2 x Vinyl LP, Cassette
“If each planet in our solar system were a different room, what would each room sound like?” This is the question driving Canadian Romanian composer and sound designer Stefana Fratila‘s latest album, I Want To Leave This Earth Behind.
Over the course of eight songs, each named after one of those planets, Fratila builds a mesmerizing listening experience. The opening track “Mercury,” with its jagged, saw-like synths, captures the unstable nature of its namesake, the fastest planet to spin around Earth. Soft, crumbling explosion sounds are punctuated by oscillations that grow in frequency and intensity. This hostile crescendo leads to textures more benign: tracks “Venus” and “Earth” are ripe with high notes comprised of vocal synths, bubbling surfaces, and field recordings of birds. In this way, I Want To Leave This Earth Behind appears in constant motion, with Fratila capturing all the elements that make each planet unique: the crushing temperatures, the hurling meteorites, and the desolate volcanic valleys.
In making I Want To Leave This Earth Behind, Fratila’s deep research led her to unusual places—the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The end result was the creation of Sononaut, a system of “eight open-source VST plug-ins created for digital audio workstations (DAWs) that emulate the atmospheric conditions of the planets in our solar system,” as the album notes describe. Evidence of this heady process can be found on “Mars,” with its metallic soundscapes that vary between what sounds like a giant, distant bell and muted computer blips.
On the standout track “Jupiter,” swishes and oscillations swirl around a sustained drone, building a track so elastic that it is as if the contrasting waves were trying to capture the massive size of the planet and all of its revolving moons and colorful clouds. The more meditative “Neptune” ends the album with a cascade of glitching, filtered effects that rise and die out suddenly, closing off the loop: 41 minutes of space travel that perfectly capture the immense possibilities of sound.