E2-XO by GCOM
Who says there's no 'planet b'? As domestic space travel edges ever closer, humanity finds itself at the crossroads of fantasy and realism... where to from here?
From star gazing to Sci-Fi books to the Vangelis music on Carl Sagen's Cosmos documentary series, Tom Middelton's deep fascination with all things space has consistently fed his imagination and musical pursuits. New project GCOM (short for Galactic Communication) re-establishes the concepts developed through Global Communication (his 90s collaboration with Mark Pritchard) and extends things into audio, visuals, motion graphics, installations, data sonification and written works. It's a full blown science and arts project posted at the crossroads of fantasy and realism.
Now, love them or loathe them, filthy rich tycoons like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have been pushing the idea of space travel with their recent vanity projects, bandying around the idea that in the future we will be able to escape to another planet once Earth has been fully trashed by humans. Middelton embraces this concept, believing that
...of around 4338 current exoplanets, some have an Earth Similarity Index (ESI) close to Earth's. And some are even super-habitable paradise exoplanets - so called because the environmental conditions could be even better than ours
So if you too are prepared to believe, then new album E2-XO (short for Earth to exoplanet) is your soundtrack for the passage, an audio movie, a space opera, a psychic investigation of the human mind in space, a journey from Earth to a habitable exoplanet. And with a gargantuan adventure like this, the listening experience is appropriately monumental with 20 tracks across 90 minutes depicting the various phases of transition. Musically the widescreen experience flows meaningfully with alien communication, bidding farewell to our home, the launch, counting off the exoplanets as they whizz past, the realisation that planet b does exist and one final look back to the life we've left behind, before arriving at Teegarden b, our final destination.
It's an emotional concept and Middelton exceeds expectations with a number of soaring orchestral compositions (check Noctis Ultimus (Epic mix) and Beyond the Singularity) supported by a handful of earwormy electronic tracks (like The Last Rains (V mix) and XO 2 (Kapteyn b)) all aptly contrasted with just the right amount of ear-crunching, Qebrus-inspired, sound design (the alien communication bits). Some tracks contain a touch of everything, like XO 4 (Wolf 1061c) with its skittering D'n'B rhythms, liquid metallic sounds and white noise.
In trying to conceptualise the sound of journeying to the unknown through light years of space, Middelton has piqued my mental taste buds. As a listening experience it feels like an event and as such demands dedicated attention. After just eleven listens, I'm still excited at the thought of putting it on again, even if it's not background music to work to!