The plans for what would become The Sidereal Cycle took place without any input from me. I first found out about the concept from a post on the Altus blog. As soon as I read it I reached out to Mike (Carss, AKA Altus) with a resounding, “Yes, please!” Fans of Free Floating and ambient I’m sure will understand my enthusiasm.
Simply put, Mike Carss is a master of ambient music, there can be no doubt about that. Of the ambient artists that I listen to and love, I feel that Altus music is the most ‘composed’. While much of it is decidedly cinematic in structure, even the more minimal and abstract pieces seem to have deeper structures and themes that resonate throughout.
With its focus on thematic elements, the music of Altus is also decidedly painterly in that the melodies and structures help to draw mental images, especially since each release usually contains a specific topical reference (time, sleep, fire, water, etc.).
And so it is fitting that Altus turns his hand once again to the grand theme of time and the seasons with The Sidereal Cycle.
Every time I try to write about an Altus release, I feel that I have already used up all of my superlatives on his last one. It’s an experience that has been most acute as I have been helping to steer The Sidereal Cycle over the past year.
I believe that Mike has done it once again and gone to the deep well of his creativity and pulled up a cool and refreshing draught of entrancing and rich ambient art.
This final piece of The Sidereal Cycle, Virgo, uses medieval composer Thomas Tallis’s Spem In Alium as a starting point in an impressionistic re-imagining. Gentle, hanging chords are topped by plucked strings to create a heavenly ambience worthy of Tallis’s sacred aspirations.
You now have all four compositions of The Sidereal Cycle and I fervently recommend that you take the time to listen to them in sequence and follow Altus on this musical journey through the year.
Released March 20, 2013
The Sidereal Cycle is a four-part suite of long-form ambient works created by Altus to reflect the earth’s annual cycles as we make our way around the sun each year.
Each release is set to coincide with the Solstices and Equinoxes, beginning with the summer solstice of 2012. The title of each track pays homage to dominant constellations in the northern sky during each of the seasons.
The Sidereal Cycle 1 (Cygnus) July 2012
The Sidereal Cycle 2 (Andromeda) September 2012
The Sidereal Cycle 3 (Orion) December 2012
The Sidereal Cycle 4 (Virgo) March 2013
All instruments and sounds by Altus (Mike Carss)
Cover design by Brad Ross-MacLeod
Photography by Jennifer Nish