In 2017 there was no other record quite like Hannah Peel’s Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia.
Whilst it’s listed as my 2nd favourite record of 2017, ask me on any alternate day and depending on my mood, thoughts and where I am it could quite easily be number 1.
This is an instrumental seven-movement piece composed for analogue synthesizers and a full traditional 29-piece colliery brass band, the brass being recorded live at The Barnsley Civic Theatre with Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio team. It is quite simply a breathtaking record. I know that word is over used in music writing, but in this case, believe me it’s true.
The album soundtracks the tale of an unknown, elderly, pioneering, electronic musical stargazer and her lifelong dream to leave her terraced home in the mining town of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, to see Cassiopeia for herself. On her journey she witnesses the sunrise through the dusty nebula, a deep space cluster and many more sights and sounds before eventually arriving at the planet of passed souls.
The juxtaposition of Hannah’s keyboards and the brass orchestra works perfectly together creating a hugely cinematic spectrum of music that has some gentle synergies with Also sprach Zarathustra, Op 30:Prelude by Richard Strauss.
Having seen Hannah talk about this album at her shows it seems that the concept behind it is linked to Hannah’s previous record Awake But Always Dreaming which was inspired by her grandmother’s dementia. When Hannah visited an Alzheimer’s Research Centre she saw that brain neurons observed through a microscope looked just like stars in space. So, this journey isn’t perhaps really an external one at all but an exploration taking place in the mind. If it is it certainly ends with the most exultant piece of music as life passes away to the planet of passed souls.
As I wrote in my previous post, there are two records this year that have made me shed a tear. This is the second one. Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia is an evocative and epic melancholy musical journey, one which I have travelled with many times this year. It’s an album that really needs to be absorbed in one sitting via headphones with no interruptions and no pauses, ideally whilst gazing up at the stars. Absolute perfection.
Hannah Peel - Sunrise Through The Dusty Nebula
Hannah Peel - Archid Orange Dwarf