Steve Moore: Pangaea Ultima
Spectrum Spools

Some music journalists dismiss press releases out of hand as offering little more than hyperbole and the most egregious kind of rhetoric (in the ancient Greek sense of artful persuasion, that is). Certainly the one composed for Pangaea Ultima, Steve Moore's debut record on Spectrum Spools, doesn't do the release any favours in characterizing it as “an epic musical achievement” and in asserting that in attitude and ambition it might be aligned to Tangerine Dream's Phaedra. Put simply, whatever its merits, Pangaea Ultima is no Phaedra. The best strategy, it would seem, is to ignore such claims and broach Moore's hour-long collection as a self-contained entity.

The release isn't the first time a musical artist has used Pangaea for a title as Miles Davis famously selected it for of one of his mid-‘70s live releases (the other one Agharta, of course), the word a geological name for the earthly super-continent some experts believe may form in the next quarter-of-a-billion years. Reinforcing the impression of Pangaea as a concept album, Moore extends the associated concept into the track titles, with “Endless Caverns,” “Endless Mountains,” and “Worldbuilding” all evoking the image of a future land mass of colossal size. The album's synthesizer-heavy sound also brings with it associations with the future, as well as an air of positivity in the promise of technological advancement; that spirit can be heard in the uplifting tone that pervades “Planetwalk,” for example, specifically in the animated chatter of chiming synth patterns that suggests the awakening of a gleaming metropolis. The future Moore envisions is not wholly free of complications, however, if the ponderous tone of the title track and the portent of “Logotone” are taken into consideration.

In terms of overall style, the material is never less than listenable and melodically rewarding (consider the twinkling cascades of “Aphelion” a case in point), with Moore eschewing abrasiveness for a sound that's refined and clean. He keeps things interesting by featuring beatless synthscapes and rhythm-based tracks, with snappy micro-beat patterns giving “Deep Time,” for instance, a pronounced propulsion that provides a pleasing complement to the melodic patterns. Beats aren't necessarily needed, however, in a representative piece like “Nemesis,” when sequencer patterns are present to provide an insistent rhythmic ground and to enhance the music's epic quality while at the same time keeping it earthbound.

Pangaea Ultima isn't Moore's maiden voyage, by the way, as the astral traveler has also released material on labels such as Long Island Electrical Systems, Cuneiform Records, Future Times, and Kompakt. In the final analysis, anyone interested in checking out Moore's release is advised to skip the press release and engage with the album on purely sonic terms. Approached in that manner, Pangaea Ultima doesn't disappoint; in fact, it's as well-crafted and solidly realized a collection of synthesizer-based soundscaping as one might hope to hear, and it also upholds the reputation Spectrum Spools has established for quality releases of this genre kind.

February 2014