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Michael Stearns - Encounter - A Journey in the Key of Space CD (album) cover


Michael Stearns


Progressive Electronic

3.00 | 1 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Michael Stearns is a Californian ambient / New Age musician and he was among the genre's most essential artists in the eighties. This album, his first one with a pure space theme despite the spatial nature of his earlier albums as well, is considered "a defining benchmark in ambient space music" (All Music Guide). I have no reason to question that, but I'll try to make a descriptive review on the ground of my subjective reception.

This synth-based music is deeply delicate, tranquil and slow paced, guaranteed to bore a casual listener who is not used to rely on mere ambience without notable musical action or rhythmic structure. In space no one can hear you yawn, to mock the advertising line of a scifi thriller. No, this music offers no shocks or thrills in the least, instead it's very profound and meditative. Makes you feel the vast emtiness and silence of the space. There is some sonic variety between the ten tracks, most of which are of typical song length or slightly over (the longest one is 8:55), but it's all pretty delicate.

Many pieces, such as the title track, would function as background music for a planetarium show, leaving plenty of room for the calm narration voice. Compared to artists like Klaus Schulze, Edgar Froese, Software, etc., -- not to mention the likes of J-M. Jarre -- Stearns is much much more serene and minimalistic in his slow meditativeness. But mere relaxation music this isn't either, maybe a bit closer to Dark Ambient. 'On the Way' is perhaps the fullest of sonic "action" with its bright, crystal-like sounds slightly reminiscent of the Fairlight pattern in Peter Gabriel's 'San Jacinto', or the music of German New Age/ ambient artist Nik Tyndall.

This album is a tough one for me to rate. In its own particular field it is undoubtedly a seminal work, but on the other hand for my taste it is frankly a bit too narcotic and makes me miss the more progressive or otherwise more tangible electonic music. So, make it three subjective stars.

Matti | 3/5 |


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