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by Jason Lewis
originally published: October, 2017

The juxtaposition of electronic music and brass band work hauntingly well together

The juxtaposition of electronic music and brass band work hauntingly well together


story by Jason Lewis
originally published: October, 2017

Hannah Peel
Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia
My Own Pleasure

As a child I was obsessed by space travel, it was the the early 1970's and men were still landing on the moon.  Travelling to other planets seemed like the next thing that the human race would do, it all seemed so possible. As a child, it felt like there was a lot of science in my science fiction fantasies.  

The desire to explore outer space is a theme of Hannah Peel's new album 'Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia' . The protagonist is an elderly stargazer living in Barnsley who, we believe, travels to the aforementioned constellation.  Having grown up with my dreams of space exploration, I'm willing this to be possible. 

Unlike Peel's other work, 'Mary Casio...' is almost entirely instrumental (there are a few harmonies and samples, but that's all). The analogue synthesizers plot Mary's journey from Barnsley to the stars whilst a colliery brass band beautifully depict her as she drifts into the cosmos. 

The juxtaposition of electronic music and brass band work hauntingly well together. The horns add a cinematic boldness to the opening 'Goodbye Earth' then 'Sunrise Through the Dusty Nebula' they convey the breathtaking splendour of seeing galaxies from a new perspective. NASA should keep this on file for a forthcoming documentary on any further observations of the Voyager space probes.

There is a link between this album, and Peel's last work ('Awake but Always Dreaming'), which dealt with her grandmother's dementia. During a visit to the Alzheimer's Research Centre she noticed how brian neurons grown in a petri dish, when observed through a microscope, looked like stars in the universe.   As I listen to 'Journey to Cassiopeia' I wonder how much of the expedition is taking place in Casio's mind and is actually an exploration of inner, not outer, space.  

Wherever the journey takes place, the conclusion of the story is overwhelmingly powerful.  The majestic 'The Planet of Lost Souls' leads towards a delicate interlude from Peel's familiar music box, then to a mournful trumpet solo and an old recording of an opera singer (Peel's own grandfather, recorded in 1928). It is a touching reflection on the journey from the end of life to death. 

'Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia' is an extraordinary album.  Not only does it soundtrack the fantastic voyage of an elderly stargazer, it is an invitation to explore space (outer and inner), too. 

Jason Lewis

Jason Lewis is a Birmingham based music, movie and arts obsessive. Jason's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.

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