RCA 1976 / Esoteric 2013
As above so below: shining back the light, Greek maestro explodes into space.
Long before a piece from his "Heaven And Hell" was used as a theme for Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” series, Vangelis had become interested in the science of the spheres himself, and that album’s follow-up is a reflection of the composer’s curiosity. Crisp and lucid now thanks to his own remastering, on “Albedo 0.39” the keyboard player re-embraces the earthiness of mid-’70s prog he seemed to have abandoned for quasi-orchestral moves and employs a variety of styles to contrast the otherworldly subject matter of the tunes.
Thus, “Pulstar” comes on as memorable as it is complex, differently textured splashes cutting the throb of Moog, until percussion makes it shoot out the sonic rays as befits the track’s title, and the groove is fleshed out in a kaleidoscopic splinters of symphonic scale. The acoustic ingredient is more palpable this time around, and drums add not only drama to the jazzy riff of “Main Sequence” which, following its astronomical meaning, shivers and shakes in a dynamic coil, but also folk sensibility to “Freefall” where gamelan drives a synthesizer, not vice versa, in a cinematic way.
Yet the glistening serenity under “Sword Of Orion” hints at chamber classicism without ever leaving its futuristic terrain before “Alpha” unfolds its root melody in a variety of instrumental guises to turn into the most organic number on offer: here, electric and electronic arrangement morph into a glorious anthem – a clear precursor to “1492: Conquest of Paradise” and other soundtracks Vangelis would shape later on. And although an organ fugue announces the arrival of two-part “Nucleogenesis” that, with its nods towards Bach and Khachaturian and bold piano chords at the end, sounds like self-assertion in the art rock boundaries alongside Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman rather than a creative exploration, the most important number here is the title one. Not because of the spoken word listing our planet’s physical characteristics but thanks to its gentle wave of cosmic brilliance from the composer’s fingers and sharp mind. Perhaps, the last time Vangelis looked at the others to share the wavelength, “Albedo 0.39” still feels light years ahead of its era.