Relief will come to those feeling lost and alone amid the air-lanes and space-ways by listening to Cosmic Reef (102:35). With its enveloping mood of confidence and certainty the grandly imaginative and sprawling sonic artistry of Dutch synthesist Arjen Schat feels like it is opening new strands of possibility. As interesting and enjoyable as anything Schat has previously realized, its lush and verdant chords billow out in a drift of cloud-motion - their minor-key tonality setting the atmosphere through which we are meant to travel. Simultaneously detailed and expansive, like maps of neural networks, or constellations of distant stars, lines of echoing notes interweave and tighten in advancing onward motion. From tenebrous beginnings, each track unfolds in the gradually blooming reiteration of the pulse quickening, momentum building hallowed sequencer rite Schat has perfected. Propulsive and captivating, the virtuosity and deliberate pace of his secret synthesizer ceremonies are impressive. Listeners cannot help but be dazzled by the complexity of the patterns, the way the layers interact with one another, and how each track holds fast - coursing fresh, new angles in cascading complexity. The effect is transfixing. Cosmic Reef as a whole is as innovative, ardent and masterly as any of Schat's earlier releases, or (for that matter) those of his contemporaries. A model of the form, and a deep exploration of it, this work possesses the force and insight of Schat at his best. Never less than fascinating, albums by Arjen Schat operate between and beyond the hallowed halls of the Berlin-School - as we find in his music the spirit of this 1970s aesthetic alive with the inflamed spirit of 2020. The future will be got to through the mind and the body - through thinking, feeling and doing. As fans of Spacemusic will listen to and keep pace with Cosmic Reef in a way their more mainstream counterparts will not, those few will find it rising above the darker currents of our world - and may feel heartened, by the best possible accompaniment on our journey into the brighter era yet to come.
Chuck van Zyl/STAR'S END - 12 November 2020