Friday, 29 July 2011

ANCIENT SPACE


Title: Ancient Space
Format: Cassette tape release on Depressive Illusions Records (Ukraine) in 2011, cat ref cut132. Glossy colour inlay, and a split release with Brazilian band Arvorar.
Edition: 100 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:

Arvorar
01. Transitoriedade 7.51

Saturn Form Essence
02. Ancient Space 5.31

A quick post today to discuss a short - but nonetheless excellent - release on the prolific Depressive Illusions label. This tape features our old favourites SFE (as ever, piloted by the enigmatic S.) and a new band for me: Arvorar from Brazil.

The limited information I have on this latter band (mostly gleaned from their MySpace site) shows that they are most typically described as a 'dark ambient' formation. That description - broad brush as it is - serves to give sufficient information to identify a likely style of song on this release. And indeed, some Vinterriket-esque opening synthesised sequences pave the way to a really fine song, crafted over a background noise of crashing waves and sounds of the ocean, and with an interesting mixture of up-tempo percussion and some nifty keyboard riffs. The end of the song, swathed in silence with that gentle sound of crashing waves, is a very enjoyable experience.

I think it fair to say that the most appropriate complement I can give Arvorar is that I've thoroughly enjoyed their song on this release and will now actively seek out other recordings of theirs.

The SFE song 'Ancient Space' is very short by the usual standards of the band, but lacks nothing in quality or enjoyability for all that. Rather than draw out the track with epic expanses of near-silence or a recreation of the vacuum of space, there is quite a lot going on with its five and a half minute duration for the listener to get a handle on. Interesting wind effects and enigmatic keyboard impulses start proceedings off well, and a moody sense of foreboding and mystery slowly envelops you as the song progresses.

The cover artwork on this tape is rather excellent too, as I hope the photographs at the top of this post will illustrate.

For two bands on either side of the globe to collaborate this successfully is an excellent achievement: whilst both stare out into the abyss looking through very different night skies based on their hemispheres of origin, the unmistakable kinship of ambient art unites them together in a triumphant release.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

ENIGMA


Title: Enigma
Format: Four-way split CDr and tape release from 2010. The CDr pressing was released on the Nazgul Productions & Distro label (Brazil), cat ref NDP002, and the tape on Bosque Produções label (Brazil), the latter label run by Kevera of Northern Forest.
Edition: CDr pressing limited to 20 copies. Tape version unknown

Track Listing:
01. Northern Forest * Summons Winter Night 04:14
02. Vorkh * Agartha 04:26
03. Vorkh * Evoria, The Garden 02:48
04. Saturn Form Essence * Galaxy M31: Andromeda 08:10
05. Levrij * A Fine Line... ( part 2 ) 07:24

This four-way split release brings together an interesting variety of bands from around the globe, revealing some memorable dark ambient soundscapes within its 27 minute duration.

Northern Forest (ironically from the southern forests of Manaus, Brazil) have been around since 2008 and in recent years have put forth a positive deluge of demos in their dark ambient / black metal fuelled attack, covering in their misanthropic lyrics the themes of the seasons, nature, landscapes, and the night-time. I confess to knowing little about fellow Brazilian band Vorkh (save that they managed to sneak two songs onto this release), or Argentinian horde Levrij, but between all three of these bands a splendid racket is created that combines some atmospheric twists and turns with some creative drumming (a pleasant change from the overdone blast-beats too many bands employ) and interesting ambient sections in amidst the hate.

Saturn Form Essence pitch up with the track 'Andromeda' or, to give it its full title, 'Galaxy M31: Andromeda'. Originally released in unusual packaging back in February 2010 (a format that has so far eluded my collection), this track has popped up here and there across other releases - the "Cosmogony" split with Ablaze Eternal being another - and is something of a minor classic of recent SFE recordings. Varied instrumentation - more so than, say, many of the very ambient , ethereal solar-wind style SFE releases can be - gives this song more groove than other tracks from this Ukrainian project, and with that comes a more rounded listening experience. It's still very quiet in places: great, in as far as it conveys the vastness of space, less great if you're attempting to review the song whilst listening to the CD in the car though!

And what do we know of Galaxy M31 itself, after which this song is named? Also known as Messier 31 or NGC 224, and occasionally referred to as the Great Andromeda Nebula, Andromeda was formed out of the collision of two smaller galaxies between 5 and 9 billion years ago. It is a spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Andromeda, named after the mythological princess. You will doubtless recall from your education in the Classics that Andromeda, as divine punishment for her mother's bragging (the 'Boast of Cassiopeia') was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea monster. She was saved from death by Perseus, her future husband.

Andromeda is the nearest spiral galaxy to the Milky Way, but not the closest galaxy overall. The 2006 observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope revealed that M31 contains one trillion (1012) stars, more than the number of stars in our own galaxy, estimated to be around 200-400 billion in total. Neither total comes close to the number of demos from Austrian musician Hugin that have been amassed by the infamous Nazgul, however, secreted away in his Castle in the stars beyond the edge of the universe (left at the roundabout, straight on past the fish and chip shop).

Interestingly the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way are thus expected to collide in about 4.5 billion years, although the details are uncertain since Andromeda's tangential velocity with respect to the Milky Way is only known to within about a factor of two. A likely outcome of the collision is that the galaxies will merge to form a giant elliptical galaxy. If the galaxies do not merge, there is a small chance that the Solar System could be ejected from the Milky Way or join Andromeda. The fate of the Earth and the Solar System in the event of a collision are currently unknown, so if you have pressing business to attend to in 4.5 billion years from now I'd suggest getting your affairs in order sooner rather than later.

Did you also know that Andromeda has featured regularly in sci-fi films and books over the years? In the novel 'Voyage of the Space Beagle' by A.E. Van Vogt for example, the starship (Space Beagle) is sent out by Earth to investigate alien life forms. When it reaches the Andromeda Galaxy, it encounters an enormous disembodied life form called S. - no, wait, called The Anabis - that covers the entire galaxy. The Anabis turns planets into jungle planets because it lives off the life force of living beings when they die and jungle planets have the highest rate of 'ecological energetics'. Since "The Anabis" has destroyed civilized planets in this way, the crew of the starship devises a way to defeat this being.

In the 1968 Star Trek episode "By Any Other Name", the starship Enterprise is hijacked by Kelvans, aliens from an empire spanning the Andromeda Galaxy; their home galaxy was approaching an uninhabitable state and thus they aimed to conquer our own. In another episode, "I, Mudd" the lead android says their creators were humanoids from Andromeda. The galaxy also features in Blakes 7, Doctor Who and, perhaps most oddly, in the seventh episode in the first series of the British comedy sketch show Monty Python's Flying Circus, where blancmanges from the planet Skyron in the Andromeda galaxy were a major plot point and, I seem to recall, converted people into stereotypical Scotsmen in order to win the Wimbledon tennis tournament...

All of which is very interesting but has little bearing on the grim musical machinations generated on this release. Sadly there seems to be no internet coverage of the demo worth shaking a stick at, so you're stuck with me for the last word on this particular release.

An "Enigma", aside from being a WWII German code-making device, can be defined as a type of riddle generally expressed in radical or allegorical language that requires ingenuity and careful thinking for its solution. There really isn't much careful thinking involved in whether you should seek out a copy of this demo for your listening pleasure though: it's a good one, you should buy a copy. Simple enough, really...

Saturday, 16 July 2011

CYDONIA


Title: Cydonia
Format: Cassette release on the Depressive Illusion Records label (Ukraine) from 2011, cat ref cut234. This is a split release with Anhedonia (Russia). The SFE website dedicates this release to the planet Mars.
Edition: Limited to 119 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:
SFE
01. Cydonia Mensae
02. Sadness Of Mars
Anhedonia
03. Newer
04. Loneliness

The name "Cydonia" has a multitude of references across both cultural and earth-science bases.

For instance: Cydonia was the goddess of heroic endeavour in Greek mythology; is a location in Crete; is a monotypic genus of flowering plants in family Rosaceae, containing only the fruit tree Cydonia oblonga (quince); and is a main belt asteroid (1106 Cydonia). It's also turns out to be a popular subject in music, being the title of a 2001 album by The Orb; a song by British rock band Muse (Knights of Cydonia) and in 'Hunting and Gathering (Cydonia)' by Sunn O))) from 2009, and also included in a a song by British symphonic black metal band, Bal-Sagoth Beneath the Crimson Vaults of Cydonia (2006).

Perhaps more familiarly, however, Cydonia is known as a famous region of the planet Mars - the so-called 'Face on Mars' In this latter context it has attracted both scientific and popular interest. The name originally referred to the albedo feature (distinctively coloured area) that was visible from Earthbound telescopes. The area borders plains of Acidalia Planitia and the Arabia Terra highlands and includes the Mars regions: "Cydonia Mensae", an area of flat-topped mesa-like features, "Cydonia Colles", a region of small hills or knobs, and "Cydonia Labyrinthus", a complex of intersecting valleys.

As with other albedo features on Mars, the name Cydonia was drawn from classical antiquity, in this case from Kydonia, a historic polis (or "city-state") on the island of Crete. Cydonia contains the infamous "face on Mars" feature — located about half-way between Arandas Crater and Bamberg Crater.

The face is featured on the cover artwork for this release, and to some is evidence of intelligent design and thus proof of life beyond Earth. To others, it is a chance formation of rock and not a question of design but interpretation into a familiar pattern by the eye and brain. The "face on Mars" (about 1.5 kilometers - one mile - across), has had special notoriety in Western culture since it was imaged in 1976, because it looks, well... like a face.

When it was first imaged, and into the 21st century, the "Face" is near universally accepted to be an optical illusion, an example of pareidolia. After analysis of the higher resolution Mars Global Surveyor data NASA stated that "a detailed analysis of multiple images of this feature reveals a natural looking Martian hill whose illusory face-like appearance depends on the viewing angle and angle of illumination". Similar optical illusions can be found in the geology of Earth; examples include the Old Man of the Mountain, the Pedra da Gávea, the Old Man of Hoy and the Badlands Guardian. Conversely, the Cydonia facial pareidolia inspired individuals and organizations interested in extraterrestrial intelligence and visitations to Earth, and the images were published in this context in 1977.

Some commentators, most notably Richard C. Hoagland, believe the "Face" to be evidence of a long-lost Martian civilization along with other features they believe are present, such as apparent pyramids, which they argue are part of a ruined city. Sceptics point out that there are other faces on Mars, often much clearer, but their images do not elicit the same level of study. An example is the Galle Crater, which can show a rendition of a smiley, or a profile of Kermit the Frog and the ESA "skull" formation, which is a few kilometres south of the "Face".

Such musings over galactic mysteries are the perfect way to spend your time whilst drifting through space listening to the combined tracks of Saturn Form Essence and Anhedonia (the latters name defined, by the way, as "the inability to experience pleasure from activities formerly found enjoyable, e.g. hobbies, exercise, social interaction or sexual activity"). To clarify further, this is the Russian 'drone space ambient' Anhedonia, not the Swedish Black Metal band or the Mexican Doom Metal band. Alas, there are so many pigeon-holes in metal nowadays, it must be said...

The first challenge to overcome with this release is to determine which side is which:the tape is blank, and my copy came part wound through with no indication of which side is A or B, let alone which band corresponds with it! A random rewind and press of play sooon reveals the unmistakeable tones of Saturn Form Essence, with both tracks accentuated by the general drone and general ambience of a trip through the heavens, speeding at the rate of a trapped fly passing slowly through a block of amber.

Anhedonia's songs are a little more varied, to the extent of using samples of narrative from (presumably) film scores: not an experience that proves unlistenable by any margin, but not my personal preference in this context.

Should you wish to play tribute to the red planet, Mars, then the purchase and aural consumption of this particular tape would set you far down the path of righteousness....

Saturday, 25 June 2011

PURE CRYSTALLINE EMPTINESS OF SATURN



Title: Pure Crystalline Emptiness Of Saturn
Format: A glittery green 3"CDr housed in a plastic blue 'ufo' case, with 6 yellow 'jewels' positioned around the perimeter. Released in May 2009 by Toxic Industries (Italy) in their Very Toxic Series, cat ref T+005. Inside the release a circular paper inlay shows track details. The reverse side of this copy is signed by Saturn Form Essence's mysterious 'S'.
Edition: Hand-numbered edition of 35 copies

Track Listing:
01. Pure Crystalline Emptiness Of Saturn 7.34
02. No Life Here... 6.21

Goodness me, it's good to be back.

The problem of interstellar travel is the sheer time it takes to get anywhere, but even so who can believe that it's been over two months since we last docked with Voyages Along The Plutonium Path for a look-see at all things Saturn Form Essence...?

Well, it certainly has been a good while since the last post, it's true. My apologies. But fear not, for the quantity of releases from this most exciting of Ukrainian ambient/experimental bands has not diminished in my absence, and even as I type a parcel of new releases fresh from the S.F.E. Studio has landed on my launch pad.

This particular release, however, is one that's been in the collection for a little while now and is a nice one to get us back on track. A two track release in a distinctly experimental-noise style of fuzzy emanations, swathed in brooding clouds of dust and debris, hurtles across your senses like a comet being slingshot out of the orbit of Saturn itself. Neither track is an easy listen, pounding one's senses like a nebulous grey wall of anti-matter, but it certainly provokes a reaction and that surely is half the battle in creating interesting sounds.

And look at the sympathetic and most excellent packaging but together by Italian label Toxic Industries (http://www.toxicindustries.net84.net/home.php) who have really got it right with the 'ufo' design they deployed on this release. The bulge on the bottom of this particular copy (#24 of 35) has shed most of the original blue paint, leaving behind something vaguely sinister-looking that could very well double for the original single-celled protoplasmic visitor to earth in the 1950s classic "The Blob". The spray painted 3" disc is a suitably alien green still though, and the overall design genius at work deserves a pat on the back.

The release is now sold out, however, although you might find one lurking around the internet still as I did with this copy obtained through the excellent SkullLine distro in Germany. Well worth seeking out, to remind yourself just what a vast, cold place space can be...

Thursday, 28 April 2011

SILENCE AFTER THE FALL



Title: Silence After The Fall
Format: CD release believed to be on the EProd23 label (Germany), no catalogue reference, released in 2010. A split release between Saturn Form Essence and +C+P+B+ (France). Picture disc CD comes in a black and white two-sided paper sleeve in plastic wallet.
Edition: Hand-numbered to 30 copies
Track Listing:
Saturn Form Essence
01. Plutonium Shadows 20.55
+C+P+B+
02. Claustrofobia 24.51

Even allowing for the vast distances of space and the haphazard receipt of signals from the far reaches of the universe, it's been an awfully long time since the last post to this Blog. My apologies, but let us move straight into consideration of this very limited edition release (this is #12 of 30).

This is a split release, with one lengthy song from each project. To tackle the non-SFE project first, +C+P+B+ stands for Claustrophobic Power Bomb, a project based (I think) in France, whose philosophy is recorded on their MySpace page as follows:

"I believe that the use of noise to make music will continue and increase until we reach a music produced through the aid of electrical instruments which will make available for musical purposes any and all sounds that can be heard."

The SFE song is 'Plutonium Shadows' and - in keeping with releases from this project - is a song that is not unique to this release. Two immediate places it occurs include the cassette of the same name released on Circumanalis Records in 2009, and also on the "H.Y.K.-14-1-01" self-released box-set from 2009.

It's a thrumming, quietly ambient track, bringing to mind the deep space radiation waves pulsating through space, interspersed only with occasional static and other noise effects. Quite a hypnotic track in many respects, perfect for background listening whilst engaged on pressing, weighty matters.


The reverse of the inlay tells a tale of its own, which is re-produced below:


"The Big Freeze is a scenario under which continued expansion results in a universe that is too cold. It could, in the absence of dark energy, occur only under a flat or hyperbolic geometry. With a positive cosmological constant, it could also occur in a closed universe. This scenario is currently the most commonly accepted theory within the scientific community. A related scenario is Heat Death, which states that the universe goes to a state of maximum entropy in which everything is evenly distributed, and there are no gradients - which are needed to sustain information processing, one form of which is life. The Heat Death scenario is compatible with any of the three spatial models, but requires that the universe reach an eventual temperature minimum"

Finally, the cover of "Silence After The Fall" uses the same image as seen on the cover of Alexander Wieser's Heimatleid release "Shock Millennium", which is a random trivia fact that may yet serve you well in years to come!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

UNDER A SPHERE OF POISONED URANIUM



Title: Under a Sphere of Poisoned Uranium
Format: CDr in a black and white paper inlay, originally released in 2009 on Kapustin Yar Records (USA), later self-released by Saturn Form Essence.
Edition: Original copies unknown, self-released version presumed unlimited

Track Listing:

01. Nibiru 04:37
02. Illa Tidandi (Burzum Cover) 01:38
03. Silver Sphere of Plutonium Darkness 11:57
04. Shining of Dying Sun 02:54
05. Black Cosmic Hate of Coldness Kharon 07:26
06. A Other Side of Cosmic Beings 05:39

One thing that you have to credit Saturn Form Essence with is the ability to come up with grandiose titles for its demos. The splendid "Under A Sphere Of Poisoned Uranium" was one of the early releases of the project, and appropriately sets the tone for many of the subsequent titles.

Intriguingly, although the title is presumably an abstract concept, the reality of poisoned uranium spheres is not entirely unknown, as anyone who has ever casually read-up on the proposed plans for the use of soluble nuclear absorbers at chemical processing plants would be able to testify:

"...Criticality in the Fluorinel dissolver could result from exceeding the critical mass or from an inadequate poison concentration. The minimum critical mass for uranium oxide dispersed in a water solution containing 24 g/L cadmium is approximately 19.0 kg of uranium-235. This is based upon a homogenized sphere of uranium oxide and poisoned dissolver solution at optimum density with a 30.48 cm thick reflector of poisoned dissolver solution. The mass limit chosen for the dissolver is 10.5 kg of uranium-235 giving a k -- of 0.88..."

Well, there's nothing like a little light reading to pass the time.

Searching for this demo online produces a host of file-share and download links that are keen to offer you MP3 versions of the songs, most likely illegally, but there is next to nothing in written terms about the nature of the music on offer. Allow me to partially fill that vacuum for you.

All the tracks are, as you might expect, wholly instrumental but not all are similar in nature. The one track that stands out from all of the others is the Burzum cover song 'Illa Tidandi' (literally, 'ill tidings'), originally on Burzum's "Dauði Baldrs" album with a far longer 10.29 duration. This is a light and fairly insubstantial synth track, which also appears in truncated form on the 2008 Moloch demo "Verdandi" alongside a plethora of other cover versions from bands including Summoning, Emperor and Satyricon.

The remainder of the demo has little relating to this rather airy track, instead focusing on presenting a far more choking, churning approach to static-fuelled impulses and pseudo-industrial eminations. The nature of noise and drone of offer is at times almost suffocating, maintains a level of aural barrage throughout the whole demo. The lighter, spacey tracks from later SFE releases are yet to show their heads on this outing, and a oppressive sense of the weight of the universe is conveyed by S. as great slabs of dark ambiance waft past your ears.

Opening track 'Nibiru' typifies this approach, and cunningly encapsulates not one but three possible connections to Saturn Form Essence's cosmic theme. Possibility one - in Babylonian astronomy, Nibiru (in cuneiform spelled dné-bé-ru or MULni-bi-rum) is a term of the highest point of the ecliptic. As the highest point in the paths of the planets, Nibiru was considered the seat of the summus deus who pastures the stars like sheep, in Babylon identified with Marduk (the god that is, not the corpse-painted Swedish god-botherers).

The second possibility comes through the work of Zecharia Sitchin, which has garnered much attention among ufologists, ancient astronaut theorists and conspiracy theorists. He claimed to have uncovered, through his retranslations of Sumerian texts, evidence that the human race was visited by a group of extraterrestrials from a distant planet in our own Solar System. Part of his theory lay in an astronomical interpretation of the Babylonian creation myth, the Enuma Elish, in which he replaced the names of gods with hypothetical planets.

Sitchin's theory proposes the planets Tiamat and Nibiru. Tiamat (the planet that is, not the Swedish gothic bat-botherers) supposedly existed between Mars and Jupiter. He postulated that it was a thriving world in a very different solar system, with jungles and oceans, whose orbit was disrupted by the arrival of a large planet or very small star (less than twenty times the size of Jupiter) which passed through the solar system between 65 million and four billion years ago. The new orbits caused Tiamat to collide with one of the moons of this object, which is known as Nibiru. The debris from this collision are thought by the theory's proponents to have variously formed the asteroid belt, the Moon, and the current inclination of the planet Earth.

Finally, there is also something known as 'The Nibiru Collision' which is a supposed disastrous encounter between the Earth and a large planetary object (either a collision or a near-miss) which certain groups believe will take place in the early 21st century (often thought to be 2012). Believers in this doomsday event usually refer to this object as Planet X, or Nibiru. However, given that the idea of the Nibiru encounter originated with Nancy Lieder, a Wisconsin woman who claims that as a girl she was contacted by gray extraterrestrials called Zetas, who implanted a communications device in her brain, I wouldn't suggest spiking the Cool-Aid in anticipation of global Armageddon just yet...

The remaining songs on the demo continue to a greater or lesser degree the investigation of these dense interstellar machinations. As well as providing us with some terrific song titles (you really can't fault something called 'Silver Sphere of Plutonium Darkness') the demo as a whole takes the listener on a journey through the dust clouds of outer space and into the meditative thoughts of your own personal inner space.

Imagine being taken on a flight into the inky blackness by Lovecraft's astral messenger Ithaqua, the roar of the universe pounding your senses as the unknowable depths of space and time fall away beneath you, and you're somewhere on the way to appreciating this complex work.

Seemingly a hard to find release now in this original format, although tracks from this 2009 demo do appear on later compilations in the band's discography, so your opportunity for transcendental interstellar travel has not yet passed by...

Saturday, 26 March 2011

AUSONIA MENSA

Title: Ausonia Mensa
Format: C60 cassette release on the Puzzle Records label (Germany) in November 2010, cat ref #63. A split tape between Saturn Form Essence and Tainted Corrosive Mist (Germany). Comes with a folded card inlay and a 2-colour spray-painted cassette.
Edition: Only 20 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:

Saturn Form Essence - Orange side
01. Radioactive Cosmic Rays I 8.09
02. Radioactive Cosmic Rays II 7.57
03. Radioactive Cosmic Rays III 7.51
Tainted Corrosive Mist - Yellow side
01. #87
02. #86

More impulses courtesy of S. and his cosmic journey beyond the frontier of time and space...

These radioactive emanations are not unique to this split tape, and appear on a few other CDr and tape releases in the SFE discography. However, it's the first time that we've encountered them on our travels so a quick word on each track.

Part I is the most ethereal of the three, almost ecclesiastical at times in the sense of giving a true sense of music within a vast space, akin to sounds disappearing in the rafters of an enormous cathedral. Dreamy and ambient, it's a very easy listen.

Part II has more of a sense of (hyper)drive to it, possessing waves of sound flowing over the listener, punctuated by short bursts of static, the occasional click and some brief periods of white noise/silence. There is a more noticeable keyboard melody throughout the piece, which again makes it an easy listen but with plenty of variety on offer throughout its drones.

Part III is the shortest piece, and continues the sense of waves of music pulsing through the cosmic reaches and finally coming back to Earth via your speakers.

If you were wondering, Ausonia Mensa is a massif in the Hellas quadrangle of Mars, located at 30.3° S and 262.3° W. It is 103 km across and was named after an albedo feature name. Ausonia Mensa has many small channels and is covered in impact craters, with some features look like alluvial fans. A large remnant mountain exists in the Hesperia Planum region, covering an area of 98 by 48 kilometres and has an elevation of 3700 metres.

Puzzle Records is a small d-i-y label based in Saarbruecken, Germany and is run by Wayne. They release all kinds of music on tape, vinyl, cdr and dvd-r and look to be offering this tape for sale still, despite the small production run (this copy is #4/20). Check out their wares at www.myspace.com/puzzlerecords666

Ausonia Mensa doubtless offers the perfect location for inspiration and reflection, which is also an opportunity offered through this meditative performance from our favourite Ukrainian project. Recommended.