As you head into “Titan,” the first track on Palancar’s Shani, you may think you’ve chosen a deep, classic spacemusic album. Well, then, you don’t know Palancar yet. Yes, Shani is firmly rooted in spacemusic as it pays sonic homage to Saturn’s 10 moons, but just as each moon has its own unique topography, each of these tracks has its own distinct character, and those range from the expectedly hushed to the more mysterious and unusual. When Palancar (aka Darrell Burgan) goes the soft, classic route, it’s blissful. It’s all the warm rise-and-fall pad work you’d want, the big vistas that unfurl across parsecs. That’s the allure of the aforementioned “Titan,” lead by a near vocal wah that we’ve heard many times before. Synth strings add that familiar touch of the symphonic and reminds us why we fell in love with spacemusic in the first place. “Rhea” features rolling sound waves lapping gently over a long drone. Silvery shivers of tone glisten in spots, keeping us just this side of hypnotized. Pauses add mystery to “Mimas.” I pull an eerie 50s sci-fi movie vibe from this one, with its wavering minor chords and bass-note punctuation. “Tethys” closes the disc by starting off with starlight notes and an analog pedigree, eventually whispering its way to the end of the album after a lovely tour of the its orbital path. But, as noted, it’s not all soft and smooth space-stuff. Immediately after “Titan,” the track “Hyperion” greets you with a touch of menace, like some interstellar villain adjusting his controls on diabolical switch at a time. Cymbal taps, springy, reverberating metallic sounds, and an underlying drone darken the proceedings. “Iapteus” opens by crackling quietly in your ears, the start of an incoming transmission. Small sounds squeal and adjust toward clarity as rich, warm pads rise up below. Burgan continues to pepper the flow with these squeaks and squibs and tosses a few dissonant notes in for good measure. The mix is deep and in constant motion, your head surrounded by the atmosphere.
Shani definitely benefits from a close listen. Burgan has always been a detail kind of guy, and the textures and small important sound are in full play here. The tonal variation between tracks, the way each is unique in its expression, makes this a very interesting ride. I do prefer the deeper, spacier tracks to the more experimental-feeling ones, but the journey overall is a real pleasure. Get on board and head out to Saturn soon.
Available from Palancar’s web site.