Between Interval is Stefan Jönsson and this is the first album of his music I've heard (he has one other out, Radio Silence). One need only look at the cover image and read the title to get a solid indication of what to expect: deep mysterious spacemusic. Jönsson does not disappoint in that regard. Comprised of four lengthy tracks (only the last one is under fourteen minutes, and it's still eight minutes long), Secret Observatory takes the listener on a voyage to the outer edges of our galaxy and beyond. This is as close to ideal cosmic music as you're gonna get. No rhythms occur until part way through the third track (’Forested Veins’) and then the beat comes from pulsing electronic tones, not percussion per se. Before that, ‘Garden of the Divine’ is a patient exploration of spacy electronic tonalities, choral washes and rumbling, yet captivating, drones that mingle and break apart over the eighteen-minutes of the track. It's not an overtly dark or scary piece of music, but it's decidedly not Jonn Serrie, either. While it's been a long time since I listened to Lightwave's Tycho Brahe, I think Jönsson's music both on this cut and others on the album compares favorably to that recording. ‘Garden of the Divine’ also contains some cool sounds which resemble reverberating water droplets. The juxtaposition between warm moments in the track and darker more mysterious passages is handled superbly by Jönsson. He completely held my attention which is quite a feat for music this minimal and drone-centered at times. The drones and flowing washes of synthesizers slowly changes nature and character over time, although it's all handled subtly with no dramatic shifts to disrupt the drifting pace of the album.
‘Surreptitious Ritual’ offers more of the same but more subdued and spacier than the first track. Here the drones have a ‘vaster’ dimension to them and the music itself feels like you've crossed a barrier of sorts and have entered a different realm of space altogether. The moodiness of the song is palpable as it progresses through its fourteen-plus minutes, featuring tones that have a certain shimmering quality to them, although in a darker aspect than that term usually conveys. The synth chorales are well-employed in adding a reverential element to the music. ‘Forested Veins’ is more of a departure, as the track is awash with flowing drones and synths as well as peppered here and there with buzzing cybernetic textures and effects, very spacy in nature and more than a little bit retro too. The music seems to come in slowly undulating waves - nicely done, that! ‘Entropy’ opens with a gentle drone that subtly ebbs and flows, as well as hushed chorales that paint the music with a sense of subdued grandeur. As the cut progresses, the title is evoked/suggested by skittering noises and distorted vocals that come and go in the background (they're not too pronounced, though). Towards the end, the drones/textures become quieter as if they're objects receding from your view, eventually fading away completely.
Secret Observatory is a superb spacemusic album, evocative of the farthest reaches of what we can see through telescopes. The CD should also appeal to fans of drone-style ambient music as well. The mixture of darker shadings with friendlier elements is among the best combinations of the two I've heard since Astoria (from the enigmatically-named pseudonym artist ‘when I know you will too’). While Secret Observatory is literally unlike Astoria, from a musical standpoint, both of the albums excel at introducing beauty and warmth into the traditionally cold and sterile atmosphere of shadowy dark ambient. I highly recommend the album. And, on a final note, it's worthy of mention that Stefan Jönsson is only 23 years old! Remarkable that such an assured and accomplished piece of music would come from someone so young.
- Bill Binkelman, Wind and Wire