“Artefact” is a tribute to “Rendezvous with Rama”…
…the 1973 classic science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke. It is dark in deep space, the feeling is ethereal, kinetic, and layered. There is just no need for words, but there is a little chatter on the intercom. Each song has special synthesizer qualities and all of them flow into a beautiful mix, there is a very specific story here. This music by Johan Agebjörn, Mikael Ögren and friends, awakens the hidden colors: bespangled, bright, and brilliant; celestial, glittering, with soaring echoes, pulsing and beating patterns, you are headed into the unknowable future, there is no turning back.
Forward motion is the best description of the nature of the electronic music made by Johan Agebjörn, who has an amazing career. He lives in Lund, Sweden, he studies psychology, he is a father, and he makes electronic music from time to time.
Mikael Ögren is a Swedish musician heavily influenced by electronic pioneers Kraftwerk and Jean Michel Jarre, as well as ’90s trance innovators such as Jam & Spoon. During the mid-2010s he began collaborating with his neighbor, Johan Agebjörn.
Agebjörn and Ögren have recently created their second collaborative release, Artefact, also on the Spotted Peccary Music label, also employing vintage synthesizers (Gear: Access Virus Indigo II, Alesis Micron, Clavia Nord Lead 2, Kurzweil K2000, Novation Supernova, Propellerheads Reason 11 with Korg MonoPoly, Roland DJ-70, Roland JD-800, Roland JP-8000, Thoraiz AS-1, Waldorf Blofeld, Yamaha AN1x) which blend into the ethereal atmospherics and electronic sounds of a classic sci-fi soundtrack, enjoying styles ranging from ambient to trance.
All tracks on Artefact are written, performed…
…and produced by Johan Agebjörn and Mikael Ögren. Tracks 1–2 was co-written and co-performed by Stefan Strand. Track 7 was co-written and co-performed by Johan Emmoth. Vocals on track 9 are by Martina Björk. The tracks were mastered by Howard Givens. Daniel Pipitone created the album design and Kilian Eng created the illustrations. You can find him on Instagram.
An artifact might be defined as an object produced by human craft, of archaeological or historical interest. For my review I will be incorporating bits from the story as the music plays, using my first edition version. To get the full story I recommend turning to the novel itself. What comes next is my short interpretation of where the music might fit the novel.
After a series of devastating meteor strikes on Earth, project SPACEGUARD began collecting data about all incoming objects that could be observed. One day, in the year 2131, an object that looked big was detected, heading past Jupiter in the general direction of Earth. This new object was soon named Rama, after the seventh avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, The Sustainer. As Rama came closer it was apparent that it was not a solid object, it was hollow, 20 kilometers (12 mi) in diameter and 50 kilometers (31 mi) long, and almost completely featureless. The spaceship Endeavour was sent out to encounter this rapidly approaching gigantic, enclosed spinning hollow object.
Track 1 “Extravehicular Activity” (2:48)
Between Interval a.k.a. Stefan Strand is also signed to Spotted Peccary and has collaborated with Agebjörn on other tracks before this project. Between Interval also contributed to the second track on Artefact.
If Endeavour touched down even a few meters from the axis, Rama’s rapid spin would start her sliding away from the pole. (pg. 15)
…and would eventually be hurtled off the edge.
Track 2 “Passing the Gates” (6:12)
The wheel rotated almost effortlessly through a full circle. Then, very smoothly, it took up the load… (pg. 22)
…and like a slowly opening clamshell, the passage into Rama lay open. The interior was pitch black.
Track 3 “The Plain” (5:59)
On a globe there is the planetary surface with the sky above. Here, within the interior of Rama, the surface circled around overhead. There is no blue sky above, all around are what appeared to be the scattered towns and cities, different colored and textured areas, which were all securely fixed along the interior of the cylinder and directly overhead.
What was quite unacceptable was the Cylindrical Sea. (pg. 105)
Track 4 “The Storm That Passed” (5:47)
The cloud ceiling was made more acceptable to the mind and senses because its full circle could no longer be seen. Then the clouds moved away to reveal the familiar curving plain.
Track 5 “Flight Over the Sea” (5:18)
The long tapering wings of the Dragonfly were almost invisible, except when the light struck them from certain angles and was refracted into rainbow hues. It was as if a soap bubble had been wrapped around a delicate tracery of aerofoil sections. The envelope enclosing the little flyer was an organic film only a few molecules thick, yet strong enough to control and direct the movements of a fifty-kph air flow. (pg. 144)
If the Dragonfly came down in the sea, the rider, Lieutenant James Pak, “Jimmy,” would probably drown, quite unpleasantly, in its poisonous waters.
Track 6 “Static Air” (4:39)
Le Prix a.k.a. Johan Emmoth contributed to this track as well as to track 7, he has worked with Agebjörn on quite a few tracks and remixes together in the disco/synthwave style, some of them for the Sally Shapiro Project.
When Jimmy looked at his hand, he noticed that every individual hair was standing straight upright. He was in a tremendously powerful electric field. The oppressed, heavy sensation he had felt was that which sometimes precedes a thunderstorm on Earth.
The sound he heard was the electric wind carrying away the tremendous ionization that must be building up… (pg. 161)
…and suddenly a sheet of flame burst out behind him, filling the sky. He barely had time to report back as it split into six ribbons of fire.
Track 7 “Octapod” (3:49)
On this track: Johan Agebjörn, Mikael Ögren, Johan Emmoth (Le Prix), and Yves Gibb.
At first sight it was impossible to tell whether it was an animal or a machine. (pg. 195)
Two of the arms were broken, snapped off at the outer joint. The others ended in a complicated collection of manipulators…
Then they saw that it was not alone. Swimming around it, and snapping at its still feebly moving limbs, were two small beasts, like overgrown lobsters. They were efficiently chopping up the monster, dismantling it like a broken machine, and it did nothing to resist… (pg. 196)
Track 8 “Monitoring the Zooids” (6:59)
Ten meters away was a slender-legged tripod surmounted by a spherical body no larger than a soccer ball. Set around the body were three large expressionless eyes, apparently giving 360 degrees of vision, and trailing beneath it were three whiplike tentacles.
The creature was not quite as tall as a human and looked far too fragile to be dangerous. (pg. 198)
Track 9 “The Hall of Crystals” (5:19)
The vocalist, Martina Björk, is a soprano singer with a PhD in Latin, her beautiful, almost supernatural kind of voice captures the sacred, ancient feeling and combines it with the almost melancholic, sad sense of abandonment that saturates this very moment of the Rama story.
About a kilometer away to the right was a square that glittered like cut glass, or a gigantic display of jewelry…
…which turned out to be quartz crystals, millions of them, set in a bed of sand.
It would have appeared a continuous surface had the tiles not been colored all the hues of the rainbow. (pg. 176)
Track 10 “Interplanetary Threat” (1:09)
The Hermians had made a clandestine launch, which in itself was a breach of space law. The conclusion was obvious: their “vehicle” could only be a missile.
Officially the missile did not exist. (pg. 221)
If it were detonated against the thinnest part of the shell of Rama, underneath the Cylindrical Sea, the skin would be ruptured, and the spin of the body would complete its disintegration. (pg. 223)
Track 11 “Space Travel” (8:10)
Rama was falling away from Endeavour at a steadily increasing speed. As the distance grew, the anomalous behavior of the ship slowly ceased, the normal laws of inertia started to operate again. (pg. 266)
Track 12 “Final Sight” (8:33)
Faster and faster Rama swept around the Sun, moving more swiftly than any object that had ever traveled through the solar system. In less than two hours its direction of motion had swung through more than ninety degrees…
It was dropping out of the ecliptic, down into the southern sky, far below the plain in which all the planets move…
…it was aimed squarely at the Greater Magellanic Cloud, and the lonely gulfs beyond the Milky Way. (pg. 270)
Artefact is an adventure in electronic music that pays tribute to a classic science fiction diegesis, a story that raises more questions than provides resolutions, which is one of the best ways to tell a tale. Who made the cylinder? Why did they make it? Where is it going and what will it do once it gets there? Most of the chronicle assumes that Earth is somehow part of the mission of the mysterious craft, at the end of the novel the artifact just whizzes by, and Earth is only a brief blink on the way past.
The sounds on Artefact are pure electronica, beats and sweeps, beeps and melodies, with lots of awesome fast moving effects. Imagine that you are falling slowly through wind and darkness, there are colored lights and spaceships, swaying and moving, seemingly to the music. We are traveling through the melancholy of a long journey in the cosmos. The feeling of Artefact is complex: bittersweet and positive, the sound is dreamy and electronic with lots of sustained echoes and glowing atmospheres, decorated with a pulse and just soaring with no limits. It works well for dreaming as well as for launching your voyages into deep fantasy, experiencing science fiction.
Originally published at https://www.brainvoyagermusic.com on May 26, 2021.