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.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

UNEARTHLY DIRGE

Title: Unearthly Dirge
Format: Limited edition CDr released in May 2010 by Frozen Tendril Records (UK), cat ref FTR-03. This is a split release between Nathan Watson, SFE, Balbulus and Paregorik. The disc comes in a clear plastic wallet containing a black card sleeve speckled with red and silver spray, and a hand-numbered white insert.
Edition: Limited to 40 copies

Track Listing:
01. Nathan Watson * Unearthly Dirge Part 1 13:38
02. Saturn Form Essence * Unearthly Dirge Part 2 15:30
03. Balbulus * Unearthly Dirge Part 3 17:50
04. Paregorik * Unearthly Dirge Part 4 11:47

This 4-way split CDr release saw the light of day in May 2010 courtesy of UK based Frozen Tendril Records, and features 4 bands from the downtempo/drone music genre in its digitised grooves.

Nathan Watson (from Coventry, UK) has a self-professed blend featuring ambient / down-tempo / shoegaze style, and as the man himself has said, "I lack concentration, so switch between mixes of ambient, post rock, drone and sometimes I even get a bit experimental". Balbulus (Kent, UK) feature with their industrial / metal / progressive style, alongside Paregorik (from Pardubice in the Czech Republic) which describes itself as an artsy noise project. And lastly, but by no means least, we see Saturn Form Essence at position number two in the running order.

There's some really interesting music on this release, with four lengthy tracks forming a cohesive whole. Notably it is Balbulus with their catchy yet downbeat approach on part 3 of 'Unearthly Dirge', that provide a stand-out track, but as we're really here to consider the Saturn Form Essence element of the release let's move off in that direction...

'Unearthly Dirge' part 2 is a 15 minute-plus slice of interstellar travel. The sensation created by this minimalist track is that of a massive body moving infinitesimally through time and space, ponderous yet inexorable. Forget catchy melodies or an 'everything but the kitchen sink' approach, this is a bare-bones piece of ambient drone that permeates your listening environment with its sullen tones and repetitive sequences. It is far truer to the concept of a dirge-like performance than the other 3 tracks, although perhaps by comparison to the others lacking in overall variety.

The cover design is suitably cosmic in theme and execution too, and suits the nature of Saturn Form Essence music down to the ground (or, more accurately perhaps, up in the stars).

During the course of writing this piece I was fortunate to be able to exchange a few words with Nathan Watson (also of Frozen Tendril Records) to understand a little more about how the release had been created:

How did the concept of the 4-way split came about: how did you know the bands, particularly SFE?

The idea came about from a drone track I'd been writing. I'd been working on an idea, and thought it'd be a nice idea to release it as part of an album featuring various different types of drone. I've known Martin (Paregorik) and John (Balbulus) for a while, mainly through trading releases from my projects and label, and had been observing SFE for a while. I'd enjoyed what I heard and was impressed with SFE's prolific output, which is why I approached SFE as the fourth artist.

Are the songs linked in any way other than title, is there a concept here, what were the bands asked to provide?

I just mentioned to the bands that I was looking for any type of drone, roughly 10-20 minutes. I don't think I set any more constraints than that, apart from I suggested the use of white noise at the start of tracks, but I would not like someone to make music to my specifications just because I wanted it, the artist should have total control of their music, so these were merely suggestions.

Your thoughts (if any) about the SFE project?

I haven't heard anywhere near all of the SFE releases, just a handful or some individual tracks, but overall it really is something I enjoy. I appreciate the visual aspect of CDrs/tapes/records, and to a lesser extent, musical/lyrical themes. As someone with an academic interest in astrophysics, SFE is obviously a natural choice :)

Overall this is a fine release (mine is copy 25 of the 40) and a full gamut of sonic textures and styles. And what a nice chap Nathan is too - check out the Frozen Tendril Records webpage for more details about their current activities at frotenrec.blogspot.com

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

SIRIUS

Title: Sirius
Format: Both a CDr and cassette pressing is available through Depressive Illusions (Ukraine), released in 2010, cat ref cut151 (CDr) and cut160 (tape). The CDr pressing comes with black and white artwork in a slimline case. The cassette version is numbered, and has alternate artwork on a glossy photo-card inlay.
Edition: CDr presumed unlimited, cassette limited to 500 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:

01. Sirius 17.35

Further voyages into the cosmic abyss within this 2010 demo from Saturn Form Essence, our destination the dog-star Sirius in the constellation of Canis Major (right ascension: 06h 45m 08.9173s; declination: −16° 42′ 58.017").

Sirius is a binary star system consisting of two white stars orbiting each other with a separation of about 20 astronomical units (3.0×109 km; 1.9×109 mi) (roughly the distance between the Sun and Uranus) and a period of 49.9 years. The brighter component, termed Sirius A, is a main sequence star of spectral type A1V, with an estimated surface temperature of 9,940 K. Its companion, Sirius B, is a star that has already evolved off the main sequence and become a white dwarf. Currently 10,000 times less luminous in the visual spectrum, Sirius B was once the more massive of the two. The age of the system has been estimated at around 230 million years.

The single track on this demo is somewhat shorter than 230 million years in duration, clocking in at a relatively modest 17 minutes and change. The recording fits neatly into the sub-genre of 'space-ambient-drone' in as far as it combines elements of both dark ambient and isolationist ambient music to create vast sonic spaces with ominous, bottom-heavy sounds (such as deep drones) whilst combining them with simple sonic textures to evoke a sense of continuum of spatial imagery and emotion, unresolved unease and desolation.

Sirius is prevalent in cultural writings across the globe and throughout time, one of the better known being its inclusion in verse in Homer's Iliad where it is referred to in Achilles' journey to Troy:

"Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky

On summer nights, star of stars, Orion's Dog they call it, brightest

Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat

And fevers to suffering humanity"

Fans of this project might expect to see later reissues of this demo coming with free samples of alcohol and livestock - the Romans celebrated the helical setting of Sirius around April 25, sacrificing a dog, along with incense, wine, and a sheep, to the goddess Robigo so that the star's emanations would not cause wheat rust on wheat crops that year!

Brazilian readers of Voyages Along The Plutonium Path may also be aware that Sirius is one of the 27 stars on the flag of Brazil, where it represents the state of Mato Grosso.

A fine recording, and worthy of a home in your collection of SFE material.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

EXPLOSION OF THE STAR

Title: Explosion Of The Star
Format: A split cassette release from 2010 on the Eternalwinter Records label (Italy), cat ref EWR004 with colour covers and unmarked tape.
Limitation: 30 hand-numbered copies

Track Listing:

Fortezza Longobarda
01. Destination Moon 0.59
02. I.I 6.18
03. II.II 4.59
Saturn Form Essence
04. Vibrations Of Solar System 25.40
Nebula VII
05. I 20.14
06. II 3.34
07. Nihil 5.34

A split tape between three ambient drone/minimalist/experimental bands from across the European continent was always likely to be an interesting voyage of discovery. The label, Eternalwinter Records (http://www.myspace.com/eternalwinterrecords) describe the results as "cosmic ambient", and you'd be hard pressed to dispute that nomenclature on the basis of the aural experiences on offer here.

Fortezza Longobarda are an Italian project, who contribute their own form of ambient experimentalism at the outset of the tape, using samples of the moon landings on the first track 'Destination Moon' to good effect. Ending the split is Russian project Nebula VII, whose mixes take you to the furthest reaches of the known universe ... and beyond.

Our main focus comes with the middle - and longest - track, 'Vibrations Of Solar System' from Saturn Form Essence. As with other recordings from this Ukrainian project there underlying music is simple and pure, created electronically and often with lengthy periods of near silence as the literal vibrations of sound flux and warp their way across your synapses. Impossible to meaningfully describe, suffice to say that if you were required to embark on an interstellar trip of immense distance and time, the mental preparations would have to include exposure to this sonic impulse as a mandatory part of your training.

Transcendent and tranquil in equal parts, it's a pleasure to revel for 25 minutes in such an experience.

There are plans to release the tracks on CD with a re-run of the tape versions together with re-vamped versions for the digital pressing. Here's a flyer for said album, and it would be well worth investigating further.

Friday, 4 March 2011

ABYSS

Title: Abyss
Format: 3" CDr released in 2009 on the Witte Dood Records label (Holland), cat ref WIT009. Plain silver 3"CDr disc in single-sided paper inlay, contained in plastic wallet.
Limitation: 33 copies

Track Listing:

01. Abyss 11.06 (666 seconds)

Welcome to Voyages Along The Plutonium Path, a celebration of the releases of Ukrainian space drone/ambient project Saturn Form Essence. Little can be told of the background to this project, save that all recorded impulses are the creation of 'S', and the recorded history of the band dates back only to 2009.

Within that short space of time from inauguration to present, however, there has been a flurry of releases in tape and CDr format, and during the course of our voyage we'll be visiting some of them to see what they have to offer.

"Abyss" is a single track contained on a 3" CDr with a running time of exactly 666 seconds, maintaining throughout its duration a single path of synthesiser-driven drone, giving a background to deep space at its purest. The depth of the resonance evokes the passage of vast interstellar bodies, or the inexorable pull into the heart of the black hole so aptly featured on the cover illustration.

The music of Saturn Form Essence is difficult to describe, in all honesty: it is an aural representation of the universe, creating sounds and textures that allow you to imagine and feel as much as listen and absorb. As this Blog develops we'll delve further into the infinite reaches of space to unpick some of these most unusual releases.

Only 33 copies of this demo were pressed by the Dutch label, although the constant mixing of material on successive releases means that you'd be able to find this particular track on other demos too, which if nothing else reduces the frustration of not having grabbed an original first time around.

An effective and brooding instrumental piece, one for moments of contemplative tranquility.

Initialisation sequence completed

In the deepest reaches of space, at the heart of the cold abyss of infinite despair, a sequence of sounds can be heard, distant and fleeting. The vast tracts of endless stars and cosmic radiation filter the sounds through to receiving stations positioned high in the Earth's atmosphere, to be interpreted and relayed into impulses received at a pivotal point located deep in the heart of the Ukraine. This is ground zero for Saturn Form Essence: space ambient drone from the centre of the cosmos...