01 Start (Mercury-Atlas 7)
02 PSR 0950+08 (Close Encounters with an Alien Ghost)
03 The Astrophysics (1952-1960)
04 PSR 0833-45 (Vela Pulsar)
05 Pulse 5, 6, 7 and 8 (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune)
06 PSR 0950+08 (X-Ray Emission)
Voices of the Cosmos is a release that more or less defines what the new Heathen Harvest Periodical is trying to be about. An intelligent and educated journey into the world of Post-industrial music that goes beyond just sound. A journey that takes a thinker’s mind to comprehend, but not necessarily one to enjoy. Voices of the Cosmos is an educated split from the Polish projects Electric Uranus (Wojciech Zięba, owner of Beast of Prey), and X-Navi:et (Rafal Iwanski). Wojciech Zięba is also behind projects such as Krepulec, and the short-lived Infamis. This is Zięba’s first work in the world of Electric Uranus and represents a new era in his personal development as a thinker and as a musician. Rafał Iwański is a legendary Polish experimental industrialite and percussionist whose normal recording project is Hati, along with Dariusz Wojtaś. Hati has single-handedly taken up most of Eter Records’ release roster but have also released previously through the obvious, Beast of Prey, as well as the Italian Ars Benevola Mater, the extremely small but decade and a half-old Nefryt, and most recently the fellow Polish post-industrial label Requiem Records. X-navi:et thus also represents a new beginning for this artist, immediately evolving Voices of the Cosmos into an entirely new entity.
This split in itself is an electroacoustic journey into the beauty of the void, a work of experimentalism utilizing extra-terrestrial sound sources to weave creative patterns and give the universe itself a voice. They utilize pulsar rhythms captured from radio telescopes, sounds from space missions and the void itself, as well as synths, scrap metal, tone generators, effects, and an analog filter machine. Each artist has created 3 staggered tracks, with Electric Uranus taking on 1, 3, and 5, and X-Navi:et taking on 2, 4, and 6. The track titles from X-Navi:et describe the area of the sky in which the pulsars are found in which the sounds were derived from. Electric Uranus takes on the more human side of the release utilizing sounds that have been taken from our various human missions into space. Thus each artist represents a direction, a point in space in which humanity has met with the great expanse beyond Earth to form the Voices of the Cosmos. This should make it clear that this release is not only of interest to the casual dark ambient and experimental lover, but also to anyone involved in the scientific community whom is affiliated with space sciences.
Voices of the Cosmos opens with “Start (Mercury-Atlas 7) which involves sounds from the manned space mission Aurora 7. This includes the lift-off message at the beginning of the track, an obvious opening metaphor for the journey that the listener is about to take. Heavy electronics and synth make up the bulk of Start, drawing comparison from the volume and intensity of an actual lift-off experience. PSR 0950+08 (Close Encounter with an Alien Ghost) is eerily silent between its harsh, scream-like effects. Everything but the pulsar clicks and the strange electronic sounds at the end of the track are in constant fluctuation, concentrating the listener on the constant mathematical emergence and ultimate disappearance of the pulsar, the beauty of the mathematical dance we hear as the star remnant whirls. This remnant is from the Vela supernova in the Vela constellation in the southern sky and is thus named, you guessed it, the Vela Pulsar. This pulsar is important as it proved with direct observation that supernovae form neutron stars. The Astrophysics (1952-1960) focuses on sounds from Russian missions Vostok 4 and Sputnik 3, but strongly utilizes a heavy low synth that strangely resembles the ritual nature of a shofar horn. Scrap metal and other effects are used conservatively to give the track some additional unique characteristics. Strangely, despite not being based around a pulsar, this track has a distant, consistent knocking far in the background of much of the track, perhaps related to the very heartbeat of the Russian astrophysics program in this 8 year period. It gets strange towards the end, focusing on the unstable sound of pliable metal, processed to create a unique electronic sound effect. PSR 0833-45 features a meeting of worlds, between the percussive nature of the pular itself and the percussive mind of Rafal Iwanski. The sound comes out tribal in nature with another strong low-tone background. The pitch of the pulse itself changes in pitch throughout the track, giving it an alien sound at its higher-pitched moments. Track 5, Pulse 5, 6, 7 and 8, uses recordings that were taken from the Voyager spacecraft (circa 1979-1989) and includes various metal object sounds and includes a pulse that mimicks those found from the actual pulsar recordings used for tracks 2, 4, and 6. This pulse is strong, like a hammer dropping constantly in tempo. Backed by a more traditional corridor-like drone, this short track takes on perhaps the most-straight forward approach out of the 6. Lastly, PSR 0950+08 starts off lightly with the pulsar rhythm itself, and gentle is really the theme with this track. Purling spherical drones gently wave around one another in all levels of the human audible spectrum.
Its an aural picture involving the pulsar blip emerging from the darkness, only to be surrounded by dancing particles and brilliant gas cloud colors, the light flashing through the vastness of space, to reach us several times every second. This pulsar is a remnant of a supernova that occured 1.8 million years ago in the Antila constellation in the southern sky. This is the second nearest pulsar to Earth, and the supernova that it was emitted from would have been as bright as the moon upon reaching its full expansion. It should be noted that this is the same pulsar from track 2.
Two video tracks have also been released for this album made from exclusive video art by Chris Konky. One track from each artist had a video made, first was “Start” for Electric Uranus, and second was “0950+08″ for X-Navi:et”. Most of the video for Start seems to feature wave-lengths and images related to the music heard within the track in a very blue and abstract style. Adversely, the track for X-Navi:et is based around star colors similar to our own sun with brilliant yellows oranges and reds combed over an array of shapes and figures, a very complex piece mimicking what one could see as a futuristic astronaut control station. The videos are abstract enough that they escape exact meaning for me, but they certainly coincide with the compositions that they’re paired with.
It’s important to state that Voices of the Cosmos has been released in cooperation with a celebration in memory of Jan Heweliusz. The year 2011 is the 400th anniversary of his birth and is now known in Poland as the “year of Jan Heweliusz” in Poland. This astronomer was a very important figure in the scientific community of the time having been the founder of lunar topography and having described ten separate constellations, seven of which are still recognized today by astronomers. In 1641, at 30 years old, he built an observatory that ultimately housed a large Keplerian telescope of 150 feet (45 meters) focal length with a wood and wire tube that were self-constructed. This is thought to have perhaps been the longest tubed telescope before the tubeless Aerial telescope was invented. Sternenburg, or “Star Castle”, was visited by Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga as well as four subsequent Polish Kings. Descendants of his live in Urzędów, Poland today where they still support local astronomy, showing that not only were his actions important to astronomy, but his entire lineage is affecting the scientific genre even today.
I have chosen to forego a rating on this release as I feel it would be inappropriate to judge an effort of educational measure on this level. I should also note that I’m against track-by-track reviews, but found it necessary for a record with track-specific complexities like those found on Voices of the Cosmos.