In some ways, Apollo reminds me of the soundtrack to ‘2001’. They’re certainly not similar in musical style, but what brings them together is their dense and pervasive atmosphere. They both exude an astonishing range of moods – fear, triumph, beauty, mystery – all coming from the dark recesses of the universe but ending up resonating deep inside a personal inner space.
Whereas Stanley Kubrick used existing music to such perfection to accompany the free and fictional exploration of Jupiter and beyond in ‘2001’, so Brian Eno crafted a haunting and beautiful space odyssey of his own to accompany the film of the NASA lunar missions.
The eclectic, electronic mix acts as a kind of aural planetarium, taking us on a cosmic tour where harmonious melodies sit next to tuneless soundscapes. Tracks such as The Secret Place and Matta show us deep, dark and menacing outer space, eerie and disturbing, where low rumbles are interspersed with industrial-like noises and wild animalistic sounds. The moon here is less a friendly and comforting neighbour and more an alien and inhospitable cold lump of rock.
It all adds up to bring home the terrifying insignificance and solitude of earth. Should we somehow lose our moorings and go floating – slowly, helplessly – off into the vast depths, it would be a far from pleasant experience.
But then it gently shifts to warmer tones as you drift along the dark side of the moon, weightless and free from apprehension. So far (and yet still so near) from civilisation and sensory overload that your thoughts can turn inwards to meditation and maybe even some slight comprehension. Well, maybe not, but it’s a wonderfully pleasant journey nonetheless.
And then you can lie on the moon’s surface gazing up without fear at the stars to the rich and tranquil twangs of Silver Morning, Deep Blue Day and Weightless. Alien, synthesiser-driven sounds give way, possibly somewhat jarringly, to more human sounding guitars, but the seams are quickly forgotten. Such tracks make you think of all that’s right in the universe, perhaps as you cast a fond glance back to the mother planet and reminisce about all the good times you’ve had.
It is, however, the transcendent beauty of An Ending (Ascent) that caps off the album, perhaps the closest you can get to a musical epiphany and a truly celestial track. Famous from its use in films such as ‘Traffic’ and ‘28 Days Later’, it’s the shining Orion of an already sparkling album. In its entirety, a deeply moving experience.