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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Michael Stearns Chronos (Original X-86 Ambisonics Mix) (2022)

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

A reissue which reaches here a whole other musical and sonic nirvana

1 Corridors of Time 8:12

2 Essence and the Ancients 8:18

3 Angels, Bells and Pastorale 8:39

4 Escalator 3:31

5 Voices 4:49

6 Portraits 3:19

7 The Ride (Finale) 4:29

8 Credits 2:15

(CD/DDL 43:32) (V.F.)

(Ambient Cosmic EM)

One of the great pleasures of listening to music is the thrills she gives. And there is a world of difference between listening to a track versus a full album. A track often makes us feel nostalgic by linking it to a specific moment of our life where we lived a happy or unhappy moment. An album is an adventure in music where we go from discovery to discovery, our senses alert and our ears dazzled by the often novel character of a book, which has become the story of an hour, of which we are the author inspired by the muse who is the musician-composer. Has it ever happened to you to have the hairs on your arms pulled up so hard that it almost hurts? It happens regularly when I'm listening to an album of Tangerine Dream, Vangelis (oh-Vangelis), Kitaro, his first albums are of pure cosmic beauty, Jean-Michel Jarre, Klaus Schulze, Steve Roach and/or Bernd Kistenmacher. I forget some? Yes, there are albums that I can't get enough of by lesser known artists; Let the Night Last Forever by Walter Christian Rothe, Univers by Thierry Fervant, Cords by Synergy. And memory being what it is, I still forget half a dozen others. This preamble to get to CHRONOS! An album where I would say that if listening to it didn't give you a thrill, didn't make you sigh or shed a tear, then your soul was dead. Well, here is another chance to resurrect it!

It was announced with the reissue and remastering of Planetary Unfolding, the Projekt Music label is going to reissue 13 albums from Michael Stearns' vast catalog, and CHRONOS is the second album chosen by the American label's management. I have already written a review on this wonderful album in 2007, here is the link to this review Chronos, where I stated that EM could definitely have a soul with this album. And it is even more true with this reissue which offers us nothing less than the original version with the ambisonic mix. The Original X-86 Ambisonics Mix version comes from a stereo recording of the soundtrack using the Ambisonic surround encoding on a Mitsubishi X-86 digital recorder. It's this recording, remastered by Bob Ohlsson in the spring of 2022, that Projekt offers us. And let me tell you, the difference is more than noticeable...It is huge!

Just hearing the synth breathe in the ascent of Corridors of Time already makes the ears quiver. You can clearly hear the difference as you feel Michael Stearns' concentration behind his Serge Modular synth. The tinkling are also more perceptible and these sound rays that sweep, such as a monstrous lighthouse, the sound horizon roll with threatening rumblings even more amplified in this opening where the hairs of our spine are already squabble in our back. And these synth layers which spread their lyric wings? The musical dimension is once again more detailed, as if Stearns was painting layer by layer and sound by sound his immense cosmic canvas. The details, like around the 6th minute, where the subdivisions of the tones in the plaintive synth layers and those shooting stars that we hear better, give an immeasurable depth to this landmark work by the American musician-synthesist who is a pioneer in the manipulation of the Serge Modular. And we are even more in the front row to hear the secrets of the synth as well as its warm musical tones in this reissue of this 9th album of Michael Stearns, if we count Desert Moon Walk realized in 1977. I won't write a deep review of this CHRONOS rerelease as I did in 2007. But, imagine all those little crackles, think of Essence and the Ancients, that are better detailed, those synth groans whose breaths you can almost hear, those rumblings that roll with more consistency without ever altering the delicacy of the musician's visions and those muffled percussions that sound like a heartbeat that refuses to die. These elements run through our soul, making it shiver even more. Even almost 40 years later and over 600 listens further (I still listen to Chronos at least once a month since I discovered this album in the late 80's), I have shivers of pleasure that never reached such this dimension with this new CHRONOS Original X-86 Ambisonics Mix. The quietness, the sharpness in the harmony of the bells as well as in their pastoral passion reach a new dimension in Angels, Bells and Pastorale and in the timeless ascent of Escalator. And what about Portraits! This is where the soul of CHRONOS was first revealed to me back then, and my bowl of tears is filled to the rim. The fluty air is not just beautiful, it is extraordinary! The Ride (Finale) is even more majestic with its interplanetary momentum that makes us want to hear Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygene again. The power of the movement is as detailed as if Michael Stearns was explaining it sound by sound this finale that makes my soul shake as much as the walls and the floor of my listening room. This CHRONOS (Original X​-​86 Ambisonics Mix) reissue includes a track from the documentary that serves to close its ending, Credits. These slow musical wings, built on the harmonious movement of Corridors of Time, are devoid of its muffled beats, screwing twice as much this earworm that obsesses our senses and stimulating this irresistible desire to hear the whole album again, which reaches here a whole other musical and sonic nirvana.

This is quite a gift from Michael Stearns, Bob Ohlsson and Sam Rosenthal! And if you are one of the first buyers, Project will give you the remaining DVDs of the Ron Fricke documentary, as long as there are some left. I've heard there are close to 300 copies left. When I was saying gift...!

Sylvain Lupari (November 10th, 2022) *****

Available at Projekt Records Bandcamp

(NB: Words in blue are links you can click on)

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