Tony Scott 

Astral Meditation:

Voyage Into A Black Hole






Stop, don't leave yet! I admit that this album's subtitle Astral Meditation causes huge shivers on the true Ambient fan. It literally begs for your denial as there are tons of soulless compilations and mixes with similar names that appeared in the late 80's in order to cash in on the success of the New Age extravaganza, meditation tapes and late night radio experiments. But it would be a pity to turn Tony Scott's strangest, but also most haunting and exciting release down just because of the implications of its title. If you are the least bit fond of Stanley Kubrick's 2001 – A Space Odyssee, then you will like this double album, as it is clearly inspired by this movie. The great Tony Scott (1921-2007) is surely one of the more known Jazz musicians who left formulaic Jazz and added unusual instruments and ideas to the genre when he lived in the Far East for about six years, from 1959 onwards. His signature instrument was the clarinet, and his first few releases in the early fifties were typical Jazz songs by numbers. However, his most well-known work, Music For Zen Meditation, opened him the door to an alternative career as a truthful and serious World musician. On a side note, you might have heard a sample of Tony Scott's Zen Meditation without knowing it, as it is used in The Orb's opener O.O.B.E off their 1992 album U.F.Orb. Anyways, during Scott's convertation to buddhism he tried to push the boundaries of Jazz ever further, culminating in the 1984 release of African Bird: Come Back! Mother Africa and, finally, in his last, most eclectic and definitely electronic and Ambient piece of Journey Into a Black Hole. Originally released in 1988 and easily available at most digital music sellers, this double album curiously remains under the radar of music fans, be it Jazz, Ambient or Space Odyssee followers. Useful and enlightening information on the internet remains scarce, and undeservedly so, as this is a beautifully eerie and inspired release – Györgi Ligeti's music used in Stanley Kubrick's 2001 comes to mind on more than one occasion. The track lengths alone ought to cause a spike in the Ambient lover's interest, and believe me, the actual musical content is definitely worth your time as well.


The title track starts things off with an old formulaic cliché: the human imagination of a sound of a supernova. Once this is overcome after just 40 seconds, the voyage into a black hole finally begins. The first two minutes of this 27-minute piece are a perfect example of what to expect: glistening chimes on the one hand which resemble vast emptiness, and low, menacing droning strings on the other hand that add a physical, filling layer to the emptiness. At around 4 minutes, Scott's clarinet can be heard for the first time, and if it doesn't make you feel unfomfortable immediately – which, of course, is Scott's plan –, its enhanced intensity after 7:30 minutes could accomplish it eventually. What's so remarkable about the use of the clarinet here is the added hall effect. Naturally, there is no hall or echo in space, but it nonetheless works conceptually, as it further increases the emptiness of space. On And The Beyond, the second of two tracks on disc 1, Scott fully concentrates on the – again echoey – sound of the clarinet, which is more prominently featured by putting the strings and sound effects to the background. After around 15 minutes, these sounds are resurrected. All in all, the piece is much more quiet and less aflutter. However, as the clarinet is on the forefront now, its high notes are more intense and almost blood-curdling.


The second disc starts of with the 31-minute piece Golden Prophet Of The 21st Century, and it is my favorite track by Scott. It is totally different from the first disc. Scott renounces the clarinet completely, and adds synth strings and sparkles. Paradoxically, it is because of the omission of the clarinet that this song works so well and is beautifully haunting. This song captures the original intention of Ambient music as background music, as submitted by Brian Eno once upon a time. There are no disturbing sounds, no surprises or shocks of the same quality as can be numerously found on disc 1. So yes, conceptually and artistically, this is the most boring and repetitive song on the album. But since we're talking Ambient right here, this is probably no bad thing. String-wise, the song is repetitive, but the sparkling melody and the haunting glitters that were already featured on disc 1 work well together and create a paradoxical, occasional warmth in the cold, technical setup of the track. Prince Of Peace is the most pressuring and intense song on the album. It is based on Golden Prophet, but adds thronging synths, a female singer, echoey gun shot-like sounds and a nerve-racking square lead melody resembling computer noises that were typically found in several movie genres for decades. Such being the case, the track title is all the more interesting. This is a demanding Ambient track with lots of things going on. Finally, Prince Of Power is even more demanding, as it is very similar to the former Prince Of Peace, but throws in an abundance of computer noises in addition to the female singer. The clarinet is just partially audible in the background. While this instrument is prominently featured on the first disc, it is sunken, gone down and defeated by the power of late 80's technology on disc 2. Whether this is another implicit intention or not is debatable.


I dare not to risk a deep analysis of this album. The inspiration by Kubrick's 2001 soundtrack is clearly noticeable and there are blockbuster-like qualities to the album. But I don't want to give the album a deeper meaning than it probably has. It is just a fine example of contemporary Jazz, mixing Jazz elements with both orchestral and synth strings, weird computer noises and rocket sounds. In the end, I stand by my decision to pigeon-hole Voyage Into A Black Hole into the Ambient section. A highly recommended album, albeit beautifully odd.




Ambient Review 001: Tony Scott – Voyage Into A Black Hole (1988). Originally published on Dec. 18, 2011 at