Planetariet is a Swedish band based in the city of Umeå. Though the members have played together for longer than even they can recall, the project made its recorded debut in 2015 with the EP Rymden, the title meaning “space” in Swedish. Taking inspiration from the cosmic wonders of space, Planetariet has a decidedly ambient and experimental slant. Planetariet is the group’s first full-length.
The record consists of three extended pieces, all seven or eight minutes long. Having exhaustively rehearsed the album, the band recorded it as one live session, capturing the results on film as well. By taking their jam-oriented process to its logical conclusion, Planetariet bears witness to the purest vision of the band’s creative intent.
Each piece is named after a different star system; the first is “Kepler” a slow-burning track with cavernous ambience. After a prolonged period of sparse, mood-setting guitar, the traditional churn of epic post-rock introduces the awe and majesty of outer space. With washes of shimmering guitar over a heavy rhythm section, it’s easy to compare “Kepler” to chiaroscuro post-metal acts like Alcest-- especially since the no-frills recording techniques create a mid-fi sound with lots of live bleed between instrument tracks. Though this may dull the shine of some of the bell-like guitar tones, and dull a bit of the impact of the heavier parts, the potency of that in-the-room ambience cultivates something so much more special than fidelity.
As “Juno” proceeds, however, Planetariet finds its one real weak point-- the passivity of the simple, quiet passages can cause the listener to drift off. This is not to say that “Juno” lacks complexity or emotional depth, however. The opening drone gives way to a gentle ¾-time sway that intermittently fades and returns, with gentle plucks and the eventual maelstrom of the track’s cathartic high point. The final climb, in particular, lands nicely. Once again, the live feel of the recording brings a certain magic to the track, which also helps alleviate the issue of short attention spans. Active listening offers great rewards all over Planetariet, and this track is no exception.
“Sirius”, though it reaches similar dramatic heights as its predecessors, has a decidedly different emotional tone; the softer passages have a warmth and joy where the others conjured more somber feelings. It’s a great closing piece, and it shows something important: Planetariet has succeeded in bringing their astronomical fascinations to life for their audience. No doubt the video of the Planetariet session is electrifying; it’s hard to imagine watching people making such ethereal music from a simple rock-band setup. The record itself will suffice, though. If you’re prone to enjoying this sort of expansive, ambitious music, Planetariet is a safe bet.
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