“The Invincible” / “The Vacant Coast”
(Pyramid Blood / Otherworldly Mystics)

Stanislaw Lem’s THE INVINCIBLE. Got it, Joshua Stefane, added to my list. I mean, I’m not kidding, SOLARIS is in the mail for me right now, and can’t wait to start. Like seriously – it should be here next week according to Amazon’s shipping notification. I’m an insatiable science fiction junkie, much like Stefane, it sounds, and we’d probably get along just fine, being that we’re both writers too. Anyway, you’re here about these tapes aren’t you, not the little aside I’ve got going on here? (Well, a one-sided aside anyway.) (And really, it sometimes seems as if my music writing comes off as science fiction snippets anyway – at least that’s the POINT.) (Do I detect a hint of dissatisfaction?) (Never, music is my first love. Sci-fi’s a close second, probably. Books are, anyway.) (GET ON WITH IT.) The whole science fiction connection comes from THE INVINCIBLE, which is intended as an “unofficial soundtrack” to the book. I’ve been meaning to get into Lem for a long time, as SUMMA TECHNOLOGIAE, while nonfiction, has been on my reading list (which is insanely long) forever, but maybe I can ride the wave of Endurance into my first foray. I’ll take my chances with these two tapes.

First, on THE INVINCIBLE, Stefane crafts patient approximations of deep space upon the advent of humanity’s venturing into it. He molds, effortlessly, sonic sculptures that conjure the awe of the infinity facing such a finite creature as man, as well as the terrifying uncertainty of first contact. He depicts space as indifferent and hostile to humans and magnifies their insignificance within it. The ambient passages of THE INVINCIBLE serve to further, ahem, alienate mankind in the vastness of the universe, seeping into the subconscious and burrowing into the back of the mind. It asks the questions that Lem would – what is a hostile entity, and how do we perceive it? What makes something hostile toward us anyway? And could it be that our humanness is projecting that hostility? Are WE in fact the hostile entities? (Again, haven’t read the book yet, hope I’m close.)

The story behind THE VACANT COAST is a different one, but no less intriguing. Stefane, who now resides in Japan, spent time in Kinosaki “during a period of convalescence,” and this release was conceived and recorded there. The town, not far from the southern coast of the island and about a hundred miles from Tokyo, is renowned for its hot springs, and therefore is conducive to deep meditation and spiritual and physical healing. All of this is basically a description right in the Endurance wheelhouse, whose sonics perfectly soundtrack YET AGAIN a narrative, this time of an earthly place, but one no less deserving of reverent, inspired composition. A place like Kinosaki allows one to get inside their own head, and Stefane’s imagination was deeply fired by his time there. He also discovered some photographs from the 1960s, two of which adorn the j-card of this tape, and the photographer is unknown. Each evokes a time and a place, and it’s easy to see why Stefane found them so absorbing that he used them for his album artwork. Both images portray a quintessential moment in life, and Stefane’s connection to them, perhaps enhanced by his location, is deep and unknowable yet expertly expressed in THE VACANT COAST.

In the end, whether the plot takes you to the furthest interstellar reaches or simply a mysterious, unusual place here on Earth, there’s always a story to uncover, whether you follow it or write it yourself. Endurance does both here, and expertly.

Pyramid Blood
Otherworldly Mystics

--Ryan Masteller