Sferi – Sounds of the Spheres

A musical representation of all 8 planets of our solar system: it’s a popular, ambitious and daunting project. It isn’t pulled off frequently, but when it happens, there’s two classic archetypes to consider. There’s Gustav Holst, who painted the planets from his imagination and their role in folklore and tradition. Then, there’s the NASA Voyager Recordings, a scientific but no less poetic picture of the spheres. Macedonian one-man act Sferi‘s Sound of the Spheres is sometimes inspired by space radiation, and other times by the more traditional, anthropomorphic representations of the planets. And plenty of times it’s a carefully crafted bit of both.

Merkur is such a mixture, starting off with a phaser effect that resembles Mercury’s fast revolution. When the electronics kick in, there’s strange transmissions bouncing off its iron core. A strikingly musical impression that still sounds very much based on Mercury’s natural occurence.

Venera. Earth’s evil twin is a gem in the sky, and for ages it shone in tales of beauty and love. Only recently have those stories been overcast by knowledge of the planet’s “tragic” faith. The string sound and glockenspiel theme capture that melancholy of Venus’ beauty gone warped. One of the highlights of the album.

Zemja, or Earth, starts with synths much like Venera, but has a darker timbre and a melody of your typical funeral doom metal drone. A painting of Earth billions of years ago, snowball earth, or the one with thick carbon clouds and stromatolites blobbing around.
Mars is as figurative as Holst’s most famous piece, but for different reasons. This is no Bringer of War. Here is a planet painted as a mad circus. These days, Mars’ crazy geography does indeed seem a more apt epithet than its ‘war-like’ red color. This composition is brilliant, but perhaps drags on a bit.
Jupiter, when recorded by both Voyagers, sounds somewhat like a possessed singing bowl. So does this track, only do the noise toppings sound a little more structured than the real thing.
Saturn is guitar strumming topped with noise. Liner notes say the sphere has “problems focussing”, and at first the jam does feel like it’s going nowhere, only to shift into a Sonic Youth’s J’accuse Ted Hughes-kind of instrumental half-way.
Uran bears the most resemblance to the Voyager Recordings, but still not quite. Holst’s Uranus was a sorcerer, and the finale of this piece, with it’s sharp notes, evokes the same danger of forbidden magic, before settling down into a mix of shortwave signals again.

Neptun, the last great gas giant, is not so different. Again, synth sounds flow slowly like the singing bowls of NASA, but do so in an organized manner throughout the track. A bell sound determines the rhythm along which eery synths are modulated. Imagine the odd hexagon shape discovered on the planets south pole, and you’re in for a scary ride.

The scariest bit, though, is the scale of the real thing. Even probes and data sheets and telescopes as big as your average Trans-Neptunian Object, only just unveil faint dots and digitally colored bitmaps. It’s our imagination that ultimately brings them closer to home. Have a listen, and maybe Sferi’s imagery will make you peek at the still-mysterious grainy deep space, or the  hi-res version of it.

A free download, with liner notes, on Bandcamp.

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