Although I’ve been writing and reviewing music for an extended period I still experience a thrill when discovering great new talent in the space music domain.
Terminus Void is an ambient-space music project by Seattle-based Em-composer J. Ronald Smith whose debut recording “Interstellar” (where he used the CS-80 sound quite heavy) got aired in 2021 through Stephen Hill’s Hearts of Space radio show. Before Terminus Void got noticed through that channel, Mr. Smith was using Terminus Void’s YouTube channel ( https://www.youtube.com/c/TerminusVoid ) to promote his music by providing pre-mastered tracks to listeners. As an added bonus, he composed and published the track “Memories of Rain” as a tribute to Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, aka Vangelis. It was meant as a direct homage to his work as it had stirred the composer’s electronic music passion even more. Soon after, the video went viral and with the many positive comments, the decision was made to add it as a final track to “Origins Unknown” (released in April 2022). Just three weeks after the album’s release, the Greek master passed away, so the composer could not be more thankful to have included it in the end.
The aforementioned radio show though was the main trigger to start composing and translating a huge, lifelong passion for astronomy (which was influenced by NASA’s Apollo space program that the composer’s grandparents were a direct part of) as well as science into fascinating worlds of captivating, expansive sound. “Origins Unknown” arose from the musical pioneering by Louis and Bebe Barron (two American pioneers in the field of electronic music in the ‘50-s) and their interpretation of Norbert Wiener’s theory of cybernetics as applied to music. Their hard work would ultimately result in the famous soundtrack for the 1956 classic “Forbidden Planet”.
When I put on “Origins Unknown” I very quickly sensed Mr. Smith is a composer who puts a great amount of effort, thought and creativity into his compositions and sound creation: he would like to think his music encourages active listening in the sense that each track is part of a larger unfolding story as opposed to passive listening, i.e. while focusing on other tasks. As with a good story, the music featured here has a range of emotion and pace and often includes cinematic elements and subtle nuances that sometimes require listening over several sessions to discern. Aside from that, other elements are more obvious, such as holding and shifting a note selection in ways that are unexpected, leaving the listener in anticipation and perhaps in suspense when the music moves in an unforeseen direction.
Well, the 52-minute/7-track “Origins Unknown” (mastered in full 24-bit audio resolution) creates a beautiful immersive aural realm as it transports the listener gently but surely into the far depths of the cosmic expanse with its smooth soaring, celestial textures. After “Discovery’s” moody introduction, “Inception” highlights this is in a great sense while a lure of mystery and tension kicks in when we arrive at the mesmerizing title piece. On the latter piece, Mr. Smith wanted to use the inspiration from Barron’s work along with his personal fascination with these Jovian signals to become the foundation of the track. And in doing so, he took the raw NASA audio recording from the Juno spacecraft as it passed through the atmosphere of Ganymede on the 7th of June 2021, slowed it down a little over 1000 percent, and reprocessed it multiple times using a variety of filters. In the end, he was surprised to find out how this otherwise random off-world radio signal created a life of its own. Ominous spheres take the stage on “Dark Outpost” as further cosmic phenomena present themselves before the sound spectrum shifts into a lighter, elevating mode as we get to “Left Behind”. The 9-minute “Star Fields”, containing some lovely nods from the CS-80 synth, ends up as beautiful and pure drift music painting immensity before the mind’s eye. The already mentioned commemorative spherescape “Memories of Rain” rounds out the release. It’s a great nod towards Vangelis’ work on the movie “Blade Runner”, which actually introduced the composer to the famous Yamaha CS-80 synth that he find is not only cinematic but also evoking a lot of emotion. What a nice conclusion to this cosmic travelogue!
As a side note, I for one think Terminus Void makes an excellent addition to the league of quality space music composers such as Michael Stearns, Jonn Serrie, Immersion Theory, and Hollan Holmes.
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