Galactic Destinations by Nicolas Coppola is an extremely smart and fun album, which explores electronica, jazz, funk and lounge music. The timbres and mixing are incredible, and each song has lots of interest in its development of melodies and instrumentation.
After a brief sweeping intro, the album erupts into “Lunar Space Café” which features some Keith Emerson-like organ runs over some abrupt but fun time signature changes. The sense of lightness balances out the cleverness of the melodies, and the juxtaposing feels and melodies make it feel like it’s moving between the dining room and kitchen of the Cafe in the title.
“Warp Gate 1039” uses a funky hip-hop beat along with some reverted claps to keep time while synths pan in stereo and lone vibraphone notes ring out. As the song evolves with its trance feel, there are some interesting call and responses between synth, organ and vibraphone that build and keep interest. “Kepler 452b” is more chilled out with echoing organs and subtle wind chimes. The use of space (no pun intended) is appreciated, letting each reverb really ring out and echo through, like a more focused Pink Floyd. Double-time drums and spoken word pieces help elevate the end of the song.
Reprising the smart but fun concept of “Lunar Space Café,” “Orion’s Belt Hotel” has some Shuggie Otis elements in it with its use of glockenspiel and long whole notes on the organ. Whooshes of noise that could be vacuum cleaners cleverly sweep across the stereo spectrum giving a percussive effect without being overbearing. It’s smart and interesting. “The Icy Mountains of Pluto” is based around rock drums with stadium reverb and dueling organs. Not quite acting as a canon, the organs sit left and right and play almost a call and response game with each other. It’s never cluttered or psychedelic, instead the two sides really support each other quite well, and the closeness and directness of the timbre works as a great contrast to the huge drums.
“Asteroid Flyby” uses a Postal Service-esque drum pattern and pulsating synths under a pseudo guitar solo. Again, the use of stereo is well executed with drumbeats bouncing back and forth to the sides. The half note pattern on the bass keeps the whole song grounded by offering up a simple but effective footing from which everything else as the title would suggest, flies by.
“Stellar Nursery” uses a complex time signature and an aggressive bass line that really drives the song forward. The brassy synths move towards a crescendo with each sweeping pass, giving an elegance to prog-rock-funk beat. Between spoken word bits and loud gunshot-like taps the song really moves the listener through a journey, almost like a promenade style play.
The album closes with “Cygnus X-1” a song that has less in common with the Rush song and more with the black hole. Deep penetrating sounds under buzzing noises give way to an acoustic piano, interestingly the first time that sound is heard on the whole album. It works as a summation of timbres, ideas and the flow of a really intellectually stimulating recording.
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