Album Review: A Life Incandescent by Mahoney & Peck

Tennessee space musicians Mark Mahoney and Michael Peck team up for their fourth duo album, A Life Incandescent (Waiting World Records 009), a feast of classic analog sounds with a strong science-fiction, exploratory vibe.

The music was recorded live (at the Gathering and on Star’s End) in 2008, with both musicians working synths & laptops, and released in June 2010.

Mark Mahoney (Star's End 2008)

Mark Mahoney (Star's End 2008)

Two of the album’s standout features are clear very early on: energy and concision. Each piece crackles with energy (both organic & electronic). Buzzing leads, filter sweeps, roaring basses, spiraling spacelines, ghostly atmospheres, insect-like nicks and ticks, and more, drive us through a galaxy rich in wonders. There’s no floaty “new age” indulgence here; this is serious space music, meticulously crafted with clear intent.

The album begins with the prelude-anthem Admonition, a call to arise – in whatever way is needed. A power drone, sunrise chords melting and morphing, and a churning bass sequence drive the piece forward, with the eager, restless vigor that powers the entire album.

In Cycle of Invectives, startling elements stutter, swirl and buzz around us as we remain motionless, unable to move.

The artists’ obvious enthusiasm is tempered by an equally clear sense of proportion. The pieces are concise, their elements neatly arranged, appearing and vanishing briskly, never overstaying their welcome. I would have enjoyed more of the clanky marimba-like intro to Centrifugal Conversations; the delightfully lively, glassy-vibes melodic passage over filter-sweeping tones in Fallen Are the Pillars, the album’s longest piece; or the mysterious, echoing bell-tones which close Outlined and Unnoticed.

Michael Peck (Star's End 2008)

Michael Peck (Star's End 2008)

The bracing, industrial intro of A Division of Souls evokes a factory (or some other kind of hell), a riveting and unsettling atmosphere, as sounds resembling processed gongs whoosh by ominously.

The closing (and shortest) piece, The Alchemy of Infinites, is suitably enigmatic, with fragments of space and scraps of melody appearing and vanishing into silence.

A Life Incandescent definitely left these ears wanting more. What better recommendation can one give than this? If you like electronic space music – or simply, music that’s full of positive energy – this album is for you.

The CD artwork, dazzling infrared photography, was provided by Chuck van Zyl.

CD cover: A Life Incandescent by Mahoney & Peck

A Life Incandescent figured in several “Best of 2010” lists, including Secret Music, and was included in the Star’s End list of significant releases for 2010.

Mahoney & Peck’s Star’s End profile can be found here.

The CD is available for $8.99 at Kunaki.

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