I’m going to try to restrain myself from indulging in a deluge of superlatives to describe the bit of wax in question here, but that intention may not be able to last long. Behold:
Visit Venus is a duo of German composers Mario Cullmann and Mario con Hacht. In the liner notes for the album it tells a story about how the source material for this was a forgotten 96-track NASA-commissioned musical space odyssey from the 60s, made by the fathers of the two composers responsible for this album. I’m not sure whether or not to believe that. I’m like 70% sure that’s just an awesome fish-tale, but then again, there’s really something about these tracks.
I discovered this gem a couple years ago courtesy of the DJs on Groove Salad radio from soma.fm but the album originally came out in 1995. Let me say that again: this album came out in NINETEEN NINETY FIVE. That’s just… man. Head-exploding. I look back and think about whatever I was listening to in ’95 and I can safely say that it wasn’t half as hip as this. It’s pretty rare to find an album that you can listen to from start to finish and feel like every single track fits right in, with zero fluff to fill in spaces between the juicy bits. This is one of those albums. And not only that–the sound of this record is so ahead of its time, that if I hadn’t said it twice, there’s no way anyone would guess this came from the 90s. Really the feeling captured on here is some perfect slice of the 60s, mashed up with a very tasteful downtempo production from maybe a few years ago. That doesn’t do it justice either. It’s more like music from an alternate universe, an alternate historical timeline where the space race never ended, men still wore hats, women dressed classy but sexy, and everyone hung out in Eames-designed swank pads that orbited the moon sipping cocktails and looking svelte. But with modern drum machines and samplers too. It truly sounds like the name, Music For Space Tourism.
What do I mean by that? Well the recipe here is start with a bountiful heaping of buttery-smooth rhodes piano, pour on a diverse mix of mellow flutes, horns, vibraphone and xylophone that are smooth but never cheesy, fold in some sophisticated basslines, twist it up in a series of retrogasmic instrumental samples, and then bump things up a couple notches with deftly tasteful electronic drums. It’s genuinely sexy. Oh and it grooves. Overall It’s the retro sonic-palette that ‘sells’ it. That said, I will comment that the drums are as well-selected as you could ask for; they don’t sound dated in the least, and I know that in 10 more years, these tracks will seen just as fresh to anyone hearing them for the first time. Similar to say, Mushroom Jazz, I don’t think it’s something you’d really dance to in your living room, although at club volumes, I do wonder if it wouldn’t magically transform the same way Farina’s music did when I saw him live. Unquestionably though, you can/will feel like a total badass mackzin & relaxzin to this.
In short, this is an utterly genius masterpiece of laid-back. This album is ‘the vibe’ that someone envisioned when the genre of smooth jazz was born (and before it went horribly, ghastly wrong), ‘the groove’ that downtempo/lounge producers strive to achieve, and through its samples, invokes the ghost of an era when mankind was doing incredible things. And as you can see from the images, I’m a very very lucky boy to have my very own copy of this archetype on vinyl. It’s instantly one of my most prized pieces in the collection. This copy came from the UK and I believe it’s a German pressing, across a trio of 33RPM LPs. It even includes a bonus track which is not present on the CD version! A bonus track which does, in fact, not suck, and is worthy of this master class in chill. I cannot recommend this work enough. The downtempo genre simply does not get any better than this.