Stellarium Pillars of Light (2023)
Updated: Oct 28
“Excellent hypnotic and melodic Berlin School in rich cosmic textures”
1 Protoplanetary Disk 7:28
2 Ladder of Dust 9:06
3 Beam of Emission 9:23
4 Pilots of the Void 8:52
5 Sponde Radiance 11:24
6 Last Shuttle to Aldebaran 10:19
7 Vanished in the Nebula 8:56
8 Collapsar 6:35
(DDL 72:06) (V.F.)
(Cinematic Cosmic Berlin School)
How do you explain love at first sight with music? How can I explain the infatuation I have listening over and over again to this latest marvel in the spheres of electronic music (EM) offered by the cosmic Berlin School label Exopshere Music? Stellarium is a newcomer to the world of progressive EM. PILLARS OF LIGHT is the debut album of Sebastian Hebert, a Montreal-based musician-synthesist also known by his artist name Red Fog. And this moniker perfectly describes the universe in which the Canadian artist's debut album is immersed. Rarely have I heard such a dense sonic panorama as on this album. And yet, there's nothing extraordinary about it. Just mist! Lots of fog, both gaseous and orchestral. Banks of sonic fog in shades of black dystopian, if not apocalyptic, so opaque that the rhythms, knitted in poly-development mode by a luminous sequencer game, advance with a deliciously weightless effect screwed into their various beat shapes. There are also sound effects, both organic and mechanical, and splashes of black tones that spit out textures of cosmic drama in the PILLARS OF LIGHT universe. But back to those rhythmic structures. The majority of the tracks, 7 out of 8, are based on constantly evolving movements. The first rhythmic framework serves as an anchor for the sequencer, which multiplies its core by structuring rhythms that multiply and beat as much in their shadows as in parallel. It's dark, heavy, slow and yet driving. For neurons, fingertips and feet alike!
The album's humming waves and buzzing bass strings are legion. They lend an aura of interstellar tragedy to the ambiences, as well as nourishing the openings and finales, as here with Protoplanetary Disk. They also form rays of black mist filled with cryonic gas, whose circular trajectories are like the watchful eye of a police state. All this to say that the ambiences in PILLARS OF LIGHT are far from banal. Initially rather timid, sequences structure a slow circular rhythm with more or less spaced beats that hop around like sequenced strobes. Stellarium lays the foundations, the panoramas of his first musical adventure on Exosphere Music, letting off waves of wiisshh, waasshh and threads of absent voices, as well as big, dramatic chords that amplify and solidify the intense sound mass of the music's ambiences. Here, as on the 7 other tracks on this album. The rhythm remains ambient with these spaced-out bursts until the sequencer activates a more accentuated line after the 4th minute. Its flow becomes an undulating rhythmic wave whose jerky flow forms a stroboscopic filament that evaporates into interstellar mists filled with cold gas. In a setting almost identical to the first track, Ladder of Dust follows with a slow rhythm that hops along with a weightlessness effect linked to the sequences. Another sequencer line adopts this vision, hopping symbiotically and in the same wake as the first rhythm structure. A big cloud of mist and wiisshh envelops the rhythm, which vibrates with its circular jumps, still ambient but kind of driving for your neurons. The result is an ambient, slow and heavy rhythmic structure that resonates as it traces its circular axes, flirting with a distant strobe-like vibration. The ambiences of Beam of Emission reflect the spirit behind the track. A big, circular reverberating effect swirls slowly, like a cyborg beacon surveying the horizons, before the heavy, resonant rhythm jumps onto a carpet of sound effects that exhale organic laments. It's very Pink Floyd in TDSOTM, think of On the Run. The rhythm develops after the 3rd minute. This is where I fell in love with the album, its music! The beats have an organic, rubbery texture. It's like the throat of a toad that just won't stop beating! The sequencer activates a line of sequences whose jerky drift initially flows in symbiosis with the first beats, slowly drifting into a staggering rising march. It's dark, heavy and slow. And I love it! The two structures unify each contrast, fluid and jerky, in another rhythmic structure that makes our neurons dance, our fingertips more than our feet. A sequence of 3 bass metallic pulsating beats, bam-bam-bam, gives even more love to this rhythm that will make your floorboards vibrate. Excellent!
Pilots of the Void highlights the arsenal of Dantesque sound effects that envelop the structures of PILLARS OF LIGHT. Synth waves in search of fugitives on their way to extermination are sweeping the horizons of this heavy and slow track which is shrouded in electronic effects woven into organic as well as mechanical visions. This cosmic rock, with its seductive floating limpness, is mainly conceived on a mesh of sequences with contrasting tonalities, electronic percussions with circular beats and a sequence bass line that resonates like a hungry belly. Sponde Radiance begins with an intense, atmospheric opening from which an ascending bass-sequence line emerges. The rhythm is heavy and resonant, like the rest of the album's structures, with a slight galloping effect that gives it a heavier but a more driving momentum here than elsewhere on this first Stellarium album. Sound effects and the circular beating of a sequence line that alternates the hue of its colors help to add vigor to another very good and rather heavy cosmic rock. Last Shuttle to Aldebaran features a livelier circular rhythm set against a resonant pulsating bass line. The vibrating effect of these pulsations creates a vague echo effect, while the sequencer subdivides its core with other lines that jump in parallel in an alternating effect where another line escapes with an astonishing Tangerine Dream tone, in color and flow. As much rhythmic as harmonic, this line undulates with an ascending effect in these clouds of orchestral mist that sometimes give PILLARS OF LIGHT more musicality. Another excellent track! Vanished in the Nebula features a heavy, powerful rhythm with a sequencer step that seems to float between two spheres. The movement strengthens with the arrival of another, more crystalline line of sequences, which hop along with a slightly more accentuated flow. A Software-like orchestral haze and fat, dark, resonant chords cover this polyrhythm, which converges in unexpected symbiosis, giving Vanished in the Nebula the texture of interstellar drama. Collapsar concludes PILLARS OF LIGHT with an atmospheric track and a rich sonic panorama inspired by an extraordinary cosmic vision. The music develops with inverted pulsations, creating a form of ambient rhythm animated by the sucking effects of an enormous suction cup of a one-arm octopus. A sound ray makes its rotating roars heard, adding a dystopian apocalyptic zest to the ambiences, while the mist spreads a resonant fog where are lurking absent voices and the delicate organic noises of a cyborg dermapterans and chilopods fauna. Hear how rich PILLARS OF LIGHT soundscapes are!
Like with Cyclical Dreams, there's a lot going on in the studios of Synphaera and its Exosphere Music division. It's no longer unusual for my ears to come across solid albums, and even unexpected little masterpieces like this excellent debut from Stellarium, PILLARS OF LIGHT. Hypnotic rhythms and cosmic ambiences of incomparable sonic richness are the order of the day on this album fed by great cosmic Berlin School.
Sylvain Lupari (October 25th, 2023) *****
Available at Exosphere Bandcamp
(NB: The texts in blue are links you can click on)