Saturday, 26 November 2011

Interplanetary Music - 20 Essential Albums Part 1

OK space mates, strap yourself in for a trip along the interstellar highways and byways of cosmic sound. These are some of my favourite albums devoted to the Far Out, futuristic and intergalactic. No Funk or Techno here because I wanted to limit the field despite believing Herbie Hancock's forays into Space Jazz to be utterly fantastic. No Hip-Hop or contemporary Sci-Fi-inspired sounds either. There are many albums from the 50s on which the theremin was the sole indication, sonically, of Other Worlds, but fantastic sleeves aside, the music rarely exceeded anything but Easy Listening. In some cases (Les Baxter), that was great, but I've concentrated on the works that really utilised new musical technology, on the whole. Since there's no Number One in terms of The Best, I've worked chronologically. I'll be posting 5 at a time. We have lift off...

1. The Day The Earth Stood Still - Bernard Herrmann (1951)

Expert application of the theremin as extraterrestrial voice with orchestration ranging from subtle to strident representations of catastrophe and menace. Artistry in Space Sound, as opposed to merely supplying music for movies. If Klaatu came back today, I'm sure no-one would listen, although if Obama has seen the film, he might. I'm sure he has seen the film. Come back Klaatu!

2. Forbidden Planet - Louis & Bebe Barron (1956)

Electro-music geeks can salivate all day over the Barrons' use of individual cybernetics circuits. It was the first totally electronic soundtrack. It's not just one of the best because it was the first, but because the conversion of images into sounds that truly were part of a brave new world The film supposedly referred to Shakespeare's 'The Tempest', but never having read one of Will's plays, I wouldn't know. 

3. Song Of The Second Moon - Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan (1957)

Originally released as 'Electronic Music' but reissued under this title in '68 when, presumably, the company felt that the world was ready for it, being more attuned to Space Vibrations. The changed U.S. titles such as 'Moon Maid' and 'Sonik Re-Entry' are, let's face it, more space race sexy than 'Drifting' and 'Whirling'. 'The Visitor From Inner Space' is much better than 'Vibration' too. Way ahead of the game (the game being electronic Pop complexities in frequently rhythmic modes), avant-garde melodic maestros, I salute you. 

4. Fantastica - Russ Garcia (1959)

This combines the Easiness of 50s-era domesticated Space Dreams with forward-looking electronics courtesy of Liberty Records co-founder Theodore Keep. His contribution to 'The Monsters Of Jupiter', 'Water Creatures Of Astra' and 'Red Sands Of Mars' help make this a stand-out album of the time. It's Les Baxter-style Space Exotica but none the worse for that.

5. Man In Space With Sounds - Attileo Minneo (1959)

I covered this album here so I won't say more about this classic example of Futuristic Optimism for a golden age that never came. Minneo's music is a highly advanced blend of eerie ambience and radical arrangements.

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