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Tomita

The Planets

Review by Gary Hill
This retro review looks at one of Tomita's most famous albums. I've always liked this one a lot. In fact, it might be my favorite from him. Of course, since it's based on the Holst pieces, a lot of it comes from the strength of the source material. This is clearly not progressive rock. However, it is just as clearly progressive music in the way it combines classical and modern electronic sounds. It should be noted that I reviewed this from the original vinyl, so the division of songs might not be captured precisely correctly on this review.
 
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
I. Mars, The Bringer Of War

This rises up very gradually. It is sedate and at times very pretty in these early moments. As this continues it turns a bit sparse and strange with bits of things that seem like "found sounds." There is even something that sounds like Daleks. Then a noisy explosion like thing takes it. After that the familiar elements of the piece arise. The synthetic textures work really well to deliver this. Symphonic and yet electronic, this drops way down to blips and bleeps like something R2-D2 might say. Then it rise up into more symphonic melodies. The mix of symphonic textures and robotic sounds works really well here. The piece almost makes good usage of mellower drop backs and louder segments.

II. Venus, The Bringer Of Peace
This does feel a lot more peaceful than the opener did. It has a light hearted sort of mellower texture to it. It's pretty and quite intriguing. There are some more mysterious sections of the piece, too.
III. Mercury, The Winged Messenger
A very symphonic and pretty piece, this does a great job of balancing the delicate with the robust. It gets quite playful and space music like in later sections.
IV. Jupiter, The Bringer Of Jollity; V. Saturn, The Bringer Of Old Age
The synthetic sounds that open this are suitably space oriented. It gets more symphonic as it moves forward. This piece is truly epic, coming in at over 17 and a half minutes in length. That time is used to create a lot of diversity. Parts of it are symphonic and playful and quite melodic. Other things are dark and menacing and quite electronic. There are a lot of shifts and changes as this evolves. This is quite a ride.
VI. Uranus, The Magician; VII. Neptune, The Mystic
This is often suitably mysterious. It has some world music textures built into it. The merging of electronic and symphonic works very well here, feeling seamless. There are some good shifts and changes and nice contrasts here.  There some intriguing variants throughout this journey.
 
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