Perhaps sci-fi soundtracks are to blame for our associations between analog synthesizers and alien landscapes. Or perhaps it’s the otherness of the sonics, an aura of weirdness that acoustic instruments and their electrified counterparts are missing. Or perhaps it’s us, too. Maybe it’s our own escapist desire to reach beyond this mundane world, with synthesis and its infinite textures acting as spirit guide to those distant zones. Such wonderlands exist far from the world we inhabit, rolling in a cosmic miasma of form and color visibly separate from what we know of/as reality.
We tend to conceive of this distance primarily in the spatial dimensions. This is not to say that we don’t sometimes infer that the exploration takes place in some future time, when humans might finally reach those worlds once possible only in musical fantasia. But these suggestions are vague specters, a blur of machines and blinking LEDs; those spaces tend to elude the imagination as ghostly landscapes and fluid forms. With Aeons, Pulse Emitter’s Daryl Groetsch attempts to ground this dissociative journey in specific periods of time and space. Instead of a distant planet spinning in the far galaxies, he conjures this world in its long-vanished past and its inscrutable future.
Aeons’ structure is that of a pendulum swinging with increasing amplitude: side A’s two tracks represent the past and future of the human race, and side B’s move beyond these poles into prehistory and post-humanism. Groetsch’s modular flux capacitor generates layered moods to capture these periods; the music isn’t so much a narrative as a complex of affects. This method and Aeons’ tight textural palette feel most at home in the futuristic epochs, though one can almost sense an organ fugue in the “Hermits” and the thick mist of Carboniferous rainforests in “Pangaea.” Each track achieves liftoff, but without the titles as a guide, there is the threat of losing oneself on a psychic plane of one’s own invention.
Evolving, cyclical sequences form the backbone of each track, creating a tonal structure around which washes of pads and chaotic patterns form and decay. Groetsch exhibits solid control of his instrument and a sonic lucidity that is rare in the realm of modular synthesis. Occasional moments occur in which he lingers too long in a zone, but generally, there is a strong forward (or is it backwards?) momentum through the work. Closer “Immortality” best achieves this motion and combines it with Groetsch’s densest sonic variety. It promises that once we upload our memories to the machines, we’ll actualize a bright yet restless future, teeming with chaos but following a strict circuit as a center.
The new kosmische asks us to accompany it beyond our local realities, whether into the astral plane, the hidden city of Shambhala, Alpha Centauri, cloud banks in the mid-stratosphere, or an inaccessible head-space within our own living rooms. Music’s ability to transport depends less on the listener’s escapist fantasies than on a control of a certain tension — between that which appears alien or transcendent, and that which resonates as human. Any step toward the swirling noumena must occur in the conscious mind. Aeons navigates this tension with conceptual images for the soundscape to animate, laterally pulling the listener’s consciousness through its four portals. Alien music may be the closest we’ll get to time travel. This may be the escapism talking, but when we reach a future “Immortality,” I hope my circuit body has a control voltage out.