Our Solar System
Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records, 2016
Review by Kent Manthie
It doesn’t get a hell of a lot better than this new album. I’m talking about the new album, out 3/25/16, from Swedish powerhouse, Our Solar System, the album, In Our Time. There are two songs on this 43 minute album; two 20+ minute songs. First one, “In the Beginning of Time”, 20:26, and the second one, “At the Edge of Time”, which runs a tiny bit longer: 23:13. Both tunes are intense orbs of kaleidoscopic sonic fluidity.
The first track, “In the Beginning of Time”, really piques one’s interest, almost from the first note. It’s got a whirlwind style of jazz, ambient, drone, darkwave, and back again…a lot of saxophone usage really puts you in a kind of, well, I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say “free jazz”, as in Ornette Coleman or Albert Ayler, et al, I mean, that stuff is so far out, it would’ve taken over, but OSS don’t go that far. They are closer to the whole “Krautrock” vibe. Think Neu! or Faust or Can. Not so much Kraftwerk, they’re a little more on the drone/ambient/machine side of things, where OSS bring a humanity to bear in their music. This is evident even more so when you get to “At the Edge of Time”, which has less sax, which does come in around 11:40 or so, for a bit, and then ebbs away, for a slowed, quieted ambience. But, I did notice that this “humanity” I wrote of, just a bit back is really put forward on this track. Where “In the Beginning of Time” has a mechanical jazz edge with some wild piano jamming in there, it’s on “At the Edge of Time” where I started noticing similarities to Krautrock in general, especially Can, Neu! and Faust. But throughout the whole 23 minute opus, it isn’t all Krautrock redux, that’s just in, about, say, the 5-8 minute part. The second half, delves into some serious cosmic stuff that utilizes keyboards, it sounds, to me, anyway, that they’re using both analog stuff as well as complementing it with some digital enhancements. But, then, especially when you get to the latter part of the song, there’s that Krautrock-type beat, not unlike something from, say, Tago Mago or Ege Bamyasi by Can: a rhythm that stays constant, yet progresses with the music, if that makes sense, not going all post-bop on you, but keeping a steady beat; one that stands out, undergirding that super-cool last eight or so minutes. Yes, there it is – you have a wigging out process, to start with, on “In the Beginning of Time”, which seamlessly pours right into “At the Edge of Time” which keeps the bright flames of their music flickering for at least the first half of the song and then, after the peak, the fire may start to turn into a kind of smoldering burn, with burning embers, still aglow in the middle, but a haze of smoke billowing out as well – that’s the part I was writing about when I meant it gets back into the Krautrock thing – especially, as I said, between, say, 16:00, right on out to the end. It isn’t a static redundancy, but a carefully put together, played together, or rather – “tightly knit” jam which, with that steady beat which does stay fairly static, but in a way that works terrifically, works as a frame into which OSS pours a range of essences in there, adding a flourish here, some panache there and just letting go.
The genius at the center of Our Solar System is Mattias Gustavsson, a one-time (sometime?) member of Dungen. Reading the bio that came with the album, it tells of how In Our Time was actually the work of a total of 30 hands. That it was made with many collaborators who came and went and did indeed, leave some wonderful things.
I read a lot of things about the “interstellar” nature of the music and how this album can put you, in your imagination, in outer space, zooming at an amazingly high speed, speeding by planets, zig-zagging in and out of potential loose meteors out there, as well as navigating through the notoriously hazardous asteroid belt – the place between Mars and Jupiter, where, due to the immense mass of Jupiter, a planet not unlike the four rock and iron orbs, closest to the sun, was unable to develop because the gas giant’s gravity was in a sort of tug-of-war with the other gravity which was working to whip those asteroids – which at one point were nothing more than little bits of dust and gas, like the whole solar system was, 4.5 billion years ago, that’s how earth was formed, and that’s how Mars, Venus and Mercury were formed – but, as I wrote – we still have, with us today, out there, relatively close to us, that asteroid belt, many, many rocks of varying size.
So that’s the kind of mind-game you can play while listening. If you really get into the wild, astral swirl of the music, you might (and you might not) want to go back and listen to some really mind-blowing stuff from the 1960s, specifically, Interstellar Space or Jupiter Variation, for starters, by John Coltrane, some of his most experimental, really “free” jazz from around ’64-’66. Or, if you’re more into the quiet, meditative ambience, but like some vaguely sinister darkwave mixed in, you could lay your hands on either or both Volume One and Volume Two of Musick to Play in the Dark, the 1999 and 2000 releases by Coil, respectively (they put out one other album in between the two parts of this).
Anyway, I really want to bring this out and hope that as many people as possible can get turned on to Mattias’s awe-inspiring work here, this In Our Time. It is truly bliss to listen to.
If you’d like to see Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records website for more information, or for purchase, go to http://beyondbeyondisbeyond.com/store or you could visit Mattias on Facebook or check out this press release: https://terrorbird.com/albums/in-time. See you in space. -KM.