Not many years ago scifi authors invited their colleagues to set stories in each other’s universes, carefully-wrought backgrounds in which the guest writers could try their hands (and pens) in crossovers. The result of this minor movement was called the “franchise universe.”
“Astral Gates” is a similar portal to a franchise universe, one inspired by Tangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre, musical rather than literary.
Kuutana conceived of this project which spans the globe, nine musicians being represented here. Johan Tronestam’s rapid tempo transports us at high-warp into a sonically glimmering cosmos in which far crashes of percussion map the continuum while you guide yourself by your own signal repetition to an exultant conclusion. The journey does not end there.
“Liquid Fire” with Ryo Utasato is where you discover that you have made a full-increment jump into ethno-exotica. Ryo is a recent revelation to me and she is like a franchise universe unto herself when I consider the multiple cultural influences upon which she draws. The “Zen-Sunni” religio-mystical tradition postulated in Dune as the ancestral faith of the Fremen is rendered plausible here. Like poetry, music’s first expression was sacred. Will the output of contemporary musicians serve as a springboard for the spirituality of the future?
“Cosmic Touch” (with Celestial View) has a profound personal effect on me, as much as I like the call of remote distances. Cymbals and sax then bring it home like a cozy caravanserai. This is a half-world of dimly seen shapes in an urban night, a frontier of time instead of space. Here the ion-trails are in your head. You must have scored dreamdust from a fey merchant.
And then “NY Flight” – toward or away? The destination could just as easily be Deckerd’s Los Angeles. Dark distant turbine-thunder phases up metallically to accelerate you above the planet-wide computer network that thinks it knows the real you, but there’s no genuine correspondence between you and the shadow you cast in cyberspace. Only lately acquainted with JampyKeys in my own tentative explorations, I’m ready to made the first controlled jump in the history of interstellar travel.
“Fire” (with Daniel Wolf) is, I should have guessed, passionate and earnest. While the feud continues on the part of “authentic” musicians who may protest about the hard-won, breathless, newly venerable position now enjoyed by synthesizers, there is ample scope for such hallowed instruments as guitar. Like brilliant beryl in a matrix of supporting strata laid down by superb synthwork, the guit notes are perfectly embedded.
“Solaria” (with Synthesist) is another track with a personal impact, although the music is more like John Carpenter’s. There are no somber overtones here, however. This is a jaunty piece that comes across as a miniature synth symphony (aptly enough) that provides a far happier and more vigorous resolution.
“Nexus 6” is Kuutana himself bringing you to the mean streets of some technopolitan cybertopia which is more thrilling than gritty, while his collaboration with Daniel Wolf in “Sorceror’s Apprentice” (another cinematic reference, this time a tribute to TD?) is an insistent guitar-laced drive in an 18-wheeler with the trucker neuronically jacked into his rig. This begins and ends with a soulful sirenian reflection with the trek in between, through a new frontier of interstates, perhaps an infrastructure with unique risks of its own.
“Encounter at Proxima 5” is an entirely different venue with an eerily similar feel. First contact, that might erupt into battle? This was as true for ancient tribes as it will be in the wilderness of the stars tomorrow. (Trade is war by other means.) And the cargo must be dangerous as hell. This is a good tense track across light-years of sharp bright distant stars, none of them describable as “home.”
And here is Wolfgang Roth (Wolf Red) with Kuutana in “Floh,” pure Berlin-school, which was the breakout point from pop adolescence to tour the coordinates between fire and ice, a shimmering blue-black course plotted through a perpetual purple twilight. Invigorating.And finally a stuttering ghostly vocal, insectile percussion, guit chords, ethereal navigation codes, and distant melancholy zephyrs usher the way into a long echoing meditation, one in which the guitar wails in true tradition.
In “Touched the Sky,” Cousin Silas is rather like an old British seafarer who, retired from his service to the Empire, sits in a forgotten tavern plucking the light of the sea beacons from his lamenting guitar. Except that these watchfires are the stars.I’ve been privileged to witness the arrival of a number of artists over the past few years. It is happening again!
George Miler, December 19, 2013