Every planet has a different frequency, a hum at which it vibrates with a certain “tonality” that some people swear they can actually hear. Cross-pollinating tribal repetitions and primordial acoustic sounds with electronic replications of them, the solo project of Tatu Rönkkö reaches peak otherworldliness on his latest EP, Spheres. Here, we have encountered the sonic embodiment of alpha and omega, a universe of sound shapes where the music of the spheres infinitely mutates into other three-dimensional objects. An ancient, radiating hum lurks at the bottom of every track, each evolving within itself almost to the point of being self-aware. Laden with trip-hop and jazz-inspired time signatures on top of the ambient textures of bowed cymbals and bowls, its ethereal swells of sound collide with rhythmic ceremonial drum progressions that fractalize into ordered chaos by the end of the album. Is this the secret soundtrack to what would have been Jodorowsky’s Dune, or straight-up 2001: A Space Odyssey?
Enter the opening track, Olio, a minimal ritualistic drum loop slowly awakens as it’s overlaid with swelling minor tones that seem to be born out of glowing, pulsating rocks on an alien landscape devoid of atmosphere. Growing more percussive appendages as the beat mutates into its final form, the track ends in a predatory lull, slipping into virgin territory in search of the next tonality to devour and take to the next level. As it slowly disappears into the fog, we know we must follow although we dare not ask why.
As we slip into ‘Now,’ we walk into the middle of a coming-of-age ceremony, minimal percussive elements slowly taking on more layers and slight variations as rites of passage. As soon as it builds to a maelstrom of sound decorated in all the proper bells and punishing tom-spankings, it abruptly pulls out to complete silence signaling the end of the track. The urgency is at least sexual, at most eviscerating. ‘Stars’ takes on a periscopic view from beyond the atmosphere into the dusty roads of an Antediluvian criminal trial, watching with stoic eyes as shamanic bells, gongs, and repeating harp patterns play and the unnamed prisoner is dragged to the top of a hill to be hung in public, ending as one last theremin blip cuts out the transmission in horror. We’ve seen too much, Hal… too much.
Fast forward to the aptly-named closer, ‘Spheres.’ The soothing familiarity established by the first track’s minimalistic drumming is completely devastated by this final track, where the worm of Ouroboros eats its tail and chokes on it. We revisit the lulling metallic minor tones introduced by Olio, which begin to drip with the echoing whimpers of bowed cymbals, before being ambushed by spastic breakbeat drum punches that lose their shit in desperate spurts like a cat pouncing backwards maniacally trying to shake a sock off of its head. Or more like Nurse With Wound using an entire flooded béton brut warehouse full of abandoned church bells as an instrument while a bat thrashes blindly inside of Phil Collins’ garbage bin — in the best way possible, of course. It is a death-dance whose choreography seems never to trace the same path twice, except the path of least resistance. As a whole, what Rönkkö has done here is as apocalyptic as it is ancient, monolithic and cosmic at once without being doctrinaire, and definitely borne out of the astral nightmares of Sun Ra.