Steve Moore: Pangaea Ultima
Similar Artists: Zombi, Bookworms, Lovelock
Genre: Synths n’ Stuff
Label: Spectrum Spools
I originally intended for this review to be for L.I.E.S.’ Music For Shut Ins, as the compilation has been my revolving soundtrack for the better part of the last month. If you’re not cool enough to already know, just as American Noise was last year, Music For Shut Ins is an impeccably solid grouping of new and previously released tracks from the New York umbrella label that represents some of the most exciting experimental electronic music around. So it’s too bad that I eventually found the release to be too overwhelming to write a proper review on. Luckily, Steve Moore (an artist who released multiple 12 inches for the label), has just released his newest and arguably highest profile release to date, and with it consisting of 9 similarly produced tracks, it happens to be a much easier statement to digest.
Pangaea Ultima is Steve Moore’s first release on Spectrum Spools: a label curated by ex-Emeralds member John Elliott that has harnessed an ever-increasing array of talent ever since its inception in 2011. In addition to Moore’s plentiful amount of solo material, he has recorded as a member of Zombi, the bass guitarist for prog-rock outfit Titan, and has offered his multi-instrumentalist talents to groups such as Panthers and SunnO))). He’s also written his own film scores (mostly for low-budget horror films), proving he’s not only a skilled multi-instrumentalist, but a skilled composer as well. Thankfully, this prolificness isn’t a detractor from the quality of his work, as Pangaea Ultima emerges as only the most recent of this artist’s dense and masterfully coordinated projects. However, there is something about Pangaea that feels more assured and fully realized in comparison to many of the artist’s earlier solo ventures, and hopefully this means it will be the release to garner him the larger audience that he deserves.
The album itself happens to be a soundtrack to the theorized super-continent destined to re-emerge on Earth within the next 200 million years or so, and with track titles like “Planetwalk” and “WorldBuilding”, it’s no secret that this is representative of Moore at his most colossal. The tone here is dark, and admittedly, this tone changes only very slightly throughout the hour long running time. Despite the limited emotional and instrumental range though, the album unfolds masterfully — as you might expect from someone with the resume of a film composer. Furthermore, despite Moore’s electronic and even post-punkian upbringing, he pretty much strays away from anything that could be deemed danceable, and several tracks are even entirely beat-less.
While Pangaea Ultima is not entirely without a chugging pulse (“Planetwalk” and the title track are borderline techno), Moore is much more concerned with concocting a stable mood and ominous intrigue. This direction is not to be confused with ambient music though, as Pangaea Ultima is a work that is as engrossing to listen to in the foreground as it is to lay dormant in the background (I’ve also found that it makes for some killer tetris battle music). Similarly, although many tracks appear to be in the vein of minimalism (“Deep Time”, “Logotones”), they all eventually emerge as dense and extraordinarily epic; at the most intense moments it’s as if we can feel the weight of the continents shifting beneath our feet.
There are a lot of keyboards present at any given moment — all of them arpegiatting and oscillating onward into some infinite void — yet the pieces themselves are uncluttered and organically rich; of which I give credit to the superb mastering of Rashad Becker. The recordings of Krautrock pioneers Tangerine Dream are an easy comparison to Pangaea Ultima, and truth be told, similarly designed compositions have been available as early as the 60’s. More recently, we’ve had Oneohtrix Point Never, who thoroughly documented how gripping solo synth pieces can be with his extensive and career making Rifts compilation. However, while what Steve Moore is doing here may not be unique or even immediately ear catching, it’s far from artless, and shouldn’t be taken as a mere throwback LP. Within a scene of synthesizer fetishists who — with the more readily available recording technology of today — are capable of making monstrous sounding synth music on the fly, what makes Pangaea stand out is that it clearly isn’t the sound of some virtuosic talent recording a day’s worth of work, but a unified and wholly satisfying piece that’s filled with as much blood, organs and bodily fluids as the organism that made it.
1.) Endless Caverns
3.) Deep Time
5.) Pangaea Ultima*
8.) Endless Mountains
Album Highlight – *