On last year’s You’ve Never Been to Kontop (Selected Works 2009-2012), Ukranian producer Vakula followed the likes of Matthew Herbert and Moodymann by crafting an ambitious LP which demonstrated to the world that he was more than simply a deep house producer. Highly complex, textured and jazzy, the album confirmed Vakula as a musician in the greatest sense of the word. Yet despite Vakula’s obvious talent, the ambitious A Voyage to Arcturus LP is still an unexpected delight.
The sixteen-track album, based on David Lindsay’s 1920s novel of the same name, begins with the unnerving sound of what seems to be an alien woman calling out to be rescued from another planet. From here, Vakula treats us to a collection of woozy ambient pieces which brings to mind, the works of Jon Hassell, Pink Floyd and Kraftwerk. In fact, in its use of space and sounds of motor engines, ‘Maskull’s First Day on Tormance‘ sounds like a distant cousin of the pioneering krautrock anthem, ‘Autobahn’. The following track is the dubby, orchestral and stunning ten-minute ‘New Sensations’, which will appease those looking for something more conventional, as it’s the closest thing on the LP you will find to a classic Vakula track.
From here, it seems the voyage takes a quick detour to more exotic territories as we are presented with the ‘Joiwind‘, a Balearic delight where a hefty jazz-funk bass line, sounds of chirping birds and a jazz flute combine to fine effect. This is simply odd-ball funk from an entirely different planet. Vakula proceeds to explore earthier delights on ‘Oceaxe‘, a slightly sinister samba number which sounds like the result of a collaboration between Pink Floyd and Steely Dan. The cosmopolitan sounds continue on the highlight of the album, ‘Maskulls Keyhole’, which brings together Indian flute, tribal percussion and a gentle strum of a Spanish guitar to create a stunning New Age piece.
The welcome respite is only short-lived as Vakula soon transports us to much murkier waters, treating us to the menacing sounds of ‘Liquid Opal‘ and ‘Matterplay‘. Each track is filled with the ilk of sinister sounds that Aphex Twin toyed with on his Selected Ambient Work, Vol. II. However, as we reach Voyage‘s conclusion, Vakula relieves the tension once again with ‘Barey‘, a spaced out slice of jazz-funk which takes clear inspiration from the works of Dexter Wansel and Roy Ayers.
Vakula has created a stunning, ambitious and beautiful album which brings together an eclectic host of styles and inspirations, yet remains a cohesive listen throughout. This is an album which demands to be listened to in its entirety in order to fully appreciate its scope and deep sense of storytelling. Since it was released, Voyage has been labelled by critics and fans as an album, a score and an audiobook to accompany Linday’s classic novel. Whatever it may be, it’s safe to say that Vakula has produced a work of art of the highest order.
A Voyage to Arcturus LP is out now via Vakula’s own imprint, Leleka.