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Album Review

J. Peter Schwalm & Stephan Thelen: Transneptunian Planets


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J. Peter Schwalm & Stephan Thelen: Transneptunian Planets
To get any further out than Transneptunian Planets, one would have to travel to the edge of the solar system. The title of the album— offered up by electro-acoustic composer J. Peter Schwalm and guitarist, composer & mathematician Stephan Thelen—refers to objects orbiting the sun in the far reaches, out beyond Neptune. Many of these objects may be news to those who do not follow the progress of astronomy; though, surely, everyone is familiar with Pluto—way out there, once a planet (for astronomical labeling purposes) then not a planet and, maybe, in the future a planet again. There are arguments for and against...

Did Thelonious Monk ponder Pluto? Maybe, maybe not. Sun Ra almost certainly did; and so do Schwalm and Thelen. "Pluto" opens the disc, and it is a cosmic listening experience. It throbs ominously. Electronic waves wash over the dwarf planet. An ambient harshness pervades—maybe from extreme cold, maybe from radiation unfiltered by an atmosphere.

Thelen wields guitars, keyboards, granular synths and programming. Schwalm uses synths, live treatments, electronic percussion, programming and voice. There seems to be no limit to the soundscapes (space scapes?) they make. Each successive tune pays tribute to one of Pluto's fringe-of-the-solar-system dwarf planet traveling mates, "MakeMake," "Quaoa," "Haumeas," "Orucu" and so on. All of these undeersized planets—with the exception of Pluto—were discovered in the twenty-first century.

Transneputunian Planets, crafted in large part via file swapping on the internet, glows with dark mystery, as black as obsidian. It is guitar-heavy and electronically orchestral, as stark and mysterious as the theme it explores. Eivind Aarset adds his guitar contributions to Thelen's. Schwalm, Thelen and Aarset are all visionaries in their own rights, and the melding of those audacious visions is scary, and mesmerizing.

Track Listing

Pluto; MakeMake; Quaoa; Haumea; Orcus; GongGong; Sedna; Eris.


J. Peter Schwalm: electronics; Stephan Thelen: guitar, electric; Eivind Aarset: guitar.

Additional Instrumentation

Tim Harrier: bass guitar; Manuel Pasquinelli: drums, percussion; Neil Catchpole: voice samples (7)

Album information

Title: Transneptunian Planets | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: RareNoiseRecords

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