Hannah Peel – Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia

3 09 2017

Mary CasioMary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia is the follow-up to 2016’s Awake But Always Dreaming. Peel’s third full-length solo release heads off in a very different direction to recent album and EP releases from the electronic composer.

The music on Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia was performed by Hannah Peel and Tubular Brass, and was recorded live in The Civic, Barnsley by Real World Studios. The album artwork is by Jonathan Barnbrook.

This mostly instrumental album is a mixture of warm analogue synths mixed with a traditional colliery brass band. On paper this should not work, but in reality the mixture of machine and brass band works surprisingly well.

There is a strong sense of nostalgia running through the veins of this album. Hints of the early 80s work of John Foxx blend with the 70s aesthetic of Jean Michel Jarre.

Colliery bands always conjure up a feeling of the early 70s to me. I always think of the late Peter Skellern and also the work of The Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band. The only other recent album I can recall using colliery bands is the wonderful Diversions Vol.2: The Unthanks With Brighouse And Rastrick Brass Band. Though you will not find any synths on The Unthanks album!

The brass swells offer a real emotional pull, especially on album opener Goodbye Earth.

The celestial sounds of Sunrise Through The Dusty Nebula is an album highlight. There is a moment when the analogue bass synth hits a peak with the brass that sends shivers.

The theme of the album is the story of 86-year-old Mary Casio and her lifelong stargazing dream to leave her South Yorkshire home in the mining town of Barnsley and see the star constellation of Cassiopeia. As the album progresses, you get the feeling that the journey may not be rooted in reality.

Deep Space Cluster uses the brass in the way that electronic musicians often use the slow-building repetition of sequenced synth riffs to build the tension towards the songs climax.

Andromeda M31 takes me back to the days of the 70s London Planetarium. I love the use of the often bubbling beneath the mix ambient bumps and noises that really help built the tracks mood. The synths add a real sense of the huge expanses of space, and makes this track one that 70s / 80s synth music addicts will really love. I’m sure Giorgio Moroder must have snuck into the studio when this track was being recorded.

Life Is On The Horizon is a sad refrain, that has a little of the feel of The Last Post about it. The bubbling analogue noises sound like comets or space debris flying past.

Hannah Peel Live

Archid Orange Dwarf lifts the mood, and is one of the only tracks with a noticeable human vocal element – no lyrics, but a warm vocal hum that adds to the joyful feel of the song.

The album closes with its longest track, The Planet of Passed Souls. Reverb-heavy organs usher in a song that includes a sample of Peel’s grandfather as a choirboy from 1928, mixing reality with fantasy, the distant past with the present. The end section of The Planet of Passed Souls is simply beautiful.

I might take a trip to the Royal Observatory Greenwich, which is not too far from where I live, with Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia as the perfect headphone accompaniment. The album was built to be played in one sitting, in the original sequence. So turn off shuffle and enjoy your journey with Mary Casio.

I really hope she made it to Cassiopeia.

Buy Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia on CD from Amazon

Buy Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia on vinyl from Amazon

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