After many listens, I find that I prefer Darren Rogers’ Interstellar Love when I play it at low volume. This collection of romantically tinged spacemusic has, for the most part, a quiet, flowing grace and an emotional core that is strong enough to come through in a background listen. What comes through less in these listens is Rogers’ dependence on some well-worn New Age library pieces and the occasional iffy choice. I quite like the intelligent way the album starts off. Rogers, in telling his tale of finding your soulmate, laces his opener, the title track, with clips of love songs and proclamations of love. It comes off like earthly transmissions captured somewhere far off in space, and it definitely caught my attention. It moves itself into a slow, airy space piece. A surprising appearance by acoustic guitar further along the way is a nice touch. “Wavering” is another soft-voiced drift carved in pads, floating somewhere between thoughtful and melancholic. And if the rest of the album stayed like this, it would probably sit better with me. With “Carefree Dreams,” Rogers heads off in a symphonic, over-sweetened direction that instantly seems out of joint with what’s come before. This is a personal preference, of course; many listeners may find it stirring. But I had just settled in to some deeper spacemusic, and now I’m back out of it. I’m further pulled out by “Passion,” which starts in a good place. It’s back along the lines of “Wavering,” just coursing through starlit spaces. A light pulse of drum finds its way in, the same sort of interesting choice as the guitar. Then, pretty much out of nowhere, Rogers chooses to plop in trance-style keyboard riffs and I have myself a genuine what the? moment. Not only is it interruptive, the sound feels like it was just lifted wholesale out of a loop library. I apologize if that sounds harsh, but when you hear it, you’ll know it. Rogers plays over it as well, and it’s a bit of a tangle. In later listens, this is one I’d choose to skip. The two final tracks, “The Love Inside” and “Looking to the Stars” find a balance between the quiet spaciness I enjoy on the album and New Age touches. “The Love Inside” puts a lovely vocal sample to good use against an almost baroque-sounding backdrop. The closer just coasts, again making me wish I’d been given more of this style. This, I think, is where Rogers thrives: classic pad-based spacemusic that reaches for the far distance.
When I last reviewed Rogers, I felt that sometimes his work was too by-the-numbers and often thin. And while I do think he tends to stick to established ambient/New Age routes in much of his work, the music here seems to pack more density and thoughtful construction than before. Listeners more aligned with the sweeter, more romantic approach of New Age will probably find more to like here. If I could pull a couple tracks out of the middle, Interstellar Love would become an album I’m more inclined to listen to. The things I like here, I like quite a bit. It’s the inconsistency–based on my personal tastes–that throws me off just a bit.
Available from Bandcamp.