Dutch artist re-emerges as instrumental cosmic voyager.
Jacco Gardner is clearly mindful of the grass growing under his feet. After two albums of mellifluous psych pop, forays into dance music and involvement in the touring ensemble of Zambian psych rockers Witch, Gardner has now left the ground completely with Somnium. It’s an album that sees him dispense with vocals, preferring instead to create a series of moodscapes that co-opt elements of dub, ambient and electronic space rock. The inspiration, he says, is Johannes Kepler’s 17th century novel of the same name, a lunar odyssey that helped popularise the idea of science fiction. High concepts are well and good, but Gardner proves to be a natural at this sort of thing, imprinting the music with the same curious sense of wonder as forebears like Tangerine Dream and Mike Oldfield. The Oldfield connection is deepened by the inclusion of mastering engineer Simon Heyworth, who co-produced the original Tubular Bells. The chillout vibes of Eclipse embody Somnium’s languid aesthetic, though much of its appeal lies in the tiny details. Rain, for instance, takes up where Lemon Jelly left off, gliding into an experimental realm between the prog and the pastoral.