Listening to Novus Magnificat – Through The Stargate (1986) by Constance Demby for the first time is like being witness to something out-of-this-world amazing. You almost can’t believe your ears, and you feel lucky that this music has found its way through the stargate and into your music player. Novus Magnificat is a must-hear for any New Age music fan, and we award it 99 out of 100 points on our scale. It is a true masterwork.
Novus Magnificat has a lot in common with Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells (1973). It is not as unique, but contains the same unrestricted musical force. As a two track album, it flows like classical music and tells about an artist who is pushing the boundaries of creativity (and like Tubular Bells there is an alternative version available where the different parts are divided into separate songs, released as a digital copy in 2008). But there is one major difference. The young Mike Oldfield was experimenting and trying out new things, while Constance Demby knew exactly what she was doing. She was an established artist at the time of the album’s release. Here I must add that the album contains sonic textures by composer Michael Stearns.
Many will find the sound on Novus Magnificat highly dated. Even as a synth album from the mid/late 1980s the sound is a bit harsh. The reason for this is the two main instruments, the synth strings and the synth choir. Both have a built-in loop in the end of each note to make them last longer, creating an audible echo sound. Even to a person like me who grew up playing with Moog synthesizers, they sound very synthetic. But it would be wrong to think less of the album because if this (but a re-recording with modern synths (or live strings!) would have been more useful than the 2003 version of Tubular Bells…). The other synth instruments used sound fine.The first few synth sounds on part one (the modulated wind chimes) still sound divine.
The album has a Sci Fi theme, and it is perfect for reading or relaxation. The fascinating cover artwork sets the mood. This is all about venturing into the unknown and leaving everything behind in the quest of new horizons. This makes a Mars expedition looks like a walk in the park.
This is an album who just keeps getting better while listening. I think the best part is the 10-15 first minutes of part 2. Notice the extraordinary way the music flows; there are so many details here, so many intertwining melodies to appreciate. It is a true work of art.
99 / 100 – see how we rate music here. Sample the album on iTunes;