Boomkat Product Review:
The 1982 debut from West Coast new age legend Pauline Anna Strom, '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. RIYL Joanna Brouk, Visible Cloaks, Drexciya, IASOS, Hiroshi Yoshimura, or Sofie Birch.
It was during the mid-'70s when Strom's passion for music was re-ignited. She'd played the piano as a child, but hearing synthesizer music on the radio in San Francisco, where she lived with her husband, she was opened up to a brand new world. Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and Brian Eno records prompted her to invest in a Yamaha DX7, a TX816 and a CS-10 monosynth, plus a 4-track recorder to jot down her ideas. Strom had been born without sight due to complications from a premature delivery, so her process was different from most musicians; according to her, her hearing was more developed, and allowed an inner level of visualization that helped her imagine sounds accurately, programming and patching her synths accordingly. "Trans-Millenia Consort" was originally Strom's alter ego, an out-of-time being who was able to communicate with sound in a heightened state of consciousness. This connection with the music, coupled with her boundless imagination, made Strom's music pull far from that of her peers - even now, it sounds singularly expressive.
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. It's fitting that opening track 'Emerald Pool' begins with sloshing water sounds. Before she allows us to hear the synths, she situates us in the real world, letting us hear the things humans have been listening to for millennia before we're propelled into the future. Her electronic sounds are restrained at first; filigree sequences that stop and start, leaving plenty of negative space for consideration. As the album drifts forward, she adds beatbox rhythms and layers of shimmering sound, playing woodwind-like tones off wind chime flutters, and subtle electric piano runs off drunken wails.
'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. She was convinced that her music helped her peer into the future, and from the sounds of this, she was absolutely right. Biggest recommendation!