In his music project Stratosphere, guitarist Ronald Mariën, creates loop and effect heavy music that drones and burbles, tinkles and undulates, as if acknowledging the fragility of the state it offers. With his album Collaborations I (72'28") he pairs off with nine other musicians to produce as many tracks in a distinctive range of new music. Mariën provides each collaborator with an atmosphere over which they may lay their signature sounds - each adding something to the effort that Mariën cannot conjure on his own. As ghostly assemblages of drifting guitar textures meet muted synthetic harmonies, we might zone out through whole songs at a time - only to become startled by some pristine sonic detail buried in the mix. In the restless surge of advancing tones the listener may find strength in the stillness - just as easily as the next track unleashes a lava-hot guitar drone "deal-with-it" drum jam. While some efforts do take the ear strangely, Collaborations I also provides enough reassuring ambient thought zones to color the listening space with familiar tones and warm temperatures. In the movement of these masses of sound, and the resulting radiant, translucent conditions, we find a certain comfort in all the openness, space, possibility and even the danger - as each track struggles for its own unity and cohesion.
- Chuck van Zyl/STAR'S END 19 April 2018