Turn your screen and look carefully at the album art. The focus of Lyrae‘s beautiful Vakuum can be found in the stars subtly arrayed on the cover and in the photos of the night sky on his Facebook page (which appears to be his own work, rather than a NASA archive grab). It’s also in the titles of the album tracks – from “Planck” (as in Max, who has one constant, several theories and any number of cosmological things named after him) to “Vesto”, which is named after Vesto Slipher, who found evidence for the expanding universe (at least according to Wikipedia).
Without wishing to read too much into the theme, it seems that Ola Sandberg (Lyrae) has incorporated the influence of the heavens into his work. Fittingly, there is plenty of space in the music – nothing here is too dense or over-crowded. It’s certainly way more stripped back than his first album Tsaluyi which was arguably overly indebted to certain post-rock bands, most notably Sigur Rós. Even so, one track here (“Reiss”) is reminiscent of the Icelandic outfit, but rather than a glacially epic work-out, it sounds like an out-take from the Valtari era, and consequently fits in just fine. On the surface, the musical ingredients are simple. Guitars hold long, long notes, while pianos twinkle like little pools of stars, thoughtfully following chord sequences. An occasional drone hums far in the background, while an odd pitchbent note is used to to open and close the album. Found sound, radio interference and chiming bells add further colour and depth. The results are less like baking and more like alchemy.
Whenever one encounters a space-inspired ambient album, Brian Eno’s Apollo soundtrack comes to mind. Certain elements overlap between the two works – for example, the guitars on “Astro” – and in some spots, Vakuum leaves an equal powerful an impression on the listener. To borrow a term from the field of physics, this album is a quantum leap for Lyrae, and one hopes he keeps gazing upwards and onwards for inspiration. (Jeremy Bye)