ConclusionListening to new music is always exciting. Sometimes it is not 'your thing'. Sometimes it takes time and you have to listen a few times before you get the click. And sometimes the music grabs you right after the first few bars. Obscure Atlas SG-3 is music that draws you into the story right from the start. It was written especially for these musicians and you can hear that. Don't try to pigeonhole this as classical music. Think ambient and dance, but without electronics and with piano, cello and percussion. Jules Verne wrote Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Aart Strootman has done the same, but with music. A hallucinating journey that can almost be felt physically thanks to the fantastic recording by Brendon Heinst and the mix by Bart and Brendon of TRPTK.
Obscure Atlas SG-3
It’s a long way from the heliopause to 12 kilometers below the earth’s surface. Obscure Atlas SG-3 is about the experiment the Russians conducted from 1970 to 1994 to drill as deep into the earth as possible.
Dutch composer Aart Strootman has written this piece especially for the trio of pianist Helena Basilova, perscussionist Konstantyn Napolov and cellist Maya Fridman. A special composition of instruments, with musicians who clearly demonstrate chemistry in their playing together.
What is the connection to the Voyager missions? Aart poses the question of how it is that we know more about the 20 trillion kilometers between Earth and the edge of the solar system than we do about the kilometers beneath our feet. And to find out, we begin the journey in the Exosphere. The exosphere is the extreme edge of Earth’s atmosphere, where the atmosphere passes into the vacuum of space.
Obscure Atlas makes the journey in the opposite direction of Heliopause. We float in space to the rarefied sounds of the cello and the resonant sound of a singing bowl. Occasionally a shred of the earthly atmosphere escapes into space, in the sound of the piano. Gravity still just holds us in its grip and slowly pulls us down. More shreds of atmosphere pass by, we slowly sink down into the thermosphere.
The music becomes denser, the sounds more intense. The xylophone or marimba – I can’t quite hear what it is – is played with a stick and a brush and that gives a very special sound. The density of the atmosphere increases as we float in the mesosphere. If you listen closely, you can literally hear the sounds sink into the stereo image.
We enter the stratosphere and the earth comes clearly into our view. It is no longer the blue sphere below us, we see structure. We see mountains, we see forests. The density of the music increases. The airy and floating disappears and the cello leads us into the troposphere, that part of the atmosphere in which we live. The music becomes meatier, it becomes more rhythmic, less floaty. A voice tells us in Russian that the drilling experiment SG-3 is going to be stopped.
We plop two feet down on the earth’s surface. The music becomes more compelling, more and more structured. The sounds become darker. Our gaze had been on the sky until now, but now we look down. Earth and dust is what we see. Earth is heavier than air and you can hear that in the instruments. The registers of the instruments used become lower. With the dry beat of a kick drum we are prompted to dig into the ground. And what a kick drum! It may be the most beautiful dry drum sound you have ever heard coming out of your speakers.
We dig deeper and deeper into the earth. The air completely disappears from the music, it becomes heavier and denser, the stereo image becomes more compact and we become more and more enclosed in the sound. We dig deeper towards the core of the earth until we can go no further. With the extinction of the lowest tones of the piano, we are left behind, 12 kilometers underground, in darkness.
What a journey! Basilova, Napolov and Fridman get the most out of this music. And what a recording. There is a 5.1 mix for those who have surround. In stereo, the playback is already almost 3D. It leaves a pleasant tingle of excitement, the investment in HiFi is rewarded.
“Obscure Atlas”– Helena Basilova, Konstatyn Napolov, Maya Fridman, TRPTK TTK0068, 2021