Most of you probably know that Vangelis is one of my all-time favorite artists. He just has this mystery and eccentricity to his work that continually rivets me. Well, after much delay, his new album Juno to Jupiter is out now, and I have to say that I love it. The album released on September 24th.
Vangelis is a legend. His work in studio albums and in film scores is immensely influential and stands up with the greats. He is the one of the fathers of electronic music, but what has always entranced me about his music is that much, if not all, of it is basically improvisation, or at least written that way. He is a genius with intuition and creativity that few others possess.
And this can be heard on the new album. Juno to Jupiter is his first studio album of original music since 2016’s Rosetta, an album which I had to work for a few years to appreciate. With this new record, I was instantly in love with it. It is fluid, connected, diverse electronic music, progressive and cinematic to the core. Subtle? Yes. But also mighty.
In 2019, Vangelis did release an album, called Nocturne, of mostly re-recordings on piano of some highlights from his career. That album, which I reviewed at the time, felt like a tour de force for his body of work, almost like he was musing on his life and the art he has created. Juno to Jupiter also feels like a tour de force, only this is being accomplished through new compositions. You will hear everything from his more accessible electronic scores to his dabbling in opera to songs with bluesy and ambient tones. He has visited many sounds over the years, and most of them can be found in some way or another right here.
The album itself is inspired by NASA’s mission to Jupiter via the Juno space probe. Vangelis has sampled various sounds from the Juno launch event on Earth to include in the work, and you will hear them prominently. The rest is Vangelis’ imagination, though, almost as if he is putting himself in the place of the space probe.
There are so many great tracks here. Early on in the album, we get the vivid and liquid “Inside Our Perspectives”, an upbeat and accessible track that has a fantastic melody with lots of electronic flutter and texture. Such a fun track. Right after that, we get “Out in Space”, a song that imagines the expanse up against musing subtlety and slight transitions that somehow hit harder than they should. I love it.
But the album has 18 tracks, so there is much more. Songs like “Juno’s Quiet Determination” are understated and ambient mostly, setting mood more than anything. Other tracks, like “Juno’s Power”, feels more orchestrated and even percussive, and provides a touchstone to keep exploring. Still other tracks, like “Juno’s Accomplishments”, are operatic and even unearthly in sound, featuring Angela Gheorghiu on vocals, reminding me quite a bit of Vangelis’ work with Irene Papas in the 80s.
There are definite standouts, though. I love the duo of “Space’s Mystery Road” and “In the Magic of Cosmos”, the former feeling bluesy and casual, and the latter feeling colorful and full of splendor. “Jupiter’s Veil of Clouds” is a really strong offering, too, with addictive loops and gorgeous piano helping us to feel the haze of the alien planet. I should mention here that, yes, the titles of the tracks annoy me. I think “Space’s Mystery Road” would sound much better as “Mystery Road”. The same goes for the way most of the tracks are titled here. Still, it’s just a song title, and I think Vangelis found it necessary to differentiate between the probe, space, and Jupiter in where our feelings should flow.
I love “Zeus Almighty” and “Jupiter Rex”, too, as Vangelis seems to move into a segment of celebrating Greek mythology in relation to the Jupiter mission. “Zeus Almighty” is a bold and lengthy track, feeling cinematic and monumental. “Jupiter Rex”, to my ears, feels like the gorgeous and overwhelming chaos of Vangelis’ Mask album, which happens to be my favorite of his. This track lies thick with nostalgia for that reason.
The album closes in reserved fashion, almost like a moment of introspection. Just as the album opens with samples from the probe launch, the second-to-last track, “Apo 22”, features this, as well. The final track, “In Serenitatem” is about as ambient as can be, but somehow so colorful and engaging still.
Vangelis proves once again why he is so revered by so many around the world. Juno to Jupiter is a beautiful work that seems to honor his own past, while also celebrating the present progress humanity has seen. It is a diverse record: one that transitions between sounds, with the expanse of space as a backdrop. And, should this be his last, I think this record is a fantastic ode to Vangelis himself.
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