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I was looking forward to finally check out a couple of albums from this intriguing Russian one-man project that is known for the high amount of releases, the original ambient music, the diversified culture and science topics, the great cover artworks and the elevated degree of creativity. I didn't know where to begin and "Planetary Dust" was somehow the first album that I found on the internet as I was looking for an entire "Senmuth" release.
Even though the average rating of this particular disc is surprisingly low, I must admit that I like the sound, atmosphere and cosmic topic of the album. The record works much more on a mysterious atmosphere rather than trying out weird and progressive sound collages. From time to time, the keyboards add some little and well used space sounds that remind me of "Voivod's" dystopian masterpiece "Phobos" but there also some folk samples in a couple of tracks that could have been inspired by the latest works of "Ayreon" such as "01011001". We hear many different samples on this record from tribal folk drums in "Cordelia" to pipers in "Sycorax". From weird and mysterious calm tracks like the eerie "Jupiter" to heavier and more rhythm orientated stuff like the majestic "Neptune", the album varies quite a lot but always respects the main topic and atmosphere. This may be one of the most complete and consistent space concept albums I have ever heard and the tension is kept high on an almost constant level for far over one hour of running time. Add to this that the sound samples never sound too artificial and that the production quality is surprisingly elevated for a low budget Russian one man project like this.
I may not always be in the mood to listen to this record on a regular basis, but when I feel the need to listen to some experimental, innovating and progressive space ambient music, "Senmuth" will from now on always be my first choice and is a great modern alternative to the legendary albums of the progressive rock scene. I can just warmly recommend this record to any fan of the space or science-fiction topic. This rather original record could easily be a truly great soundtrack for a weird experimental science-fiction movie. I feel that "Planetary Dust" is quite underrated for no apparent reason. If you have the chance to listen to this album or purchase it, don't hesitate if my review intrigued you just a little bit.
After a growing line of weaker Senmuth albums, 'Planetary Dust' seems like a welcome salvation. As an artist that relies heavily on the art of 'ambience' to make up a substantial portion of his discography, this album does seem to stand out as far as his ambient work is concerned. While this is certainly not an excellent album or even 'great' album, it does distinguish itself from alot of the less thematic ambient work Senmuth has released.
The general theme that binds this album together is that of the outer rim of the solar system. Keeping in tow with the subject matter, the music here gives a very lonely, spacy and desolate feel. With each track, Senmuth explores a different planet or moon through the music here, which can be easily described as ambient industrial. While there are certainly sounds here that evade either of those styles, 'Planetary Dust' does appear to have more of a cohesive and uniform sound than most other Senmuth records. Alot of the tracks here don't have any structure, but instead end up as sound experiments, to some extent. The opening track is a fair example of this, relying more on the sound and timbre of the music, rather than the melody or composition of the piece.
An obvious highlight here is the piece 'Sycorax,' which incorporates a hefty dose of celtic influence. Bagpipes (or at least, a synthesized bagpipe emulation) are used here very liberally, and give a very catchy hook to the music. Barring that, there are quite a few other ethnic leads that are thrown in amongst the ambient work, including some oriental woodwind work and Indian percussion. The thing this album really lacks however, is songwriting itself. While there are a few scarce melodies here and there, the music feels very dry and could really use some life and beauty to it.
The music on 'Planetary Dust' cannot be considered out of the ordinary for Senmuth, but the album does enjoy a greater sense of flow and album cohesion that the typical release from this Russian one man project. In any case, there is some very dark ambient and industrial material here, and a fan of both genres should check out this piece of music.
Our topics for today are mass production and astronomy. While any average educated person can imagine what both topics are about, let's give a little definition of what we are handling here. Mass production is the doctrine of early industrialization in which the goal of an institution represents creating or manufacturing as many products as possible, with the least effort and expenses involved, to produce the most profit. While profit may not be the case or goal for our friend Senmuth, quality of music deteriorates with quantity and even when you're a mastermind, you're still alone and you have to face the fact that great quantities also bring along great risks of many of them sounding horribly bland and dull. Astronomy, the other topic that is relevant to this release, is the study of celestial objects, of occurrences out there in the vastness of space, on a macro level.
One of Senmuth's many subjects and interests is astronomy and of course, like all honest musicians out there, we try to authentically infuse our music with our interests to create concepts or simply to capture a certain moment that was inspiring to us. After the double-CD "Oracle Octave Part I: Orion Mystery" and "Oracle Octave Part II: Sirius Mystery", which were also space-based and quite well-executed comes yet another space-themed disc from our old friend Senmuth, namely "Planetary Dust", which focuses more on planes than on start, but in terms of music and their depiction in the abstract world we plunge into, the difference between space-travel, stars and planets is very small, since the themes are more or less intermingled. So the main goal or purpose of this album was, to capture the beauty and mysteries or fascination of different celestial objects, more specifically planets of our solar system and some of their moons. What happens when a crazy musicoholic such as Senmuth gets a grasp on such a vast and epic subject? Planetary Dust is the answer.
This needle in the haystack discography of Senmuth is one of the less successful albums to capture a certain concept in detail and express the matter adequately. The space theme renders itself almost completely useless due to the fact that the songs themselves are too inert. They mush themselves into infinite repetition and bland presentation, trying to sound dramatic and heavy, yet failing to do so. The whole album sounds more like a soundtrack to some kind of sci-fi adventure, yet does not appeal in any way. Even the guitar tone, which Senmuth mostly uses as a back-up to the rhythm or to jingle out some melodies, is merely present, which removes the overall weight of the songs. Inside a cheesy uber-dramatic interpretation or representation of planets and moons, lies basic electronic drumming with dragging random synth melody that repeats itself into endlessness. All songs follow the same fashion, sounding incredibly boring and again, generic. The whole album tumbles and rolls on with overdistorted drums and nerve-shattering keyboard tunes, which take various shapes (better: sounds) such as screeching brass-like sounds or animal like toots. By the way, was that a Mercyful Fate ripoff in "Cordelia" at about 4:40? Sure sounded like one, and we all know Senmuth likes Mercyful Fate, since he covered "Come to the Sabbath" sometime.
The problem with this album is again, the too generic and endless repetition and uninspired "atmospheric" music. Where "Oracle Octave" captured space as a theme in an experimental, avant-garde project, "Planetary Dust" fails to cope with the real weight, dark and cold atmosphere, which the universe represents. I also can't make out any highlights here, since there is nothing but a mushy mass of sonic disappointment to be found here. Better luck next time.
(metal-archives.com and TMO on 3.02.2010)