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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

ROBERT SCHROEDER: Galaxy Cygnus-A (1982-2010)

Updated: Mar 13, 2022

A major work that has its place in any EM collection, whether it's Berlin School or cosmic music

1 Search Direction 4:44 2 Receiving Signals 8:26 3 Lift Off to the Galaxy 3:19 4 1050 Mill. Light Years 4:24 5 Galaxy Cygnus-A 10:03 6 Constellation Swan 6:36 7 Interstellar Quasars 12:49 Communication KS 80.021

(CD 50:25) (V.F.)

(Cosmic EM)

If Harmonic Ascendant has put the name of Robert Schroeder on the map, GALAXY CYGNUS-A has solidified the immense talent and creativity of the Aachen synthesist. Initially conceived for a science fiction project, the main idea behind this album was to capture the sound waves coming from galaxies with the help of a radio telescope placed in high altitude. The sound engineer in him edited and sampled these galactic tones on a music that he then performed during a big event in sounds and images, in front of a giant screen that was broadcasting images of cosmos during this concert presented within the framework of the prestigious ARS-Electronica in Linz, Austria, in 1982. Released on Klaus Schulze's label (Innovative Communication), GALAXY CYGNUS-A got lost in a couple of CD-r editions and was never released as a proper factory CD until this last December when Spheric Label presented a reworked version of this little masterpiece of ingenuity. From the start, I have to admit that I was a little disconcerted by this new reworked version which puts down a lot of emphasis on sound effects and the strength of sound, abandoning a bit the warmer approach and the subtleties of the vinyl sound curves. But if the purpose of Schroeder was to let us hear all that we missed due to limitations of the vinyl; I may say mission accomplished. Because in spite of the difference between both productions, GALAXY CYGNUS-A remains a pure masterwork where the melodious approach of the synths espouses marvellously those tones coming up beyond our terrestrial frontiers. And this new version out of the Spheric Music factory even includes a bonus track left aside for a lack of space on the vinyl.

A huge resonant sound strike falls and scatters some static strands. Then fall strikes of mallets, whereas the static of the tones and the astral choirs are floating in a sublime cosmic immersion. Sounds that stretch out such as slender serpentines with deformed metallic resonances give to Search Direction a strange floating motionlessness stuffed of white noises and tones of arcade games. Already the differences between both works are perceptible; everything is more exhaustive and more limpid…and also more powerful! The effects of voices of the vocoder are floating among stunning convoluted synth layers which twist themselves and then untwist over a choir hummed by a Mellotron. Sounds, tones and their colors that wobble and roam in a cosmos so near that we could touch it on the tips of our fingers. And there appears this small cosmic duck which cackle its fuzz wah-wah succeeding each other in a series of two. Receiving Signals is by far, at this moment, one of the nicest pieces of music produced by Robert Schroeder. Everything is perfect on this track which increases in intensity and drama. The cybernetic Wah-Wah establishes a first pattern of minimalism tempo. Besides the galactic sound effects, a synth with floating layers wraps a bass line which leans on this delicate atypical rhythm. The percussions which fall in an asymmetric way create a superb jewel of tranquillity and serenity which surrounds itself constantly of new assets and galactic sound effects. The key point is this synth which gets loose at around the 5th minute in order to offer the most beautiful cosmic melody that my ears heard to this day. The synth cries with so much authenticity that our soul is quite moved. To me, Receiving Signals (or Teil 2) is one of cosmic EM highlight and as much as on this new edition as on the original. The impact is the same; it’s a track simply splendid. Lift off to the Galaxy imbibes us with cosmic tones. Here no rhythm but all sound effects! Tones all so strange than others that could effectively come from galaxies situated at light years from Earth and which surround fine notes from a kind of electronic harp with a zest of Chinese fragrance and smooth layers of misty mellotron. We perceive there all those subtle fluid moves of a synth which frees celestial choruses. That's a prelude to the undulating and hopping rhythm which livens up 1050 Mill. Light Years where extraterritorial sonorities invade a suave rippling sequence with an uncertain tempo and a synth filled by a lunar saxophone tone. It's a soft rhythm which is breaking through the blackness of space and concluded the whole first side of the album.

Following huge reflecting and resonant sparkles, the title-track widens its galactic sonorities whereas a superb sequential minimalist movement settles a tempo with delicate alternating strikes. If Receiving Signals is a jewel, Galaxy Cygnus-A is a pure diamond of cosmic tenderness where the fine hypnotic tempo pulses beneath a sweet astral choir, sonorities of misty flutes and cosmic signals which accompany a sulphurous synth with piercing sonority. It's a very good track where the meshing of various synth tones to the hypnotic rhythm leads us near an imagination without borders. Constellation Swan ended the original work with a long ambient track filled of cosmic fragrances. On this version, the cosmic noises, the interferences and the astral choirs are amplified so that nothing escapes to the attentive ears fond of sounds. The synth is fluid and melodious. It's freeing brief twisted solos around a palette of analog tones, among which these breezes of whales that are so associated with the extraterrestrial communications. Interstellar Quasars is the bonus track in this new edition of this classic album. It's a long track that is really in the spirit of this conceptual work with its heavy reverberating tones which float in a mellotron fog. We feel synth momentums, as on Lift off to the Galaxy, that are snapped by extraterrestrials conversations on an absent rhythm, on an abstract structure. Choirs roam here and there with erratic synth pads and cosmic sounds that yell among stars. A slow ambient structure is floating there before a circular tempo makes a short-term appearance. A tempo quick absorbed by the meanders of cosmos and that will return later in the form of hopping and crystal-clear sequences dancing beneath the breezes of a poetic synth.

Here we go; Cygnus-A, or GALAXY CYGNUS-A, is a pure masterpiece of cosmic EM. Even if the difference between those two editions can disconcerted the ears moulded in the furrows of the first edition, we are fast absorbed by all the beauty of this cosmic work. And when we listen to those two works in parallel, we eventually find a justification in this reworked version which displays all the power limited by the recordings of this period. As for me it's a major work that has its place in any EM records collection, whether it's Berlin School or cosmic music, so much the magic which comes out of it hasn't finds an equal yet regarding that kind.

Sylvain Lupari (August 24th, 2011) *****

Available at Spheric Web Shop or CD Baby

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