Secret Space Program

Sverre Knut Johansen

Secret Space Program

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About Secret Space Program

Tracks:

1   MILAB (Military Abduction)

2   Black Ops (Military Secret Space Programs)

3   LOC (Lunar Operation Command)

4   Secret Space Program

5   Blue Indigo Balls of Light

6   Esoteric

7   Blue Avians

8   Genetic Programs

9   Precognitive Abilities

10   Raising Our Vibrational and Consciousness Level

11   Orb Beings

12   Matrix of Spheres

13   IE (Intuitive Empath)

14   Sphere Being Alliance

15   We Are One

16   Outro SSP

Secret Space Program, Sverre Knut Johansen’s second release on Spotted Peccary Music, focuses a distant lens on some of life’s strangest and possibly most impactful questions. Who are we? Where did we come from? Are we alone? Inspired by fantastic stories of extra-terrestrial intelligence, Johansen magnifies these inquiries, addressing them through a large array of synthesized instruments and soundscapes.

The resulting electro-symphonic compositions unveil a deeply compelling musical experience. The album’s concept shimmers with the enthralling aura of a sci-fi story, flirting with conspiratorial questions reminiscent of The X-Files, as the “Secret Space Program” of Johansen’s musical tale investigates our involvement with non-terrestrial intelligence.

“There are many who argue that there are secret organizations cooperating with extraterrestrials on several levels. So-called black ops programs.” Johansen explains. “What if these stories were true? Would we find that there is a secret base located on the moon, or that there are organizations on Earth that have daily contact and interaction with extraterrestrials?”

The photorealistic artwork by acclaimed visual artist Michal Klimczak, along with captivating track titles like “MILAB (Military Abduction),” “LOC (Lunar Operation Command),” “Orb Beings,” and “IE (Intuitive Empath)” embellish the album’s story with sensational details, while the music, filled with mystery, drama, tension and wonder, underscores the extraordinary saga.

Masterfully soaring between melodic peaks of dramatic intensity and deep lush valleys of ambient meditations, the excitement and subtle introspection of Secret Space Program serves as a soundtrack to what some have imagined could be the greatest discovery of all – that we are not alone!

Reviews

This is Johansen’s second release on Spotted Peccary, a follow-up to 2016’s very excellent Earth from Above (followong a half dozen or so releses on Origo Sound and other labels), and though the material here continues in a very similar vein, the composer has chosen to associate these sixteen compositions with a concept about extraterrestrials, military abductions, secret lunar bases, conspiratorial ideas, and black-ops programs. This only goes as far as the titles and some occasional strange alien sounds in a couple of the pieces, but this, like its predecessor, is purely instrumental music, a shimmering and dreamy endeavor that is at once intense and beautiful. Dramatic, ambient and richly melodic, the sixteen pieces here are borne of cinematic ideals, created with synthesizers, treated guitar and percussion samples, and other electronics, everything subject to intense processing to give the sound an other-worldly feeling, with a very symphonic aura. Guest guitarist Børge-Petersen Øverleier joins Johansen on a handful of tracks. Pieces like “Orb Beings,” “Blue Indogo Balls of Light,” “Sphere Being Alliance,” “Precognitive Abilities,” and others all offer a very compelling hybrid of symphonc and electronic sounds filled with mystery and wonder, ladened with compelling textures and deeply stirring melodies, all intertwining in a conceptual meditative environment that will pull the listener effortlessly through new worlds.

- Peter Thelen, Exposé

Science fiction themes, the possible life on other planets and the secret services such as a likely X-Files are the cradle of an artistic heresy which suits very well the uncountable advantages and infinite possibilities of the MÉ and its equipments. The sounds and tones which get out from those instruments never stop to charm and to amaze. The door is thus wide open to Sverre Knut Johansen, and to his last opus “Secret Space Program”, who is resolutely attracted by the subject since I discovered his Earth From Above in 2016, and well beyond this time to read the comments of his fans on diverse EM topics, such as EM Portal. Comfortably settled on its 16 titles, this 2nd album of the Norwegian musician on the Spotted Peccary label is a long musical mosaic where all the styles bound to Electronica hatch out. Both between each track and inside of them, getting so the listener on the alert in this another impressive platform of sounds and tones in the colors which confuse those of the most avant-gardist painters.

And it's nevertheless far from the galaxies that begins “Secret Space Program”! A restful wave installs a soft climate of serenity. A delicate melody spreads an approach of gloominess that the tears of a very Vangelis synth covers of an infinite tenderness. Yes, one could imagine to be in another dimension, except that the rolling of the waves and the shouts of seagulls bring us back on Earth rather fast. Orchestrations are silky and Sverre Knut Johansen prioritizes cheerfully a very cinematographic approach at the greatness of “Secret Space Program”. I wrote higher that each title evolves inside its frame, and "MILAB (Military Abduction)" offers a very nice perspective at this level when its last minutes are snatched by some oscillatory thin lines which lead the vibes to a kind of a totally unexpected trip-hop in "Black Ops (Military Secret Space Programs)". In the background is dragging this very evasive melody from "MILAB (Military Abduction)". We are always hung onto its charms when the tide turns and when the trip-hop skips with more vigor between those stroboscopic lines. We leave the lands of Electronica, we will get there strongly later, with the twinkling synth line which sparkles as a blue water under a radiant sun of Australia in "LOC (Lunar Operation Command)" of which the alloy of a rhythm non-rhythm is skillfully built under this draught of extraterrestrial's melody, kind of TD in Wavelenght, which ceaselessly comes and charm the listening. The landscape of sounds here is simply phenomenal! Except this song of whale, the orchestrations are, as always, very moving, the astral songs are of an innocence above suspicion and the percussions, as well as effects of percussions, give a lot of depth to this structure of rhythm in constant awakening. These elements decorate the title-track and the grapeshot of fluty breaths, a little as if it was the conclusion of “Secret Space Program”, maintain the listening in mode alert! We can hear the guitar of Børge-Petersen Øverlerr raging silently in this luxuriant fauna of tones. Two chords which follow each other with a light gap in the rhythm, "Blue Indigo Balls of Light" was my first crush on this album from SKJ. These arpeggios which skip weakly are joined by percussions which are just as soft and of which the resonances click in a veil of semi down-tempo. The guitar whispers a spectral melody and the orchestrations tear the moods with a very incisive staccato. Great!

We have our ears full and we are not even in the middle of “Secret Space Program” which also hides small pearls for dream and meditation, like the very nostalgic "Esoteric". It does very New Age with these meditative notes of piano and this seraphic voice which does dual with a slow dying melody. We stay in the spheres of ambient, but intense, music with "Blue Avians", while the undulatory whirlwinds and the fiery rhythm of "Genertic Programs" puts our senses back in action with effects of resonances which lean on good effects of percussions and of which the vigor becomes more accentuated as the seconds run away. And always this tearful melody which seems to bloom out from the Martenot Waves. "Precognitive Abilities" offers an ambient rhythm with hammerings which seem to come from a huge double bass. This 2nd part of “Secret Space Program” plunges a bit into a psybient vibe a la Autechre with ambient noises, here it's the percussive effects filled of grapeshot of insects' legs amplified to the most, on a structure which deviates partially towards a more Lounge mood with a vicious bass and a guitar which reserves us some good ambient solos. Ambient in a good structure of noises, "Raising our Vibrational and Consciousness Level" guides us towards the delicious trip-hop of "Orb Beings". Intense in its envelope of tones, the guitar of Øverlerr runs through us here, "Orb Beings" evolves with a good velocity in a dramatic approach where this delicious melody of Aliens takes all its sense. Quiet and cinematic, the gliding and shrill hoops of "Matrix of Spheres" lead us to the beautiful serenity of "IE (Intuitive Empath)" and of its spectral tears. A beautiful moment of a very fascinating contemplation before the intensity reaches its paroxysm with the resounding, the percussions are simply wild and delicious here, "Sphere Being Alliance". A little on the same principle of accentuation of tones, of rhythms and of ambiences, "We are One" proposes a not too wild model of Electronica pushing the short "Outro SSP" in the same nooks.

Once again, I got seduced, and it more easily, by the music of Sverre Knut Johansen. Playing skillfully on the borders of New Age and Electronica, the composer and the multi-instrumentalist (he plays of everything, set apart the guitar) from Norway puts his signature on a kind of his own. The atmospheres, like the multitude of not classifiable rhythms, abound in effects and in intensity all over “Secret Space Program”, establishing a secret code between SKJ and the one who falls under his charms. And that also it is rather easy!

- Sylvain Lupari, Synth & Sequences

Similar to Sverre Knut Johansen's 2016 full-lengths, Earth From Above (Spotted Peccary Music) and Antarctica (Origin Music), Secret Space Program presents a melodically rich instrumental song-cycle whose encompassing content spans New Age, prog, electronica, ambient, and even trip-hop. And, like those earlier albums, the new one is a concept album of sorts, in this case a seventy-one-minute opus rooted in existential questions about life and the universe. More specifically, the Norwegian producer drew for inspiration from conspiracy-fueled musings about government agencies not only intent on withholding from the public intel about extra-terrestrial life-forms but military ‘black ops' programs that are involved in cooperating with them. In pondering such scenarios, Johansen wonders, “Would we find that there is a secret base located on the moon, or that there are organizations on Earth that have daily contact and interaction with extraterrestrials?” His emphatic “We are not alone!” certainly suggests on which side of the fence he sits.

Though conceptually some degree of paranoia permeates the recording, it begins peacefully enough, with day breaking gently in the New Age-styled meditation “MILAB (Military Abduction)” amidst seaside sounds of water lapping ashore and seagulls crying. Strengthening the impression of a narrative song-cycle, each track eases comfortably into the next, Johansen's smooth transitions helping to efface the gaps between them. Par for the Johansen course, moods and dynamics vary throughout the sixteen tracks, with the album regularly alternating between serene ambient meditations and soaring mini-epics powered by drums and Børge-Petersen Øverlerr's guitar. Though he only appears on four tracks, Øverlerr definitely makes his presence felt, with his expressive playing adding significantly to the epic reach of “Secret Space Program” and “Precognitive Abilities.” That aforementioned trip-hop element surfaces early when “Black Ops (Military Secret Space Programs)” adds a downtempo groove to dramatic piano melodies and swelling synthesizer atmospherics.

Some of the material is exceptionally pretty, whether it be “Esoteric,” with its minimal coupling of keyboard chords and wordless female emoting, or the transporting synthesizer reveries “Blue Avians” and “IE (Intuitive Empath).” Certain tracks, among them “Precognitive Abilities,” locate themselves firmly within the electronica genre when the whirr-and-click of agitated beats forms a foundation for Johansen's melodies, whereas muscular productions such as “Genetic Programs” and “Sphere Being Alliance” show that he's quite capable of generating a powerful energy supply all by himself.

As I listen to this prolific producer's albums, I often find myself wondering about his MO: does Johansen generate an abundance of untitled instrumentals, determine a sequence for them, and then fashion a narrative to accompany them, or does he begin with a story-line and then create the musical material to accord with it? Regardless, the presence of a narrative like the one used for Secret Space Program does make for a satisfyingly cohesive result. Though all sixteen pieces are instrumentals, one nevertheless comes away from the recording feeling as if a particular story-line has been methodically investigated and animated into sonic form.

- Ron Schepper, Textura

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