WEA 1983 / Esoteric 2016
Woe to the world that we’re leaving behind: a new-age scenario of finding a way out of mundane quandary into a celestial spectrum of possibilities.
Sci-fi has always been a safe haven for progressive-minded artists, yet Heinz Strobl – the Austrian musician’s nom de plume Gandalf never meant he was strictly into a fantasy sort of deal – found a more earthly excuse for conjuring up the image of humankind departing from our piece of rock. Political and environmental agenda of the early ‘80 gave any parent a reason to worry about the state of the planet they would bequeath to their descendants. For Gandalf, the key to a potential solution lay in ascendence to the stars, which became a subject of his third album, although its themes strongly suggest Stroble didn’t want such an outcome for people.
That’s why there’s poignant fragility in “Requiem For A Planet” whose piano and organ move a solemn melody towards a new hope, and a new-age grace in “Cosmic Balance” where baroque elegy is outlined in pastoral light. So for all the grief of the funeral toll ushering the listener into the shimmer of futuristic escapism in the beginning, “March Of No Reason” instills initial serenity with a series of pregnant synthesizer-led waves which shape expectancy in epic proportions until the beats quicken their pace to vanish in space. The dispersed drama behind “Natural Forces Getting Out Of Control” is very much earthbound, though, its atmosphere sprawling from an acoustic guitar strum to a dance of elements that frighten and rivet at the same time.
And that’s possibly why “Flight Of The Crystal Ships” has a folk melody in its fabric, a rippling aural cloth wrapped around propulsive groove, while a three-part title composition – given ethereal vocals, a crystal, sitar-kissed drone and adventurous meandering – explores a spiritual fringe of severing umbilical cord with this soil and birthing terra firma afresh. But then “Why not do it here?” may be the question in the delicate heart of “Peace Without End” with its hazy allure: the event horizon is much closer if we do everything right. And here’s a soundtrack for doing it right.