Music Reviews /
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Martin Stürzter has a lot to answer for. Not only is his musical output prolific, having amassed a massive back library of releases – he’s also dabbled in a number of genres. From downtempo dub techno to almost pure drone music he has mastered each genre in his own way. ‘Spirits of Rhea’ seems to encapsulate several of these skills in an album that is worthy of multiple listens.

Each playthrough of the 8-track album seems to elicit more detail each time. Some extra bass sounds here, or noticing some distance synthesised vocal elsewhere. Everything just clicks on this album provided you’re in the right frame of mind to listen to it.

So I’ll say now, if you’re into deep, dark drones, or maybe you like your ambient a little deeper in terms of sonic palette then you’ll love this album. If not, I dare say to challenge you to give it a listen – if you’re skirting the edges of wondering what the aforementioned genres entail then this album would be a great introduction.

Tracklist:

  1. Spirits of Rhea 08:13
  2. Rings 08:04
  3. The deep sea 07:25
  4. Hyperion 04:00
  5. Saturn emissions 09:50
  6. Enceladus emissions 07:46
  7. Through the gates of the silver key 10:52
  8. Signal 12:11

A large number of these tracks follow a theme: single drone-like sound structures that are vaguely reminiscent of the sounds you hear from those ‘sounds of space’ that crop up on NASA or other space-related websites. But here’s the interesting thing – they were. The album blurb states:

SPIRITS OF RHEA features radio emissions and re-synthesised images from the Saturn system recorded by the NASA probe CASSINI which investigated the Saturn system until signal loss in 2017.

And that’s not a bad thing. These are a little less jarring in tone though, having been expertly repurposed and used in a way that makes each track much more pleasing to the ear, so much so at times that you sometimes forget you are listening to some very good quality ambient music.

The opening track ‘Spirits of Rhea’ certainly fits this description, with minimal additions of synth pads and other ethereal sounds percolating above the almost white-noise, bass heavy drone. This drone style follows on the next track ‘Rings’, with more melodic structures hidden deep within the drones themselves, requiring close listening to appreciate. Certainly very evocative of images of Saturn’s rings, or indeed flying a ship along a ringed planet in Elite:Dangerous would match the atmosphere.

‘The Deep Sea’ is more an exploration looking out on a far-distant planet’s ocean, possibly of some alien material able to remain liquid in perpetual darkness. At least, that’s the impression I receive from my hearing of this track. Less noise, more progressive pad structures abound here.

‘Hyperion’ is really the first track that has any strong melody or chord progressions and that’s not actually a bad thing. It’s well timed in it’s position in the album, and a marked difference from the previous tracks, but it’s also a great counterpoint sonically to the earlier tracks. However, it’s a brief respite from the drone-like ambiences that we revert back back to in ‘Saturn Emissions’ and ‘Enceladus Emissions’, both of which are heading more into the abstract ‘space sound’ I mentioned in earlier in the review. Not to say they’re without any form or structure, but they are the most atonal sounding tracks of the album, even with the spacey whooshes and sweeps contained within.

Next up is a return to that more ‘musical’ or melodic ambient – ‘Through the gates of the silver key’ featuring high pads, deep bass drones and almost everything in-between. There’s almost a sense of melancholy here too, the tones making up a sound that evokes emptiness and sadness within the spatial voids.

Finally we come to ‘Signal’, my favourite and standout track of the album. The only track to suddenly ‘start’ in terms of , and immediately plunged into the melody. Distant distorted pings are received. An appreciation of a vast cosmos that the sounds have possibly travelled. Just the most outstanding track for me personally.

Final Thoughts

To wrap up – it’s a great album, and I’ve already repeated it a few times now. Each time I appreciate it more. It ends on the right note, the track lengths, arrangement and overall album all seems to fit. There’s nothing out of place and if I must make a criticism, it’s not doing anything wild. It’s all rather ‘safe’ in terms of sound design. But as much as that is a criticism, it’s also a plus – it’s an album where once you’ve heard it, you know what to expect. Nothings surprising. You can put it on and in the true ambient sense, it is as ignorable as it is listenable. And it’s certainly listenable.

5/5 – available on Bandcamp, Apple Music and Spotify

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