But today Quarkspace rises above all of them and shines. The new space rock star. Live Orion has been recorded live in October 1997 at the Orion Space Rock Festival (for all but one track). The album showcases Quarkspace at their best, in mindblowing shape and in all their diversity. The CD contains live versions of some of the songs on their first CD, revisited and far better than the original versions (like " Air " and " In My Lost Mind "), new songs, space improvisations (of course!) and even some improvs released in the Spacefolds series that the guys learned and transformed (such as the beautiful " Faerienot Space "). Over an hour of a magic and trippy space rock. Quarkspace cooks an ethereal music, smooth, all in textures and moods, nothing like the twirling rhythms of Ozric Tentacles. A gentle piano, a tiptoed bass line, some guitar licks. A perfect sound. Pure pleasure. Sit back, relax, enjoy. - Francois Coutere, Delire Musical on Live Orion.
The Live At Orion CD illustrates how important it is to experience this type of music in a live environment, and how this band in particular shines when performing live. Quarkspace is somewhat unique among the current crop of space rock bands in that they aren't from the hard edged Hawkwind camp, nor can they be firmly categorized in the dreamier ambient space camp. What stands out on this CD is a band whose roots are very much in the classic jam rock camp, but add enough elements of space in their sound, and ambience in the atmosphere to make them a space band. When they really start to cook they have been compared to the Allman Brothers, and there are tracks here that feature this sound. Like the Allmans, each instrument is clearly distinguishable from the others, yet all play cooperatively to produce some kick ass rock music that has the added benefit of blasting the listener into the cosmos. On other tracks I'm reminded of the the glory days of psychedelic stretching out, but with a higher level of instrumental proficiency than was characterisic of many bands in that genre.
Vocal numbers are interspersed with the instrumentals and Chet Santia's voice reminds me of a harder edged Peter Gabriel. This release will mark the first Quarkspace vocal numbers since their 1996 debut CD, and those familiar with that release should note how the music, though in a "song" context, is often just as busy and interesting as on the purely instrumental tracks. For those not familiar with Quarkspace this live performance is an excellent starting point. Highly recommended. - Jerry Kranitz, Aural Innovations
"While the material on Quarkspace's CD release (see review in issue #11) has more of a song focus, these tapes feature the band's more improvisational and spacey side. All of the matenal on both Spacefolds tapes are extracts from hundreds of hours of purely instrumental space explorations by this Ohio based five-piece. In general, with Spacefolds 1, their approach is not of the driving rock type, but rather a more spaced and tnppy free-fomm style, that sort of half-dream state dual guitar propelled sound that one might find on early albums of Amon Duul 2, or the Grateful Dead around the time of their second or third album. A swirling maelstrom of psychedelic guitars, bass and keys, with solos floating in and out of view. The Percussive element is varied throughout, which keeps the output interesting over the duration. On Spacefolds 2, there is a slightly more prominent role for keyboards and synths in the scheme of their improvisational style. Also, they dabble with sampled voice elements and a dancier beat on one track. In all, these are two outstanding collections, and in some ways the material here might equal or even surpasses that on their disc. Apparently the band plans for Spacefolds to be a quarterly series. Definitely should be of interest to enlightened space travelers, to whom I can recommend these highly." - Peter Thelen, Expose Magazine
"Having been impressed with Quarkspace's recent debut CD, I was pleased to hear that the band had now also released a cassette of instrumentals. In an earlier post about the CD, I noted that Quarkspace has a talent for good songs with interesting music behind them. On their new cassette release, Spacefolds I, the SPACE in Quarkspace really shines. Anyone who likes the Ozrics, Porcupine Tree, Spacious Mind, etc would have to love this stuff. I've listened to the cassette three times so far and I like that even when the band stretches out into cosmic jams, the music seems to follow a path without meandering. And even though the CD is more song-oriented, the music behind the songs is still recognizable on the space cassette. That is to say, there is a distinct "Quarkspace sound". I am not connected with the band, but really think these guys should be heard. If anyone is interested in the CD and/or cassette email the band at email@example.com. Hell, you can get the cd AND cassette for the same price and most regular prog CD's!" - Jerry Kranitz - Prog Rock Home Page
"What a refreshing difference. I heard the term `experimental' come about when i got this demo, and i didn't expect anything sensational...maybe offbeat, but nonething like this. This is quarkspace, an interesting mix of unidentifiable influences mashed into a band. It says that they've been jamming since 84' so I can tell they probably have gone through gobs of changes.Their tracks sound somewhat related, maybe it is a concept album, who knows....the words definetly don't help on that one. There is percussion, goign back and forth, not really simplistic, though not some mecca or Zakir Hussain either, you know. Nice, just right. Guitar floats amist in the background, I think, setting the backdrop for this along with the percussion upon which other elements of the music can introduce themselves, such as synths, bass. The other elements come in and out from time to time, along with the voices, but there defiently is a chorus going on in some of the songs. Sort of a nasal voice, but it was there. I have a hard time descibing this band. If you could take some psychedelic rock drenched in light percussion, and some pink floyd and some pil and some satrani and vai, maybe then we might have something. the guitars aren't of that level of vai etc, but they have that sort of 80's feel to them, solos. All very well crafted by this band which obviously deserves more credit than it gets. Check this out if true`experimental' music is your shit. Their email:EJestRecs@aol.com" - k u s h a r o r a - tunnel magazine
"quarkspace, a longtime band from Columbus Oh, laid down a spacey, drifting groove reminiscent of 70s space-rock innovations. With a slow trance-like rhythm and pleasing synth-guitar interplay, their musical voyages made the trip to other worlds seem perfectly reasonable. Their tunes would make a great movie soundtrack." - Pete Strojny, Louisville Music News
"Quarkspace have been together off and on since 1984. They play a style of music that has fallen on hard times in terms of popularity in the last decade or so; a style that was called "space rock". The main proponents of this type of music were Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Gong, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and more recently the genre has new champions in the recordings of bands such as Ozric Tentacles, Darxtar, Ship Of Fools and Porcupine Tree. One might also use as a point of reference the long dreamy jams of The Grateful Dead. You may hear some of all of these artists in the music of Quarkspace but you will also hear something that is distinctly their own. Whether that something special is coming from the individual players or from the unique combinations of those players is not totally clear. They do take you on a journey into another realm where rock music & electronics co-exist and transform each other into something that is wholly Quarkspace." - Steve Roberts, ZNR Records
"Well, I am biased on this one, as I am a spacerock fan first and foremost, although I enjoy a wide variety of other prog artists, but this was the group I was most interested in seeing. I had heard very little of their work before (they have a four-song sampler cassette available from their upcoming CD), so I was curious what sort of spacey music I'd hear. I was impressed with the number of different styles they played. Despite the group's name suggests a Hawkwind-type clone, their music never really sounded like Hawkwind to me. They did spacey improv material that reminded me of Amon Duul (particularly the Hawk meets Penguin album - the 'Welsh' Amon Duul) or Sweden's The Spacious Mind. They also had some more standard tunes (with low, subdued vocals) reminiscent of Pink Floyd's Obscured by Clouds. Other spacey pieces had guitar soloing by a second lead guitarist (who was apparently a guest, as only four people were listed in the program), who had a fluid soloing style not unlike Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree - also a bit of slide guitar work as well. There is room for improvement, though...the band had very little stage presence whatsoever...that would be fine, if they were to mask themselves in darkness and put all the visual emphasis on a light show a la Hawkwind or Ozric Tentacles...that'd be perfectly appropriate, but this was a normally lighted stage, and they appeared a bit self-conscious. Also, the vocals were hard to hear, not just because of the sound, but they weren't sung dynamically. And the percussionist is limited by the fact that his kit is entirely electronic. While that doesn't bother me in some cases (it worked well for the spacey improv material when the rhythms were 'tribal' yet electronic in nature anyway), I don't care for the 'tinny' sound of these drums in a rock setting, where they are used as a 'surrogate' for real drums. This was the case about 30-40% of the time. They really need two kits, or another person on another rig with real toms and such. The talent of the drummer though was undeniable." - Keith Henderson, Ohio State University
"Though Columbus, Ohio's Quakspace has been bill as a spacerock band, their very good debut CD is actually that and more. Of the 14 songs on the disc only two (live songs) are overt space jams. HOWEVER, the rest of the disc, though very song oriented, is backed by fascinating playing that is adventurous, hynotizing, and even in some cases comes across as structured improv. If Quarkspace's music could be compared to anyone the most obvious is Peter Gabriel. One of the things I love most about Gabriel's music is he does great songs with exciting music behind it. This is how most of the Quarkspace songs struck me. Interestingly enough, band member Paul Williams indicated to me some surprise over the interest he's received in the songs. Apparently most of the band's music (seems they have many hours recorded) really is on the intrumental space side. But these songs really are very good so I hope the band doesn't abandon them completely. So it sounds like this is a band that can be counted on for some exciting *variety*. Though the CD is highly song oriented I can't recommend this disc enough to space fans. Hell, who doesn't love hearing great Daevid Allen songs and then wild way out Gong jams (don't answer that! :-) ) Anyway, I'm not connected with the band in any way, but they are local to me and deserve to be heard. If interested, email the band at EJestRecs@aol.com". - Jerry Kranitz, Progressive Rock Home Page
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