Astral TV: Chrystal Shores
El Paraiso Records

Videodrones: Nattens Hævn
El Paraiso Records

Listeners familiar with El Paraiso's discography know that one of the label's primary strengths is instrumental rock performed by the likes of Causa Sui, Papir, and Mythic Sunship. But these new collections from Astral TV and Videodrones (both issued in 500-copy editions) see another side emphasized, one that has more to do with ‘70s kosmische musik, New Age, and feverish, synthesizer-heavy psychedelia.

There's a Causa Sui connection to Astral TV as the group's keyboardist Rasmus Rasmussen teams up with fellow space traveler Keith Canisius for the project. The two take little time laying out the kosmische territory when the second cut, “Mirrors,” oozes all the panoramic splendour of a classic ‘70s synthesizer soundtrack; awash in analog synth-generated whooshes and pulsations, the fourteen-track set unfolds as an uninterrupted travelogue that's as striking as the transparent blue vinyl on which it's pressed. Though the range of sounds coaxed from the duo's gear is broad, it's consistent throughout; what contrasts there are emerge more in the differences in song style from one track to the next. “It Moves,” for example, sounds like a riff on both low-budget horror film scores and early organ-centric minimalism; “Orbit,” by comparison, blends acoustic and electric six-strings with synth swirls to produce one of the album's most serene settings. As the trip advances, beatless reveries alternate with deep psychedelic plunges and celestial excursions, and though synthesizers dominate, delicate guitar textures surface here and there to bring extra colour to the material's radiant spectrum. Rasmussen and Canisius don't break startling new ground on Chrystal Shores yet nevertheless manage to make what's old sound new again.

A natural companion to Astral TV's debut is the second album by Danish synth outfit Videodrones, which, lo and behold, also has a Causi Sui connection in pairing the group's Jakob Skøtt with Kristoffer Ovesen. Traces of kosmische musik and New Age also surface in Nattens Hævn, but there's a stronger gothic vibe in play, as if the duo set out to create throbbing mini-epics for cheap horror films yet to be made. Italo disco and ‘70s pop also emerge within the album's thirteen tracks, each one of which makes its case with dispatch before stepping aside. Apparently, the album material originated out of improvisations that the two shaped into smaller bits to form a suite-like presentation; as a result, Nattens Hævn feels free of excess, the kind of recording where every moment counts. From the wobbly and warbly (“Hero”) to the sequencer-driven (“Mørkets Rædsler”), the recording powers its way through zones once populated by Giorgio Moroder and Goblin, and at the risk of being overly reductive, Videodrones' vibrantly fizzing set might be pitched as some imaginary collision between Tangerine Dream and Popul Vuh. Though Astral TV and Videodrones could be described as Causa Sui offshoots, the albums convincingly argue that the projects are more than just diversions designed to fill time and unleash excess creative energy until the parent group reconvenes.

August 2017