RSS feed RSS Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook 15 Questions 15 Questions

CD Feature/ Ian Tescee: “A Traveler’s Guide to Mars”

img  Tobias

For a while, my younger brother and me were trying to outcool each other with the latest additions to our fledgling discographies. He was 8, I was 11 and while I had Jean-Michel Jarre’s “Equinoxe”, he owned “Rendez-Vous”. After I discovered Enigma’s “Mcmxc a.d”, he answered this acquisition with their second installment “The Cross of Changes”. And my purchase of Tangerine Dream’s “Phaedra”was countered with Ian Tescee’s “Io”. The thing was that while my brother remained pretty unimpressed by the former  (not caring for the fact that it was supposed to be a “classic”), I secretely took a liking “Io”. In fact, I kept listening to it for quite a while longer than some of my own precious records, never openly acknowledging the impact Tescee’s music had on me. 

Chances for coming out decreased as the years moved on. The underground reputation of “Io” relied on its excitingly futuristic, melodically propelled fusion of the pulsating atmospheric Berlin school style with concise song structures, but the cracks in Tescee’s release schedule gradually grew as deep and wide as oceans. With a mere three full-lengths in a Quarter-century, he can retrospectively certainly pride himself on only publishing his music if there was really something worth saying, but being a fan was never easy. As the last millenium drew to a close, the greatfully received “Breathwork” inspired hope for more, but once again, Tescee’s own work would lapse into silence, drowned out by the noise of the most diverse productions tended to by him in his duties as a professional engineer.

And then, suddenly, he is back. You check the mail one morning and find a package containing his latest CD, “A Traveler’s Guide to Mars” and a friendly request to review it. Time seems to stand still for a second. What prompted him to step into the limelight again? Intruiged, I do something I rarely do: I read the press release before listening to the music. Early in 2007, Tescee’s friend W.K. Hartmann calls him up, inquiring whether he might like to contribute an electronic arrangement of Bela Bartok’s “The Wooden Prince” as part of the soundtrack for shows at the spectacular and brand new Buhl Digital Dome. Tescee feels honoured and that very night, he starts dreaming about Mars. He can see the planet, he can feel the rough rockscapes inside its giant red craters, he can imagine himself freely floating above its surface and there is always music in the air. A pulp of tracks starts growing from these nightly excursions, with the synthesized Bartok only constituting one piece among newly composed tracks and collaborations.

“A Traveler’s Guide to Mars” comes about organically and with the help of close friends. Colleague Russel Storey contributes thematic material, Nancy Snustad of the Colorado Springs Philharmonics performs Cello and former Capitol Records figurehead Randall Davis produces. I slip the CD into my stereo and find myself in a sonic widescreen panorama. Stylistically, Tescee revisits some of the places he explored on “Io”, with zero-gravity melodies gliding on top of bubbly Sequencer lines and spacey Guitars loosing themselves in harmonic cycles and the infinite blackness of the cosmic vacuum. On other occasions, however, he demonstrates his ongoing interest in contemporary forms of expression and in taking his music to 21st century horizons: Opener “The New World” finds an aggressive balance between Techno-infused directness and symphonic string arrangements, while urban drum loops pound underneath pumping rock percussion.

The progressive edge of the album is just one of its benefits, however. Even more prominently, Tescee has forged a work which oozes melodic joy and connects in all the right places. The Synthesizer dream “Passport” gives way to plaintive ballad “Earthrise”, which in turn bleeds into the energising voyage “The Lost City of Mars”. The billowing and ebbing pads of “Aquamarine” are sublimated by the anthemically lush arrangement of a fleetingly short, yet emotionally pivotal excerpt from “The Wooden Prince”. And while the variety of the material, which can die down to a whisper and march to the beat of thundering timpani, suggests a grand concept could be at work here, the spontaneous and unpretentious nature of the music is rather geared towards physical than intellectual pleasures.

No doubt Tescee’s latest album will not have a similar impact as his debut, which coincidentally has been issued as a remastered version as we speak. But in terms of remaining utterly true to deeply rooted ideals while simultaneously managing to reinvent oneself in an unforced and completely convincing fashion, few releases of 2008 can match his achievement. This weekend, I will be meeting my brother in the Netherlands and I will have “A Traveler’s Guide to Mars” in my luggage. Let’s see if he can beat me with this one.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Ian Tescee

Related articles

Interview with Ian Tescee
Time seems to be moving ...
Underworld & John Murphy: Announce 'Sunshine' Soundtrack Release
After a seemingly endless delay, ...
State-X New Forms Festival 2008: Entertaining and Eclectic
Preparations for the fifth edition ...
Interview with Olafur Arnalds
In my past as a ...
Concert Report: Klaus Schulze & Lisa Gerrard & Solar Moon System
Live at Schillertheater, Berlin, November ...
Chillumination: The Downbeat Revolution is coming Home
Even though the downbeat boom ...
CD Feature/ Enigma: "Seven Lives, Many Faces"
A strangely solitary ambiance: Minimalism ...
Legend of Despair
A much needed point of ...
Interview with Brendan Pollard
Recording music must be something ...
CD Feature/ Redshift: "Last"
Halucinatory sequencing: Relies on the ...
Robert Schroeder: Returns to his "D.MO" days
One of the key figures ...
Klaus Schulze: An "Electronic Music Legend" in bookstores
„Klaus Schulze – Electronic Music ...
CD Feature/ Brendan Pollard: "Flux Echoes"
Sounds like the biggest thing ...
Discovering New Worlds
Dynamic thrust and Zen-like calm: ...

Partner sites