What is infinity? It depends on who you ask – but listening to Keith Richie’s newest release, the infinity of space becomes something you can feel. Even the most distant parts of outer space seem to be within reach. Infinity Vol. 1 and 2 (Vol. 3 is underway) is a breathtaking and awe-inspiring collection of tracks that put the listener’s imagination on hyperdrive. Richie’s music is both for active listening or relaxation, and fans of Jean-Michel Jarre will feel right at home. Its replay value – thanks to solid ambient melodies and well-made arrangements – is almost limitless, which fits well with the album theme.
Keith Richie is a Texas-based composer living in a small town called Mesquite. His music ranges from Berlin-school to film score, ambient, and chill-out. His YouTube persona is the Maestoso, a fitting Italian term indicating parts of musical scores meant to sound large, triumphant, heroic, and victorious, such as the Olympic Fanfare and Theme by one of his idols, John Williams. He has composed music for the short film Dead Love: A Fever Dream of Terror. His most recent albums are Ambient Highways (2021) and Epica (2021).
There is a story behind Infinity that deserves to be told. Richie writes: “In early 2019, I released a single titled Distant Visions, and upon listening to it a fan stated the following: “Almost sounds like something from a second interstellar suite” This fan was speaking of my album The Maestoso Interstellar Suite that I had released in 2006 and then extended for a 2016 release. I thought to myself: “Well, it does fit into that overall feeling that The Maestoso Interstellar Suite. Hmmm, a sequel perhaps? If so, what would I call it?” I toyed with the idea. I thought to myself, only in 2016 did I release the 10-year anniversary version, and with that I added a whole new disc to it. ‘
Since then, I also invested HEAVILY into my gear and my libraries. I have an amazing arsenal of sounds; virtual instruments; and some kick-ass orchestral packages at my disposal now, and I’ve been dying trying to figure out exactly how to utilize them. So how do I make this work… even if I never actually release it on vinyl, how do I make it work and how do I not call it The Maestoso Interstellar Suite Part II, or Return, or whatever. Heck, I could even just call the album Distant Visions and say it’s a sequel.
The fact is, I love this style of not quite Space Music, and not quite Ambient, and somewhat hybrid orchestral. I could see myself always creating a somewhat sequel to it. But how do I make it work if I do? So I decided I’m not going to make a sequel to The Maestoso Interstellar Suite. Instead, I’ll go back once more; polish up the loose ends on the original music once more, but that will be it. And I won’t re-release it… No, instead I’ll rebrand it. And technically, it will never be complete. That way I never have to worry about feeling guilty for going back into that space.
I’ll call it…. Infinity,” concludes Richie.
Infinity, Vol. 1: The Maestoso Interstellar Suite
Prelude to Infinity
The opening of this space saga is called Prelude to Infinity. A deep, bass-like pad and statics are the backdrop for a synth violin. It captures the drama of space and the many dangers that await out there in the darkness. It is beautiful beyond words and sets the atmosphere for everything that follows. In this first part, we hear voice communication – perhaps from The Apollo Program, which is a kind of prelude to infinity too – at least if you are into space travel and its endless possibilities. The track fades into Movement I (Event Horizon). And wow, this grand adventure is off to a magnificent start! This over 12-minute-long track is a genuine tour de force. The trumpet-like lead synth is sharp yet incredibly beautiful, painting a magnificent picture of the endless horizon of space. It would be the ideal soundtrack to fresh pictures from the James Webb telescope. One word: bravo!
There are quite a few space science terms used on Infinity‘s titles. Next out is Movement II (Naked Singularity). From LiveScience: “Black holes are regions of infinite density, known as a singularity. And according to mainstream physics, each of these cosmic matter munchers is fringed by an event horizon – a boundary where once you fall in, you never come out. But what if some black holes are naked — completely lacking such frontiers?” That is naked singularity… Well, that – and Richie’s track – got my imagination working. The music is as good proof as any of how the naked singularity would work. It is powerful and magical – and way more friendly than the LiveScience article would suggest. But if you stand too close, you will fall in!
We are in deep space now. The quiet Intermission I takes us to a part where there is almost nothing, except for space center communication and a mix of light synths. It is a place to breathe and relax before Movement III (Inertial Frame of Reference) comes on. The build-up is almost five minutes long, but take my word for it; it is well worth the wait. The enigmatic, ambient melody is wonderful and seems to say that there is a huge difference of what we think we will find in space and what we actually will find. It resembles Tangerine Dream’s best work, it is that good.
Movement III fades right into the next track: Redshift. The easy-going tune with light rhythm evolves nicely. Every time I get to this point I have to stop whatever I’m doing and simply listen. The melody has a triumphant atmosphere that you just have to experience for yourself. The seven minutes seem to fly. In this context I have to ask; what are really seven Earth minutes in the big scheme of things?
As if answering that question, Movement V (Time Dilation) comes on. Notice how the synth seems to twist and turn, much like the concept of time is relative to a lot of factors, known and unknown. The lead instrument change a lot and fragments of several melodies come and go. It is supposed to be confusing I guess because time dilation truly is. It is a wonderful ambient track!
The short Movement VI (Causality) will probably make you look for the replay button; It is an upbeat piece with a nice sense of energy and movement, before Intermission II comes on. The synth violin sounds lonely as heavenly voices are heard. It is the end of Vol. 1, but it doesn’t have the atmosphere of an ending. Rather it inspires to move right on to Vol. 2 – or go back to Prelude to Infinity.
Like a good book, stopping at this stage seems impossible. There is so much more to be discovered! (As I know that Richie is a Stephen King fan, I’m tempted to say that “Go then, there are other worlds than these.”)
Infinity, Vol. II: Singularities
The second installment in this series takes off like a spaceship the moment you hit play. The soundscape is the same, but the sound is way crisper. It is easy to tell that cutting-edge gear is in use here. Another thing that seems abundantly clear is that we are now in deep space, traveling unconsciously. The track is called Movement VII (Cryosleep). Cryosleep is, according to Wikipedia, a sci-fi term for a deep sleep during which the body is stored at a very cold temperature, to preserve it. It is a very fitting title for this impressive meditative piece. Vol. II is of to a very good start!
As our imaginative travelers wake up and Movement VIII (Dark Matter) comes on, it is apparent that space has a lot of surprises in store for them. A synth violin plays a melancholy-heavy melody as Vangelis-like leads boom out, completing the narrative of both discovery and loss. No long travel, and especially space travel, will be without sacrifice. Dark matter is no joke either.
Movement IX (Gravity Waves) has an interesting build-up. At first, it seems quite random. But suddenly it gains momentum and a melody and rhythm take shape. I guess it is an illustration of how gravity takes shape when planets are being formed. The next topic on the list is general relativity, also known as Einstein’s theory of relativity. It is a quite slow piece with violin. I enjoy the bass-like synth with a “bouncing” sound, and then angelic vocals and larger-than-life orchestral arrangements. Presenting four-dimensional spacetime in music is quite a challenge – but Richie does a terrific job!
Now the album gets reflective. Intermission III contains sound clips from The Apollo Program, and then Movement XI (Escape Velocity). The trumpets sound triumphant and the steady rhythm captures the bravery and focus needed to actually take off and venture into space for the first time. The next track is Aphelion. Aphelion, in astronomy l, is the point in the orbit of a planet, comet, or other body most distant from the Sun. It is a gorgeous and chilled ambient piece with a female voice saying Time and Distance, which are two of the most central factors in our conception of space. The violin and gentle arp sound magnificent!
Movement XIII (Refraction) is one of the darker pieces on the album. In physics, refraction the change in direction of a wave passing from one medium to another caused by its change in speed. It is a fitting title in the way the melody moves and evolves; you can almost see before your inner eye how the wave changes but never stops – until the track is done playing, that is. Another jewel in this part of outer space is Movement XIV (Blue Shift). Its hard sound doesn’t hide its good nature and coolness. The Vangelis-like lead is wonderful. I also like the textures, further underlining the perils of space. It is not a particularly friendly place, but there is no reason to panic either.
Movement XV (Multiverse) is a meditative piece with a nice bass rhythm. Each beat is like a universe of its own, an infinity within an infinity. Listening to the track, we glide through endlessness, discovering nothing but more endless space. It is all there if you put your imagination to work.
Vol. 2 ends with Intermission IV. It is another well-constructed bridge towards yet another infinity. The space voice communication seems ghostly and distant. It ends with heavenly vocals. I for one can’t wait to see what the third installment in this series might bring!
In conclusion: “Life is not about finding our limitations, it’s about finding our infinity,” Herbie Hancock said. Listening to Infinity Vol. 1 and 2, that quote seems especially true. It is apparent for anyone lucky enough to tune into this wonderful series of music that Keith Richie creates far-reaching, immense and boundless music. When you get to know it, you will be thrilled to know that new installments in this series are underway. It really feels like driving into an incredibly well-written, multi-volume sci-fi novel, where the “only one chapter more” is replaced by “only one track more.”
Comparing Vol 1 and 2, it is easy to tell that Richie’s skills as a composer a has improved over the years – or it might be because new technology has given him more artistic freedom and a clearer and more distinct sound. Whatever the reason, Vol. 2 is a bit more approachable for a 2022 audience. That said, Vol. 1 too is a rock-solid album with almost limitless replay value.
The Infinity Suite’s perhaps foremost quality is the incredibly well-composed melodies. Much ambient music has a somewhat cold sound, but that is not the case here. Richie makes the black nothingness of space seem alive and filled with possibilities. Looking at the current state of the world, there is a lot of hope in that.
What is infinity? Listen and find out!