Spyra: Staub
Butterfly Collectors

Inner sleeve text provides helpful context for Staub, a fifty-minute album by long-time electronic music composer and sound artist Wolfram Spyra: “Over the last three years I've been hanging around a lot in the US, England, Poland, Ukraine, and at home in Germany, with a lot of time on my hands. I got to thinking about electronic music and its genesis, asking myself where it all started and where it's at now. After making fifteen studio albums in twenty years, I knew that if I was going to record another one, I would simply have to make a change. Somewhere, at some time, I started experimenting with an old JUNO 6 and fell in love with sequences all over again ... Late in 2013 I started to record my sessions, always in the middle of the night while the city was falling asleep ... At last, I was back, dreamily, in my element.”

Staub, then, symbolizes a re-invention of sorts for Spyra, a bold attempt to wipe the slate clean and distill his considerable knowledge and expertise into an single, encompassing statement. Surrendering freely to his muse, the producer generated the album's six settings live and in the process midwifed a powerful yet accessible epic that both honours and carries on the experimental traditions of krautrock and synthesizer-based electronica.

At album's start, the dark moodscape “Dusk” casts an entrancing spell in pairing the twinkle of high-pitched starlight melodies with lower-pitched textures that pulsate ominously and percussive patterns that lash aggressively. At this early juncture, a sense of threat pervades the material, but the subsequent pieces eschew gloom for sunnier climes: the dazzling glimmer of organ-like tones imbues “Glacier,” for instance, with a graceful quality, before cyclical repetitions nudge the increasingly hypnotic music in the direction of Glass-styled minimalism, while “Ecce Homo” (Behold the man), its title obviously calling Nietzsche to mind, rolls out wave upon wave of pulsating cross-patterns for a resplendent twelve minutes.

There are numerous sequences where one could be forgiven for thinking that the music on offer is by Tangerine Dream as opposed to Spyra, but that's anything but a criticism. Halfway through the title track, for instance, the music dreamily sways in a manner reminiscent of Phaedra but then recovers, growing ever more clear-headed and resolute as it makes its way towards the finish line. Coloured with pastoral, flute-like synth tones, the glistening serenade “Etude” similarly could fit into Phaedra's playlist without anyone raising an eyebrow. Put simply, the fact that Staub could be mistaken for lost material produced by Tangerine Dream during its greatest creative period should be seen as high praise indeed.

January 2015