Review Summary: Welcome to Ganymede, you may never find your way back home.
I’ll never forget the emotions that raced through my body as I was glued to my seat watching Gravity for the first time. During the first half of the film I could feel my legs tense up as my back grew tighter, and beads of sweat trickled down my forehead. Eventually, the movie gave me a chance to take a breather, but it remained enthralling from start to finish. Well, listening to the suffocating ambience creating by A Slow Descent is a rather similar experience. This isn’t one of those albums you throw in before bedtime to help you fall asleep --it often challenges the listener to go to unexplored depths of their subconscious using undeniably eerie soundscapes. Yes, in the end it is ultimately rewarding, but to call the album accessible would be misleading. It’s an intense, roller-coaster ride through outer-space that finds the listener crash landing on the largest moon in the solar system, Ganymede.
More than twice the size of the Earth’s moon, Ganymede is Jupiter’s largest satellite and its surface is comprised almost entirely of rocks and ice as well as dark, desolate craters. On A Slow Descent’s debut LP, the listener is placed directly into this unknown atmosphere packed with frantic, uneasy sounds that mimic space quite well. The opening track sounds like something right out of a Sci-Fi movie with its fuzzy radio signals and I swear ‘A Crash Landing’ would be right at home in a retro space video game, perhaps on the Sega Genesis. While the only vocals on the album seem to be distress calls, the spastic instrumentation and frenzied beats help create haunting soundscapes as the listener embarks across the massive, cold surface of the moon, searching for any signs of life.
The only real downside to On Ganymede
is the rough production as well as how exhausting the album can be to listen to. However, given the album’s theme, the weaker production doesn’t really hinder the listening experience all that much. In fact, it seems to add that extra bit of intensity to the journey. Still, those who are a stickler for clean production might have trouble making it through this uneasy, but alluring album. Those who do, however, will be rewarded for their patience. The album ends with the unexpectedly beautiful ‘Float Back Home.’ It’s the only track that can actually be labeled as relaxing, and it’s a welcome surprise considering the seven restless tracks that precede it. Rather than utilizing intimidating sound effects, the track contains gentle bells and even acoustic guitars to accompany the listener’s escape from the isolated moon.
If you gaze carefully at the album cover, you’ll notice the frigid, mysterious moon has ominous, nearly invisible arms wrapping their way around a spaceship. I didn’t even notice it at first, but this imagery represents the music at hand perfectly. The listener is unexpectedly sucked into Ganymede’s atmosphere, and it’s often as demanding as it is mysterious. One thing’s for sure, it’s one hell of a ride.