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Broken Harbour "Gramophone Transmissions"
New music from Broken Harbour, a new twist on the space music ideal.
"Gramophone Transmissions" by Broken Harbour is an excellent release that builds on the concepts and themes of the space music genre by adding dark and unsettling elements that succeed in creating a new offshoot style. I'm not sure what to call it, perhaps that's something I can leave up to you as readers, but if you imagine "2001" as the archetypical space music movie, then "Alien" would surely be the movie to match with "Gramophone Transmissions"...
The album begins with "Drift", where the crackling sounds of uranium powered engines play overtop looped phrases in the distance, the occasional snatch of piano or a slowly rising pad filling out the space. It's a dense track, filled with deep sounds and tones that (appropriately enough) drift through the soundscape, rising and falling in focus and intensity. A really mesmerizing track, a really strong and engaging opening to the disc.
The two part suite "The Ballad of Dave Bowman pt. 1" follows, a soundtrack for the second most famous fictional astronaut after Major Tom. A slowly oscillating drone acts as the basis for this piece, a steady anchoring sound that shifts and pulls itself through it's own gravity. New sounds are added gradually over the course of the track so as not to interupt or distract from the natural flow of the piece, instead complementing and building on it until eventually the drone is overtaken and replaced by a higher pitched sound that shifts the musical dynamic into a darker more ominous space.
"The Ballad of Dave Bowman pt.2" continues the journey with a brighter and slightly more inviting musical feel. The tones here are richer and fuller, a sweet cascade of bright tones that wash over the soundscape bringing with it a strong sense of renewal and hope.
Ironically "Titan" is a much more subtle track than its name would suggest, sparse and delicate sounds playing over a bed of static and a slowly pulsing drone. I think it might well be my favourite track on the album, it's beauty lying in its quiet simplicity.
"Dark Clouds Approaching From The West" returns the listener to a darker space, a sound that brings to mind the Nostromo and other ill-fated ships. There's a building tension to this track, a feeling of unease that mounts as time passes, ultimately culminating in a truly harrowing listening experience. Haunted sounds, an ominous and intermittant breathing, a rising drone, it all adds up to create a really powerful environment, an impressive aural landscape.
So how do you follow that? "Maelstrom (The Descent)" ramps up the unease to 11 and then builds it up exponentially from there. I remember a radio program from my youth playing a recording taken from a mine that had supposedly breached some sort of dimensional barrier leading into Hell. My memory is that it sounded much like this track, only Broken Harbor has developed and built on the supposed sound of the underworld and made it all the more uncomfortable, all the more hellacious. A truly dark piece of music that impresses me greatly (but also leaves me a little scared at the same time).
"Unforseen Consequences" closes the disc, a slightly brighter, but no less unsettling piece than the last two tracks. It's really a wonderful example of how similar moods and themes can be established while using completely different sound pallettes and approaches. A very interesting (and somewhat challenging) way to close the disc, "Unforseen Consequences" finishes our journey, closing the loop musically and resolving any outstanding tensions and unease.
Like I said earlier, "Gramophone Transmissions" is an excellent album and an interesting stylistic development within the space music genre. It's also a truly impressive release that I highly recommend. Is it too early to start choosing my top ten picks for 2012?
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last updated 11/29/12