Asura :: Radio Universe (Ultimae)

As opposed to many other contemporary artists who incorporate elements of seventies space music, Asura manages to sound classic and refreshing rather than clichéd.

There’s nothing like starting the winter with an Ultimae release, especially when it’s by French psychedelic ambient downtempo maestro, Mr. Charles Farewell (aka Asura). With a legion of avid fans behind him, many compilation appearances and already 4 full-length albums in his résumé, Asura is back with the highly anticipated fifth full-length, Radio Universe. It has been cooking slowly but surely over a period of almost four years, and now, finally, it’s here. After immersing myself in its sounds and exploring its depths, I can safely say that in terms of musical maturity and production quality Radio Universe is Asura’s best work to date. Like fine wine, Asura gets better and better with age. 2007’s Life² remains my favorite Asura album, but Radio Universe is climbing its way up to secure a spot among my all time favorite Ultimae releases.

Ultimae’s press release describes Radio Universe as a musical odyssey that presents a renewed vision of the seventies space music legacy. It’s an accurate description. It’s not a secret that Asura is influenced by Jean-Michel Jarre, Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and other influential shapers of the genre, but as opposed to many other contemporary artists who incorporate elements of seventies space music, he manages to sound classic and refreshing rather than clichéd. Throughout the entire album there are refined shades of tribute to the classic kosmische/space ambient style, yet there are also more modern shades that shine occasionally, like the piano line—which could easily fit into a Ludevico Einaudi album—in “Lonely Star”, or the sweet Schnauss-ish wistfulness in the electronica/shoegaze vibes of “Everlasting” which reminds me of Jon Hopkins’ older material from the lovely Opalescent album. Overall, the constructions are original Asura-style affairs. There are no imitations here. The ten tracks assemble a beautiful, idiosyncratic, highly atmospheric and soulful dynamic blend of majestic, uplifting, dark, mystical and ethereal.

In a way, Radio Universe is a double album. Tracks 1-5 assemble side one, and 6-10 assemble side two. Side one is the ambient side. Throughout tracks 1-5 the main activity is of lush luminous synth-generated pads and swirls, while throughout tracks 6-10 Asura’s more beat-oriented downtempo constructions dominate. Both sides are infused with Asura’s distinctive new age/world music scents which give that mystical ancient future/Sci-Fi glow. This is definitely an adventure, an exciting and epic adventure best consumed as a whole.

Radio Universe is available on Ultimae. [Bandcamp]

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