I'm a wide-ranging connoisseur of Berlin School electronica, but Chuck Van Zyl's compositions are rich, complex and atmospheric beyond almost anything else out there. One experiences a truly otherworldly cosmic structure, undergirded by driving sequencers and clear textures, which qualifies him as one original masters of the second generation. "Testament of Youth" and "The Theory Changes the Reality It Describes" are uniquely haunting.
Favorite track: Testament of Youth.
Originally released as an audio cassette in 1991, "The Xyl File" compiled four pieces from the first two tape offerings by Chuck van Zyl. In fact, released under the name Xyl, Low Glide (10:10), Nuclear Winter (14:24), The Theory Changes the Reality It Describes (23:07) and Runway (14:29) were among the very first electronic realizations produced by the noted Electronic Musician Chuck van Zyl. Twenty five years on, we find these works (originally from as far back as 1985) to be surprisingly well-conceived and executed for an artist just at the outset of a life-long journey into space and sound.
Re-issued on CD in 2016 (with two fellow tracks from the same prior period) by the Philadelphia based independent label Industry8, "The Xyl File" (73:32) presents an impressive range of textures, atmospheres, moods and energy levels. From desolate soundscapes of metallic drones and chilled fallout chimes, and darkening fields of sustaining sci-fi zones, to cruise missile sequencer cascades, and the echoing rush of warped-out mechanized tone patterns, each of these re-mastered and re-vitalized tracks imaginatively explore all the dark, light, loud and quiet realms available to the learned synthesist. What sets this music apart from that of its contemporaries is an enthusiasm, optimism and ambition found only in the beginner.
Exposed to an astounding depth and range of music while producing the WXPN radio programs DIASPAR and STAR'S END (1980-onward), Chuck van Zyl became most deeply moved by album discoveries out of the Berlin-School of EM. Obvious titles by Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream and Michael Hoenig such as "Mirage", "Rubycon" and "Departure From the Northern Wasteland" certainly influenced the works found on "The Xyl File"; as did their near relatives "Oxygene" by Jean-Michel Jarre, "Iceland" by Richard Pinhas, and even the much more avant-ambient "Sonic Seasonings" by Wendy Carlos and "Hearing Solar Winds" by David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir. But perhaps of even greater significance was the encouragement and friendship of The Nightcrawlers, the local trio of Spacemusicians who fostered and sustained Philadelphia's innovative music scene throughout the decade of the 1980s - and whose care, oversight and attachment van Zyl so benefited from.
"The Xyl File" is not only a document of Chuck van Zyl's first principles, it is also a finely crafted journey through turbulent forces - those of sound, and of the intellect. These six 25+ year old compositions are evidence that the only limit there is on the future are the doubts of today. The act of making this music, of trusting in the future, finds Chuck van Zyl declaring and defining himself - in this music full of passionate intensity, meaningful stillness, and the humanity that lies in-between.
Chuck van Zyl has been at his own unique style of electronic music since 1983. Seeing creativity as a component of his own personal spirituality, his musical sensibilities evoke a sense of discovery, with each endeavor marking a new frontier of sound.