“The music fulfills the promise of what it hints at until reaching a blowing finale”
1 The Depths of Triton 6:00
2 No Stars Without Darkness 4:23
3 Nebula 9:55
4 Bioluminescence 8:26
5 Deep Shift (featuring Rhea) 9:32
6 Quadrature 8:30
7 Black Hole Surfer 7:48
(featuring Michael Brückner)
8 Final Destination (The 12 Gates) (featuring Michael Brückner) 7:02
9 The Phoenix Lights 9:43
(CD/DDL 71:19 /61:36) (V.F.)
(Cosmic Berlin School)
That I listened carefully to this new album of Galactic Underground! I have had it for more than a month with the promise to publish the review on the day of its official release, September 3rd 21. We are there! In a musical and sonic envelope of an exceptional quality, <GU3> MUSIC FOR ASTRONAUTS sets us a date with time. Time to sit back and savor each minute with our ears snugly wrapped in headphones accompanied by dimmed lighting to listen to the ultimate in contemporary ME. Summum because Johan Geens invites Rhea and Michael Brückner, two artists whose ideas can contrast, as is the case here, to take this musical vessel beyond the boundaries of the first two albums. From an ambient texture to kaleidoscopic rhythmic forms, <GU3> MUSIC FOR ASTRONAUTS fulfills the promise of what it hints at until reaching a finale that returns to haunt its opening. A finale coming with a bonus track, The Phoenix Lights, when you buy the CD.
It's through whale songs transformed into metal that the cosmic ways of The Depths of Triton open up. Dark and at the height of these depths, the music sucks us in like a big tornado eye spinning in slow motion. Rhea and Johan Geens project whispering shadows and slow oscillations of synth layers with varying tones, we can clearly hear this duel between the different colors of the layers and the gloomy roar that tries to stay back in this mass of sounds. This slow maelstrom living of magma becomes as deafening as the sound of the space shuttles in a long shot-sequence which shows us the vastness of the ship on a giant screen with the THX sound. A dark and intense ambient track by two of the best sculptors in the genre! No Stars Without Darkness continues on this vision of intense and enveloping Dark Ambient style. Grainy, the sound texture extends its charm with a splendid voice hidden in an unreal decor while the music distributes its slow arabesques splitting in long tortuous filaments that sow its secret impulses in a Cosmos developing instantly in our ears connected de facto to our imagination. This is how we can hear and see the music of <GU3> MUSIC FOR ASTRONAUTS. Nebula offers the first rhythmic structure of the album. An ambient rhythm whose gentle flow infiltrates our ears in a fascinating duel in tonality. Sparkled as reserved and hushed, these jumping balls leap and zigzag their way into each other's, creating lightning clanker sounds over a structure reminiscent of Steve Roach's musical journeys into the arid southern lands. Haze layers sniff out this structure as a kaleidoscope makes swirl a line of sequenced arpeggios, creating a rich texture of rhythms that fills an already full atmospheric canvas with synth's bluish filaments singing through this teeming mass of intensity. Very good Venja so far. Beginning softly in an interplanetary setting rich with these singing filaments, Bioluminescence offers a lively electronic ascensional rhythm with sequences, changing sonic skin and radius of intensity, that climb an invisible staircase. The ascent is fast and accompanied by various tinklings that make it more aesthetic, musically speaking. This very beautiful movement of Berlin School gets exhausted, and its rhythmic impact is reduced in an ambient finale where these angelic flutes are still whispering to the winds.
We are in the second chapter of dark ambient music with Deep Shift, written and performed with Rhea. Slow layers, resonating with muted voices, sculpt the vaporous wings that encourage the music to take flight not without pain. Heavy with whispering surges, the music screws our ears to our headphones with powerful woosshh that make us think of Michael Stearns revisiting his corridors of Chronos. An intense and poignant movement that fades with a storm of explosions in a cosmic corridor where the fireworks lack oxygen. A Stearns who also seems to exert his influences on Quadrature and its immense dial turning on a movement of sequenced arpeggios. Built with multilayered synth lines carefully cut to create an ingenious jerky percussive movement, this musical parade becomes a huge kaleidoscope with drone effects emerging from its circle, while muffled surges of the bass energize this circular rhythm that differentiates its spheres to reach an ethereal finale. It's between Chronos and especially M'Ocean (the title track and Fireflies' Delight) in a more powerful, more enveloping movement. Simply imposing, Quadrature initiates the kick-off to the best moments of this album! Like it or not, Michael Brückner imposes his style everywhere he goes. This brilliant German musician co-wrote the last two tracks of <GU3> MUSIC FOR ASTRONAUTS, giving a touch of Technoïd Berlin School to this latest ode from the Venja collective. After a 90-second blast of wind and atmospheric elements, Black Hole Surfer's structure is shaken by sequenced oscillations with fascinating organic tones, structuring a spasmodic pulsating rhythmic line that makes us hop from the tips of our toes. We dance to the sound of tssitt-tssitt for another 90 seconds before oscillating circles surround us with a contemporary psychedelic aura. Amongst all these charming elements, we hear the percussion work wandering around in stereo as the mega musical circles absorb us into a finale with a thin layer of sounds leading us to Final Destination (The 12 Gates) which quietly develops into simply unexpected cosmic rock. The riff line, the bass-sequences and the electronic drums are invading elements under layers of synth whose gyrating forms are announcing catastrophe. Intense, I perforated my eardrums by dint of increasing the volume, so much the enveloping effect is one way. A bonus track comes with the purchase of the CD. Its only defect is to pop up after these 3 so hot titles. But all the same, The Phoenix Lights is an excellent Berlin School that sets a distant link with Final Destination (The 12 Gates). Its starting rhythm is nervous with keys twirling on the spot until percussions straighten it in a good stationary cosmic rock. The music develops by collating these secrets that embellish it, including unctuous chloroformed layers and percussive pearls that force the track to gallop on the spot, embracing this circular spasmodic movement that is at the origin of the last third of this marvelous album of contemporary EM.
In an exceptional sound quality and versatile to the point of swinging us to the other side of its initial spectrum, <GU3> MUSIC FOR ASTRONAUTS is possibly the strongest album from this project initiated by Johan Geens in 2017. The balance of rhythm versus the floating and meditative moments is just right while the presence of Michael Brückner allows Galactic Underground to probe new territories for the pleasure of our ears. Excellent and possibly the most beautiful album of 2021!
Sylvain Lupari (September 2nd, 2021) *****
Available at Venja Music Bandcamp