Peter Andersson often strikes me as the type of artist who feels driven to release everything he records. Much of his material falls into experimental electronic subgenres, and as Andersson seems like the type of artist who draws a great deal of enjoyment from dabbling and fiddling, he’s amassed quite a broad discography under a variety of monikers. His best-known project is Raison d’Être, which began as chorus-laden religion-inspired musings before morphing into a twisting webwork of layered processed noise.
Atomine Elektrine is one of Andersson’s longer-running side-projects, with ten official releases over the last twenty years. The project is staunchly retro Berlin-School space-ambient, complete with classic looped analog synthesizers following minimal structures, all intended to express both the emptiness and the beauty of the cosmos. Laniakea, Andersson’s most recent entry into this genre, whose roots extend back to the 1970s, sounds like it could have been released forty years ago. The concept is stubbornly and intentionally archaic, as if twenty-first-century video game studio Naughty Dog suddenly chose to program a game for the long-obsolete Atari 2600 game system. It’s a double-edged sword sort of release; some listeners will embrace the nostalgic quality while others will listen to its repetitive and dated sound and wonder why Andersson decided to take such a well-trodden path.
However, when viewed as a tribute, Laniakea is a resounding success. This extends to the liner notes, which contain an R.I.P. message for the recently deceased electronic music pioneer Edgar Froese, best known for his innovative work as part of Tangerine Dream. Laniakea is more focused on rhythm and clear production than many of Andersson’s more modern-leaning efforts of melodic distortion, and it’s understandable why he might want to direct his highly active compositional mind towards a different style. There’s something refreshing about the clean and simple bass-synth loop of “Abell 3521,” and while Andersson does add modern layers of pitch and detail to provide some sense of momentum, the track develops little over its nearly sixteen-minute running time. This, of course, is the point, and it’s something of a history lesson, but not everyone is necessarily a history buff.
In another showing of its influences, the tracks on Laniakea (named for a galaxy supercluster discovered in 2014) are quite similar in structure and sound. Each is built upon an old-school bass-line, and while Andersson warps the skeleton in various ways, the animal remains the same. There are three exclusive tracks on the CD version collectively called titled Cosmic Expansion, but the only notable differences are a slightly rawer sound and shorter running times, the latter owing mostly to the lack of the lengthy intro and outro sequences of noise with which Andersson bookends most of the tracks on the album proper.
If you’re a diehard Andersson completist or have a particular love for the classic German-centered space-ambient sound, you won’t go wrong with Laniakea. Atomine Elektrine can be labeled as “experimental,” but it’s important to note that the experiment in question was first conducted over four decades ago. Listeners with more adventurous musical interests may not find their cravings satisfied; for that, one of Andersson’s other fringe-focused side-projects or his recent Raison d’Être releases (eg. 2014’s Mise En Abyme) will likely be more appropriate.
With Laniakea, Andersson has channeled his muses, and channeled them well. There may not be many philosophical or compositional differences from the Berlin School of the seventies or the innovations of Tangerine Dream, but these are precisely the sounds and styles Andersson was aiming for. Laniakea should not be viewed as a blatant copy of what’s come before; Andersson has proven his talents too often over his long career to stoop to such a level. Rather, he’s demonstrated his deep love for his roots and a clear understanding for what makes them tick, and for that, it’s difficult to find much fault.
02) Abell 3521
06) Achernar (CD Edition Only)
07) Acamar (CD Edition Only)
08) Zeta Normae (CD Edition Only)