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Area C - The Planetarium Project

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Artist: Area C

Album: The Planetarium Project

Label: Sedimental

Review date: Jan. 6, 2010


Proving that the planetarium isnít limited to Pink Floyd, Erik Carlson (known on the spines of his releases as Area C) played a series of performances in Providenceís Cormack Planetarium. Using custom-made visual inspiration designed by Carlson for projection via the planetariumís classic Zeiss projector, Area C collaborated with a series of abettors on the improvisational recordings that would become The Planetarium Project. This two-disc album culls four performances from the series and presents over two hours of music played under the (artificial) stars.

The Planetarium Project is a collaboration with Mudboy, Black Forest/Black Sea, and Eyes Like Saucers, but the disc also pairs Carlson with the very phenomena the Cormack Planetarium explores, through the use of sampled sounds from outer space. Itís the sound of the collaborators that tends to steer the music, however, with Eyes Like Saucersí harmonium creating a distinctly different atmosphere than the strings of Black Forest/Black Sea. The domed environs of the planetarium offer a nice reverb, with the squeaks and squiggles of ďThe Basin of the HeavensĒ resonating like fluorescent rain in a dark cave.

The variety on the disc isnít relegated only across tracks. Each cut runs close to thirty minutes, which makes for plenty of exploration. Lush ambient beauty abounds, with glitchy delay and smooth drones, but The Planetarium Project also gravitates toward more rhythmic patterns, hinting at but never fully birthing a full-fledged post-rock sound.

The results can be pretty cosmic, painting vibrant pictures in bright hues like the stunning photography of telescopes in deep space. Spooky darkness surrounds, with scattered blips flickering like the stars in the night sky, crackles emulating scientific instruments more than the phenomena theyíre designed to observe. The instances when brooding melody or steady rhythm come to the fore tend to scuttle the moment, but, to be fair, the proceedings, even at their weakest, would have a decidedly different effect in a darkened planetarium.

These tracks survive out of context, for sure, but thereís a magic that was likely present in their performance, that even a darkened living room and holiday lights canít replicate.

By Adam Strohm

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