If Markus Guentner's Theia is a rather more tonally dramatic collection than one might have come to expect from the ambient veteran of Kompakt, Sending Orbs, and Moodgadget, it's easily explained by the subject matter involved. Theia, you see, is the name of the ancient planetary mass that is said to have collided with the hypothesized proto-Earth approximately 4.5 billion years ago, the idea being that had the collision not been glancing, Earth, in that earlier form, might have been destroyed. For whatever reason, Guentner's selected this topic as the source of inspiration for his full-length return to wax after a nine-year interval. Issued on A Strangely Isolated Place, the release is being made available in a double transparent vinyl format (housed in a matte gatefold sleeve) and as a digital download.
For reasons that should be obvious, Theia isn't a collection of soothing, Pop Ambient-styled reveries. The violence and chaos of the collision and subsequent maelstrom are conveyed by Guentner in seven settings, one of which, “Baryon,” features The Sight Below, aka Rafael Anton Irisarri, who also mastered the album. Guentner generously cedes the controls to Irisarri on the track, allowing the guest to reshape the soundscape using electric guitar. Yet as cataclysmic as the planets' collision would have been, the music in this case is pitched at a more modest level, with “Baryon” eventually growing into a deep ambient exercise that while still epic more calms the nerves than frays them.Guentner's been producing ambient music for many years and has developed a keen sense of pacing and dynamics, and as Theia advances, it becomes clear that he designed the album to be heard as an evolving soundscape that would document the cosmological event as it unfolded. In keeping with that idea, the pulsating ambient-drone “Redshift” builds in volume and density across nine minutes in a way that anticipates the eventual moment of contact, while the shimmering mass generated within “Ejecta” does much the same during its eleven-minute run, if in slightly less intense manner. While “Limb” hews to a comparatively more consistent dynamic level, it rumbles at an unnervingly powerful pitch with layers of shimmering detail so plentiful, it becomes an opaque colossus of immense depth. An omnipresent sense of dread and anticipation shadows the release until the primal event arrives in all its monumental glory during the closing “Cavus.” You'd be wise to strap yourself in before undertaking this rather harrowing final journey.