Hannah Peels’ “Awake But Always Dreaming” was one of my surprise hits for 2016, so I didn’t expect a new album in 2017, but Peel has returned. Instead of heavy hitting electronica pop, this instrumental album is more like a Phillip Glass album, or more akin to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey.
Across each of the seven tracks, we are taken on a synthesizer extravaganza. It is a true voyage and each track has its own weird and wonderful take on a lucid dream of space travel. “Goodbye Earth” is about metallic arpeggios and that retro sci fi vibe where the glisten of synths burst through the speakers and create a weirdly tinny but celestial sound. Hannah’s back pocket surprise though is that all these synths are joined by a full brass arrangement and when they join the foray, with timpani’s aplenty – it’s quite effecting and rousing. “Sunrise Through the Dusty Nebula” is like a five-minute movie opening segment where the quiet glint of light is anticipated and the final minute where it hits, an almighty soar of brass explodes. It’s both patriotic and full of wonder. “Deep Space Cluster” is a real Phillip Glass Koyanisqatsi tribute as detuned brass and warbling synth pads drizzle out sad rolling stabs. It slowly evolves into a more militant track showing brute force but also the clumsiness of a huge rock formation lumbering through space and causing carnage in its path.
“Andromeda M31” is a mood piece that forces through a single chord for most of the track before the drums burst in for a prog space rock second half of the track. It’s an industrial ambient flow of noise that I wish lasted longer in the groovier sections because the pay off is quite short. “Life Is On The Horizon” takes sounds that sound like blood pulsing through veins, and heartbeat kick drums to provide a backdrop to a solemn brass arrangement and muted keyboard tones. It’s almost like a 4th of July moment where you set down a flag to commemorate the loss of life, rather than the gaining of it like the title implies. “Archid Orange Drawf” is the most accessible track on the album. A standard drum beat, catchy keyboard and brass riffs and a rich full sound throughout makes it a delightful and playful track. I love the pitch bending of the brass and keyboards working together to create a wall of sound too. The album and journey closes with “The Planet of Passed Souls” which feels in someways like a tour de force of most of the noises that have come before it. It’s the ending of the track that is as creepy as hell though. As the brass and voice effects that create a cinematic feel fade away, an echoing recording a church hymn is left playing throughout space. It’s low fi and slightly tape warped sound makes it both emotional but skin crawling at the same time. It’s an ingenious touch that makes me think of many different things about the concept of this album.
“Journey to Cassiopeia” is certainly not for everyone. However, if you remotely liked the soundtrack to most sci-fi movies, enjoy brass arrangements or anything that makes you think of space – this is a must have. It is a completely different step for Hannah Peel and nothing crossover over from her pop side to here – but she commands every sound with aplomb and again has worked a sleeper hit album. Superb.
Recommended Track : Archid Orange Dwarf