13 February 2010

Michael Stearns - 1980 - Planetary Unfolding

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

Michael Stearns earned his stripes as an electronic pioneer, although I've always associated his name with the soundtrack to the film "Chronos." This album was made entirely with the Serge synthesizer, a modular beast of a machine whose interface consists of a series of metal pads rather than a keyboard. Stearns uses the washes and bleeps of the synth to try and create the most cosmic sounds possible, although he sometimes teeters a little closer to new age music than I'm comfortable with. Regardless, you're sure to find sounds here to invoke the call of interstellar space.

Typically, I like to give a bit of a track rundown, but there really is not much variation with this album. Every track consists of huge synth pads with little modular flourishes here and there. Your job as the listener is to appreciate the way that the different patterns and tone interact. The only variation of note is that "Something's Moving" start with some percolating sounds similar to fellow synth user Morton Subotnick. I suppose that "Wherever Two or More Are Gathered" picks up a little steam in the early 80's Tangerine Dream sense of the word, too. On a side note, I'm sure that more than one planetarium uses this disc to fill up aural space before the show.

There's plenty to appreciate on Planetary Unfolding, but I wouldn't quite rate it as top shelf material. If you're a synthesizer geek, this is a must hear simply for the not-often-heard Serge. But for those that really want to reprogram their brains through ambient sound, I will first direct to the recordings of Gas or Coil.


Anonymous said...


Jörg said...


Anonymous said...

Absolutely clueless review. Insulting to one of the greatest electronic albums of all time.