We live in a culture where the here and now seems to be the only thing that matters. That is perhaps why films, literature and music that transport our minds to a different time and dimension are so popular. Christel Veraart’s new album “Pleiades” has this quality in abundance. While many ambient/space albums tend to have a quite cold sound, Veraart’s magnificent voice does something remarkable; it gives life and humanity to the Pleiades star cluster – and, in the process, makes us see how people of the past experienced these stars. Pleiades is mentioned by almost every culture on Earth, from the Babylonians and in the Bible, to Galileo Galilei. In this way, Veraart’s “Pleiades” points both back and forward in time, making it into one of the finest and most interesting ambient albums of 2020.
“Pleiades” will be released on 17 November 2020. You can sample all tracks here.
Christel Veraart is a composer, musician and singer. She is trained in classical piano and voice, but it was only when she left Europe to explore South America that she was able to find her own voice. She grew up in the Netherlands but started roaming the world at an early age. Christel lived in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, moved to the US in 2001, where she lived in California, Hawaii and Alaska. She debuted with “Terra Incognita (Selection)” in 2009. In 2018, she moved to Indonesia and Australia before returning to the US in 2019. While traveling, Christel composes music. “Polar Suite” (2015) was recorded in Alaska and “Lotus Dreams” (2019) in Jakarta. “Pleiades”, her tenth album, was completed in Sedona, Arizona. I’m sure the famous Sedona night sky has had an impact on “Pleiades”.
“Taygete”, the opening piece, is named after one of the brightest stars in the Pleiades cluster – one of the famous Seven Sisters. Old fans of Veraart will feel right at home, while newcomers will be amazed by her beautiful and expressive vocals. The echo makes the soundscape massive; the singing seems to come from lightyears away. Right away you will also notice the impressive sound design; the larger-than-life synths and intricate textures are genuinely inspired. The sound of dripping water, which sounds lonely and distant, is a lovely effect. Water is lifegiving, both here on Earth and in deep space.
The harp has a significant place in mythology – and listening to “Maia” it is easy to understand why it is an instrument for the gods. In Greek mythology, Maia was the eldest of the Pleiades and the mother Hermes, who is credited with inventing both the lyre and the flute. “Maia” is one of the finest pieces on the album, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking for the replay button. The conclusion is both intense and incredible, all thanks to Veraart’s vocal. She single-handedly fills space with stories and life.
On “Asterope” the space music feel is replaced by a sound that is closer to Earth. Perhaps we find ourselves in the company of Asterope, the wife of King Oenomaus of Pisa – or somewhere else entirely. “Pleiades” is music for the imagination, and it will take you wherever you want to go. I love the rhythmic elements. The song is almost six minutes long, but believe me, you will not feel time passing. This is time on a cosmic scale.
“Merope” is a gentle piece. It is breathtakingly beautiful, and I can’t help being impressed by the intricacy of the vocalization. “Merope” sounds brave and sorrowful at the same time, which fits well with the Seven Sisters theme. Next out is “Celaeno”, which has the quality of an early Andreas Vollenweider piece, light and yet complex. It proves that Veraart is indeed one of the finest performers on the New Age music scene. By doing a quick web search, I learned that Celaeno derives from the ancient Greek word Kelaino – translating to “the dark one.”
On “Alcyone” we get a reprise of the dripping effect from “Taygete”. “Alcyone” is the brightest star in the Pleiades open cluster. I believe you can actually “hear” that in the song. It is, for the lack of a better word, very “shiny”. The song illuminates the listener. If you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself. “Electra” is the 10 minutes long finale. It is almost like an EP. The synths sound terrific. It is one of Veraart’s finest songs ever – and it will for sure be a fan favorite for years to come.
In conclusion: “Pleiades” by Christel Veraart is a phenomenal ambient album! It is highly meditative and there is a lot of variation in sound without breaking the overall design. Veraart is our trusted guide to the stars – so you don’t have to be afraid to get lost. You can choose to read up on both the stars and their mythology, which adds an interesting dimension to your listening experience – or you can let your mind wander to wherever the music takes you.
The need for a break from 24/7 newscasts and social media is perhaps even greater now than ever before. Christel Veraart’s “Pleiades” will take you mind lightyears away in an instant, guaranteed. That is a major accomplishment.
For more information and music samples, visit christelveraart.com