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Vangelis - Albedo 0.39 CD (album) cover




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3.68 | 176 ratings

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4 stars Another excellent by Vangelis, Albedo 0.39 sees the Greek composer produce some of his most well known pieces of music, together with some of his most jazzy and progressive tracks. By the time he had completed Heaven and Hell, and his second Frederic Rossif wildlife series soundtrack La Fete Sauvage, Vangelis had fully settled into his own personal London recording laboratory, Nemo Studios, and was now beginning to churn out diverse types of albums and music. Albedo 0.39 is certainly different to his previous two records produced in his studio. While Heaven and Hell weaved piano, choir and orchestral synths to create a bombastic tapestry, and La Fete Sauvage explored the music of Central Africa, Albedo 0.39 seems to have its sights set in space. The titles of the tracks (for once Vangelis decided to name the tracks individually) themselves seem to point to this. And the music itself is far more synth dominated, and has a kind of futuristic feel to it.

Pulsar is one of Vangelis's most famous compositions and utiises one of the composers special musical tricks. Pulsar is essentially built around one very simple motif which starts off simply and gradually builds and develops over the six minute duration of the piece. Vangelis uses his banks of monophonic synths and mixes it with bursts of percussion and wild effects, such as a ring modulator. It is a strong opening track. This moves into the softer and oriental sounding second track, titled Freefall. Vangelis at this point in time was perfecting his late-1970s style of working. This was to mix electronic and acoustic instruments together to make a sound very different to any of his contemporaries. Furthermore, Vangelis would use ANYTHING to make the sounds he needed for his music. There are stories of this time where Vangelis took over an entire electrical store as he went round hitting metal lampshades with sticks to find sounds he liked - he ended up buying a set of them that made up a whole musical scale. This process of mixing found and electronic sound together is used to great effect on Freefall which mixes monosynths with balinese percussion. This short track segues into the next track, Mare Tranquilitatis, which is also merely two minutes longs. A spooky atmosphere is created here mixing synth pad sounds with samples from Apollo astronauts goofing around on the moon.

Track 4, titled Main Sequence - a reference to an astronomical graph showing a continuous sequence of stars that appear on a plot of colour versus brightness for groups of stars, is essentially a piece of improvised music with Vangelis jamming to a sequencer, though not in a Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze kind of way. The effect created here is far more jazz rock - the lead synth sounds almost like a trumpet. Vangelis's drumming here is extremely impressive also. This track segues directly into the final track of side one titled Sword of Orion. Another short track, this is a beautiful little piece and is about the only track which sounds like it could have been on Heaven and Hell, as it has that same kind of celestial quality, no doubt thanks to Vangelis's trademark Fender Rhodes playing.

Alpha starts off side 2 and this is the other famous piece of music on the album, and uses the same kind of thematic development that is present on Pulsar, but used to a far more dynamic effect. Alpha is my personal favourite track on this album. It starts off really quietly with an almost oriental flavour in the synths, and gradually builds and develops until about four and half minutes in, it reaches a crescendo as the chord sequence finally changes. This part always without fail makes me well up inside! The emotion is really intense on this beautiful track. Vangelis also again shows his great drumming ability here as well as his unquestionable talent on keyboards and synthesizers.

The two Nucleogenesis tracks are certainly the most prog-rock-like tracks on the album as they twist and turn at a frenetic pace much in the same way that much of the best prog music does. The church organ sound at the beginning of part one was apparently done on a cheap home organ made by Tornado. Other sounds were done on a cheap stylophone apparently. Its quite amazing what Vangelis could do with such cheap and generally unprofessional equipment. These two tracks are quite hard to describe. They are quite simply mad! Part two also had a beautiful crescendo and ending. They could both be easilly compared to what Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson were doing at the time, but in my personal opinion Vangelis does it better as the music is darker and more emotional. There is more weight to it compared to the frophy and cheesy nature of what Wakeman was doing on his Criminal Record album. His contribution to Yes's Awaken track might be a better comparison.

The album closes with the spooky and atmospheric title track which mixes dark pad sounds with sound engineer Keith Spencer Allen reciting facts about the Earth from a book on astronomy. It all sounds so very trivial, yet it works beautifully, creating a haunting climax to a very diverse and effective album. I have given the album a 4 star rating, though that should be 4.5 - its not quite as good as Heaven and Hell, but again I would not like to be without this album; an album which I've listened to regularly since I was a teenager. Fans of instrumental progressive rock and mid-1970s outlandish Jazz Rock (Jan Hammer etc) should definitely check this one out.

UnearthlyChild | 4/5 |


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