Boomkat Product Review:
Echoes, Spaces, Lines collects Trans-Millenia Consort, Plot Zero, and Spectre, the first three albums by the late West Coast composer, healer, and medium Pauline Anna Strom, plus 'Oceans of Tears', a fully realized but previously unreleased album exclusive to this box set.
Strom’s 1982 debut 'Trans-Millenia Consort' is one of the genre's most enduring and impressive full-lengths, filled with expressive analog and digital synth flourishes and evocative, proto-ASMR environmental recordings. Highlights from this debut were included on RVNG's popular 2017 anthology 'Trans-Millenia Music', but hearing it in its complete form is important. Strom had a clear vision for her music and it's best enjoyed unedited, she was intent on creating an alternate reality of sorts, and 'Trans-Millenia Consort' introduces listeners to that vista, showing it off with soothing electrical tones and glassy FM stabs. ‘Phantom Dancer' is a particular highlight, a courtly dance that sounds like a renaissance faire on a distant planet. But most interesting to many contemporary listeners will no doubt be the proto-electro thump of 'Energies', a track that shares DNA with Drexciya's timeless cosmic techno experiments. Covering a tight, pulsing rhythm with wobbly kosmische synths and left-of-new age improvisations, Strom stumbles on a sound that would fascinate producers and listeners for decades to come.
Plot Zero, from 1983, patches ports into what Strom envisioned as a “mind trip without chemicals”, with results surely primed for armchair flight and daytripping. Entering to the spangled starburst tingles and seesawing melodies of ‘Mushroom Trip’, the album spirals ever outwards/inwards from the elegant elliptical awn of ‘Freebasing’ to magisterial sci-fi lustre of ’Symphonic Industry’ and proggy fanfare in ‘Organised Confusion’, culminating in the shearing cosmic vortices of its title tune that leaves one stranded on other planes. There’s as surely heightened sense of audio-visual synaesthesia at play throughout, newly sharpened by Marta Salogni’s mastering to best represent the vast interiority of Pauline’s dream architecture, vividly rich with harmonic synth colour and a timeless, genteel wonder that still works its magic, 40 years later.
1984’s ‘Spectre’ sharpens up the languorous shapes of her preceding sides into equally sensuous yet finer depictions of the soundscapes and themes of her mind eye’s. Now brought into greater focus by Marta Salogni’s remastering, ‘Spectre’ yields a gorgeous 45 minutes in Strom’s otherworld that has hitherto remained the preserve of collectors hipped to her sound beyond sight. It plays out like the fiction that inspired her, with track titles and a keen, if abstract, narrative that pulls one right into her imaginary plane. The plonging arps and banshee synth voices of ‘Tenement Stairwell’ induces a vertiginous sense of mystery from the outset that diffuses into Vangelisian low end brass scaping on ‘Spatial Spectre’ and echoes vintage horror scores in the pulsating organs of ‘Blood Thirst’, with a killer stroke of slow motion Cluster-esque pastoralism offset by eerie calls from the shadows on ‘Virgin Ice’, giving way to scalp tingling synthy déjà entendu in ‘Blood Celebrants’, and scaling up to the towering perspective of ‘Freedom at the 45th Floor’.
A real eye-opening set, tipped if yr into work by Joanna Brouk, Visible Cloaks, Drexciya, IASOS, Hiroshi Yoshimura, Sofie Birch. Rex Ilusivii, Oneohtrix Point Never, Emeralds.