From the liner notes: "Heliopause03 is inspired by the naturally occuring VLF radio waves created by the sun and it's interaction with the magnetospere of the planets in our solar system...the instruments used to create this work include an array of acoustic and electric guitars, piano, prepared instruments and field recordings."
The 'videoclip' of this release under review – an unaltered (at least in the way of the implementation of digital make-over procedures) shot of the sun passing through various stages of obscuring by clouds drifting across the sun – immediately impinges on the imagination a conception of the title’s ‘heliopause’ as referring to the state of this solar obfuscation, even though this does not seem to be in line with the actual astronomical definition of the term ‘heliopause’.
The scientific term ‘heliopause’ actually refers to the demarcation point of the outer limits of our sun’s reach, beyond the heliosphere. To be more specific, it refers to the shockwave marking the end of the solar winds and the start of the interstellar wind: where the solar wind from the sun and the radiation from other stars meet. It remains to be questioned though whether the field of objective natural science invoked here is the same field which seems to have informed the artist with this release.
On this account, the packaging of the cd might merit scrutiny in conceiving of the designated (?!) ‘direction’ for interpreting the cd’s content. A black cover with on the front a definitely ‘esoteric’ picture portraying an astrological design of the (black) sun’s relationship to the ‘Divine Triangle’. On the inside there is represented a specific zodiacal constellation with at the center the ‘Divine Eye’, also placed in relation to the sun. Even more intriguingly, there is inserted within the inlay a photonegative of a sailboat moored to a harbor dock. (I leave unmentioned the question as to the specific meaning of the serialization invoked by the title; is that just a version number or is there some more obscure refence involved here?)
Even though there might be an apparent discrepancy between these different ‘clues’ (the scientific term of the title, the esoteric imagery, and the quite baffling insert), I will take these as the main demarcation points within which to attempt an actual appraisal of the cd’s content.
Let us for a moment suspend our disbelief (also setting aside the info on the cd-inlay itself on the instruments used to create the work) and take for a fact that these are actual recordings made at the fringes of the sun’s influence-sphere: could this then be the new pastoral music of our age? Listening to some of the recordings of solar VLF radio waves (which in fact Aaron Lennox cites as being the source of inspiration for this release under review) made by the ‘master’ in the field Stephen McGreevy one could certainly consider this to be so; the almost cricket-like chirpings and whirrings (augmented by the actual chorus of cicadas ever on the background) evoke at times a very rural – and peaceful – ambience indeed. There are also other, more disturbing elements to these recordings too, though, with penetrant pops and crackles of electromagnetic static at times carving deep etches into the pastoral surface.
Although the artist's fascination with NASA recordings and cicada choruses showcased on former releases in combination with backporch guitarplaying did strike at times a very pastoral balance indeed, as to this release under review I would definitely answer with a negative: this is no pastoral music, which has largely to do with the absence of any guitarplaying that can be distinguished as such. Here, rather, one is exposed to what eventually becomes an ear-fluttering solar wind (an effect in part achieved through the meticulous and pregnant manipulations of the stereo-spectrum) forming in fact the last breath of the sun one will ever again be exposed to – an aural experience difficult to mindlessly and obliviously acquiesce in. Even in its most ‘pastoral’ movements – which evoke an erosive quantum ocean lapping away at our psychic matter, our consciousness diluted by an ever waning void until eventually imploding in an airless storm – the fundamentally unimaginable and unaccountable character of what would here be sonically represented denies the auditor a truly comfortable listening-position.
But, as was already clear from the start, this is not an actual ‘field’-recording of any kind whatsoever. This is rather a reconstruction, designed by the sonic imagination, of these unimaginable cosmic events.
In one sense this strategy could be considered as an attempt at a refinement of such recordings of solar activity by for example Stephen McGreevy, in that one is in this instance presented with a sonification which is interference-free and with a level of detail that would still at this stage of technological advancement be physically impossible to attain – even if the Voyager 1 satellite, that has since August 2006 actually traversed the Heliopause, had any recording equipment on its board. But with what was concluded in the previous paragraph we also stumble on what may in general be taken as the ‘sense’ or purpose of an esoteric interpretation of reality (however unfathomable the relevant interpretation may itself seem): such an interpretation is ever intended, by positing certain (cor)relationships between on the one hand the cosmic scale and on the other hand the human scale of individual consciousness, to bring the unimaginable (by what itself is, to me at least, an act of the human imagination) into the domain of, if not the imaginable, then at least to the domain of the experiential, the existential. With that it brings, via the backdoor, the human dimension back into the account. By means of a certain process of anthropomorphication which is involved in the 'esoteric' interpretation of certain observable data, certain consequences and details of these data are poignantly brought to the fore to the effect that they can actually be conceived of within the imagination and within consciousness as such. In this way, the esoteric interpretation of the cosmos can invoke a sense of awe, or perhaps a subliminally coerced sense of fear which the ‘plain’ scientific facts seem to be incapable of.
As far as this sense of the word ‘awe’ goes, this is surely the most awe-inspiring release I have heard since last year’s Duae by Ubeboet & Pablo Reche. Quite a trajectory which Aaron Lennox has paved for himself: from the truly ‘pastoral’ (or rather heavenly, on account of its blissful harmonic breadth) guitar meanderings of 2003’s Confluens, via releases on among other Digitalis Industries, unto this… Following these steps in succession, there appears actually an uncanny logic to the path unfolding. Though what lies up ahead I can only wait for anxiously.
-Mark Pauwen, earlabs.org
"Heliopause03 is deep and dark, just how I love my ambient, I got pretty lost in it. The packaging is fantastic, too. It's a real handsome release and sounds great."
-Luke Hazard, earstroke records