- An ambitious and at times impressive LP from Seth Troxler and Phil Moffa.
- It's worth bringing together the aims and activities of Lost Souls Of Saturn, the emerging project of Seth Troxler and Phil Moffa, as it seems that the artists themselves are drawn to disorientation. Their first appearance, in 2017, was a cinematic ambient record in collaboration with the popular Lebanese group Mashrou' Leila that was released through R&S. The following year, they made their live debut—a sprawling, hour-long ambient set—in Zurich's central train station, inside a giant sculpture by the Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto. But just as an idea had begun to coalesce on what this project was about, the duo pulled a 180: their full debut EP was aimed at the dance floor and nicely hit its target.
It can be difficult to separate out genuine artistic aims from bombastic release text, but I think, given Troxler and Moffa's combined experience and seeming ambition, this is worth investigating here. They describe Lost Souls Of Saturn as including "further opaque participants congregating to combine music, imagery, and storytelling into an inextricably linked whole." A desire is expressed to create something that's "above-and-beyond." And they list a range of influences from diverse disciplines that includes Alejandro Jodorowsky, Philip K. Dick, Mark Leckey, David Morales and Sun Ra. All of this most obviously finds form in the video for "The Awakening," one of their self-titled album's standouts. This thing is far from a standard visual treatment of a techno track. The video was shot at Petra and Wadi Rum in Jordan, and, impressively in places, it comes off like a modern homage to classic, surrealist Jodorowsky films like The Holy Mountain and El Topo.
The album itself is a blend of tunneling techno (the likes of which Moffa is particularly good at), shadowy ambient and more freeform pieces that fall somewhere in between. Its ten tracks are also available as a continuous piece, perhaps showing that Moffa and Troxler shaped the album's undulations through the lens of a DJ set. The mood is almost uniformly dark and serious, as represented by the album's monolithic artwork. The pair often show a knack for mesmeric rhythms and atmospheres, and they have enough confidence to revel in repetition.
There are also surprises. The final three tracks, which span "Lost Souls Of Saturn," "Frequency Revelation" and "The Awakening" and are the record's best section, feature all manner of sound sources and inspirations—there are what sound like soundtrack samples, orchestral drones, hymnic chanting and almost emotional emissions from unknown machines. As the album moves through its final stages, Moffa and Troxler manage to create an affecting and powerful sonic space that stands apart from the club-orientated music they're both known for.
That covers the album's musical highlights, but we're asked to think of Lost Souls Of Saturn as an "inextricably linked whole," which is when things start to become more complicated. Across the group's written communication, videos, artwork, music and vocals, they appear to reference and attempt to reconcile, in no particular order: science, theology, mysticism, cosmology, psychedelia, literature, shamanism, paganism, politics, anti-capitalism and philosophy. The album is littered with drifting allusions to these themes, some of which work pretty well. While they may not be the first to do so, Moffa and Troxler draw connections, on tracks like "Midnight Karma" and "Lunarvision," between rituals of the past and their modern equivalents in club culture, while they comfortably work with psychedelic moods and interpretations of science fiction.
Some engagements, though, are clumsy. As critiques on politics, consumerism and corporate culture go, the visual accompaniment for "Holes In The Holoverse" is painfully on the nose, while the use of musical tropes like the tuning of a radio and spoken-word quotes from the Bible are, simply put, clichés. There's a nagging feeling that the project uses such a vast grab-bag of references to mask a lack of clear, foundational ideas. That could be slightly unfair though. Moffa and Troxler wouldn't be the first artists to take up residence in a maze of their influences, and as muddled as things appear at times, on Lost Souls Of Saturn they do some pretty striking work.
02. System Anomalies
03. Midnight Karma
04. Divine Plane (Méditation Des Enfants)
05. Genesis Singularity
07. Ring Transmission
08. Lost Souls Of Saturn
09. Frequency Revelation
10. The Awakening