Earthstar (band)

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Earthstar
CWuest.jpg
Craig Wuest of Earthstar in 1977
Background information
Origin Utica, New York, United States
Genres Electronic music
Kosmische musik
Ambient music
Years active 1977–1983
Labels Sky Records, Moontower Records
Associated acts Klaus Schulze
Land
Dennis Rea
Daniel Zongrone
Past members Craig Wuest
Dennis Rea
Tim Finnegan
Daniel Zongrone
Norm Peach
Daryl Trivieri
Louis Deponté
Phil Novak
Marla Thomson
Dan Hapanowicz
Andy Retscher
Bob Mishalanie
Melanie Coiro
Rainer Böhm
Christoph Lagemann
John Bunkfeldt

Earthstar was an electronic music group originally from Utica, New York, in the United States. Earthstar was encouraged by Krautrock/Kosmische Musik/electronic music artist, composer, and producer Klaus Schulze to relocate to Germany where they were signed by Sky Records. Schulze produced their second and most successful album, French Skyline. Earthstar is notable as the only American band who participated in Germany's Kosmische Musik/electronic music scene while still at its height.[1]

The Earthstar entry in the New Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock describes the wall of sound on the second and third albums: "[Group leader Craig] Wuest's vision propels these two albums, his desire apparently is to create music that doesn't necessarily suggest a particular instrument, rather creates a new texture. Therefore, though there are credits for flute, guitar, bass, violin, viola, French horn, sitar and vocals, it's pretty hard to distinguish any of these..."[2] Earthstar's style on French Skyline has been compared to Wolfgang Bock, Sangiuliano,[3] and Klaus Schulze's own recordings.[4] Other albums have a softer style with more distinct instrumentation.

Earthstar is also notable for Craig Wuest's heavy use of the Mellotron and the rare Birotron, a variation on the Mellotron that can sustain notes beyond eight seconds.[5]

History[edit]

1977–1979 (Utica and Moontower)[edit]

Earthstar was the brainchild of keyboardist/synthesist Craig Wuest. A native of Utica, New York, Wuest was heavily influenced by the German electronic music scene of the 1970s, including Klaus Schulze, Popol Vuh, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, and Harmonia. Around the same time, Utica guitarist Dennis Rea had founded what he describes as an "eccentric progressive rock band," Zuir. According to Rea, "...being the only two adventurous music acts in town, collaboration between Craig and the members of Zuir was inevitable."[1]

Rea also recalls concerts during the Utica period: "The group performed live only a handful of times, mostly at inappropriate venues like roadhouse bars and college beer halls, with predictable results."[1]

1979–1983 (Germany and Sky)[edit]

Craig Wuest was an admirer of electronic music pioneer Klaus Schulze, with whom he struck up a correspondence. Schulze encouraged Wuest and Earthstar to come to Germany, intending to sign them to his Innovative Communications record label. Wuest sold his grand piano, which had played a prominent part on Salterbarty Tales, to finance the move.[1]

While much of French Skyline was recorded at Klaus Schulze studios in Hambühren, West Germany, with additional recording taking place at IC Studios in Ovelgönne, Schulze's label never signed Earthstar. The group's next three albums were released by Hamburg-based Sky Records instead, beginning with French Skyline in 1979,[6][7] which was co-produced by Schulze and Wuest. Schulze's influence on Earthstar and Wuest is clearly heard on French Skyline, with reviewer Victor "Philip" Parau describing Earthstar at the time as "granted a classic place" within "the Berlin School electronic sessions."[8]

Earthstar's second album for Sky, Atomkraft? Nein, Danke! (literally "Nuclear power? No, thank you!"), was an environmental tone poem. The album was recorded in 1979 and 1980 and was released on February 1, 1981. The Planet Mellotron Web site describes it as "more laid back" than French Skyline and "...an ideal opportunity to hear the rarest tape-replay instrument," the Birotron.[5]

A third album for Sky, Humans Only, was recorded in 1981 and released the following year. The album was the result of a partnership between Wuest and Utica-based guitarist and songwriter Dan Hapanowicz.[2]

Later works?[edit]

According to Dennis Rea, Earthstar dissolved not long after the release of Humans Only.[2] A now defunct earthstarmusic.com Web site listed three later releases. Axiom, which was listed as following Humans Only, was recorded in Germany in 1980 and the United States in 1984.[9] MP3 samples of the music revealed a conventional, melodic, controlled electronic music sound. By this point Earthstar had become Wuest's solo project, as indicated in the description of the album Big Blue Piano.[9][10] The website listed both Big Blue Piano and a collection of unreleased material called Eve as having been released by Electronic America Records in 2000.[10][11] However, no record of the actual release of these later works can be found.

After the Earthstar sessions guitarist Dennis Rea moved to Seattle where he met electronic composer Kerry Leimer, who had released a number of albums.[12] Leimer, looking to create danceable electronic music, had formed Savant.[13][14] Rea joined Savant in 1982, contributing to the album The Neo-Realist (at Risk), described by Downbeat magazine as "pan-ethnic techno-dub music".[13]

In 1983 Rea moved to New York City where he once again worked with former Earthstar member Daniel Zongrone. The pair composed music for an exhibition of painter (and former Earthstar violinist) Daryl Trivieri's work at the Semaphore East Gallery in the East Village in 1985.[15] Rea returned to Seattle in 1986 where he is the sole former Earthstar member still actively recording music. Zongrone recorded a solo album, Absolute Zero, in 1987 and composed the music for the 1998 film The Glasshead. He is currently a member of the South Carolina-based blues and jazz trio Tipping Point.[16][17]

Sky Records did include Earthstar tracks on both volumes of their Schwingungen - New Age Music compilations in 1985 and 1986.[2]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Compilations[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Rea, Dennis; Melton, Jeff (December 2001). "Exposé Magazine interview". Exposé Magazine. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  2. ^ a b c d Rea, Dennis; other uncredited contributors (2005-01-20). "New Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock, EA-EL". Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  3. ^ Rijkens, Paul (1999). "Earthstar - French Skyline". review. Groove Unlimited. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  4. ^ Jenkins, Mark (1999). "Earthstar - French Skyline". review. E-Mix Magazine. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  5. ^ a b "Planet Mellotron Reviews: E1". Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  6. ^ "SKY". Thunder Collectors pages. 2006-02-20. Retrieved 2007-10-29. 
  7. ^ "Sky Records". Discogs. Retrieved 2007-10-29. 
  8. ^ Parau, Victor. "Earthstar biography". Prog Archives. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  9. ^ a b Wuest, Craig. "Biography". earthstarmusic.com. Retrieved 2012-02-08. 
  10. ^ a b Wuest, Craig. "Big Blue Piano". earthstarmusic.com. Retrieved 2012-02-08. 
  11. ^ Wuest, Craig. "Eve". earthstarmusic.com. Retrieved 2012-02-08. 
  12. ^ "K. Leimer". Discogs. Retrieved 2007-10-29. 
  13. ^ a b Rea, Dennis (2006). Live at the Forbidden City. New York: iUniverse. pp. 17–19. ISBN 0-595-39048-X. 
  14. ^ "Savant (2)". Discogs. 
  15. ^ Rea, Dennis. "Biography". Dennis Rea (website). Archived from the original on 2007-07-23. Retrieved 2007-10-29. 
  16. ^ "Discogs: Dan Zongrone". Retrieved 2008-06-301. 
  17. ^ "MySpace: Tipping Point". Retrieved 2008-06-30.