Coming May 21 from Spotted Peccary Music:

An unofficial soundtrack to the sci-fi novel RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA by Arthur C. Clark, a musical homage by Johan Agebjörn and Mikael Ögren with Between Interval, Le Prix, and Martina Björk. Kilian Eng created all of the visual artwork used as the album cover illustrations.

It is dark in deep space, the feeling is ethereal and layered and there is just no need for words. Each song has special synthesizer qualities and all of them flow into a beautiful mix, there is a story here. This music is for the hidden colors, bespangled bright and brilliant, celestial, glittering, with soaring echoes, pulsing and beating patterns. You are headed into the future, there is no turning back. Moving forward is the best description of the nature of the electronic music made by Johan Agebjörn, who has an amazing career. In his own words, “I live in Lund, Sweden. I study psychology. I’m a father. I make music from time to time. I have two main projects. At times they cross over into each other, but OK, let’s be simple:

“My ambient music. It could be described as “ambient electro” or “arctic ambient,” not too far away from the sounds of Krister Linder (Sweden) and early Biosphere (Norway). I’ve played live a few times and released my two albums Mossebo (2008) and The Mountain Lake (2011) on Lotuspike / Spotted Peccary.” (Followed by his 2017 collaboration with Mikael Ögren We Never Came to the White Sea.)

“My disco music, especially as part of the project Sally Shapiro. Sally Shapiro is mainly a ”neo-italo disco” project consisting of a female singer (whose real name remains a secret) with me as a composer and producer. We have released three albums Disco Romance (2007), My Guilty Pleasures (2009) and Somewhere Else (2013) as well as a few EPs and remix collections…”

Agebjörn has his own microlabel, Husmus.

Political statement: “I care about animals, global justice and the environment. I am a vegan and I try to purchase ecological and fair trade products as much as I can. I don’t like capitalism and I think the welfare state is worth defending.”

In 2017 Agebjörn and his friend/collaborator/neighbor Mikael Ögren released an ambient album on Spotted Peccary Music called We Never Came To The White Sea, a soundtrack to an unedited roadmovie through Russian Karelia, where Agebjörn’s grandfather was born, way back when it belonged to Finland.

A priest by profession, Mikael Ögren has been active as a musician mostly as a hobby. He is heavily influenced by electronic pioneers Kraftwerk and Jean Michel Jarre, as well as ’90s trance innovators such as Jam & Spoon. During the mid-2010s he began collaborating with his neighbor, Johan Agebjörn, when the two remixed “Aurora” by synthwave producer Tommy ’86 in 2015. Ögren’s remix of Agebjörn’s song “The Leftovers” (featuring Loney Dear) was released later in the year, and in 2016, Ögren and Agebjörn reworked Jam & Spoon’s 1992 remix of the genre-defining eponymous single by the Age of Love.

Agebjörn and Ögren have recently created their second collaborative release, Artefact, and it is also on the Spotted Peccary Music label. Employing vintage synthesizers (Gear: Access Virus Indigo II, Alesis Micron, Clavia Nord Lead 2, Kurzweil K2000, Novation Supernova, Propellerheads Reason 11 with Korg MonoPoly, Roland DJ-70, Roland JD-800, Roland JP-8000, Thoraiz AS-1, Waldorf Blofeld, Yamaha AN1x) which blend into the ethereal atmospherics and electronic sounds of a classic sci-fi soundtrack, enjoying styles ranging from ambient to trance. Artefact features collaborations with fellow electronic musicians Between Interval and Le Prix, as well as ethereal soprano vocals from Martina Björk. Kilian Eng created the otherworldly illustrations, and the exquisite graphic design is by Daniel Pipitone.

An artifact might be defined as an object produced by human craft, of archaeological or historical interest. The new album, Artefact, is an unofficial soundtrack inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s classic novel “Rendezvous with Rama.” For my review I will be incorporating bits from the story as the music plays. To get the full story I recommend turning to the novel itself. First, allow me to introduce the author, in case you have not already become acquainted with him.

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke CBE FRAS (December 16, 1917 – March 19, 2008) was an English science-fiction writer, science writer, futurist, inventor, undersea explorer, and television series host. He wrote prolifically, including “Rendezvous with Rama,” a science fiction novel, published in 1973. Clarke was a lifelong proponent of space travel. In 1934, while still a teenager, he joined the British Interplanetary Society and traveled to Mars, Jupiter, Venus and Titan, a moon orbiting Saturn. In 1945, he proposed a satellite communication system using geostationary orbits. He was the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1946–1947 and again in 1951–1953.

After a series of devastating meteor strikes to the planet Earth, project SPACEGUARD began collecting data about all incoming objects that could be observed. The majority of these objects were too small to be of concern. One day in the year 2131 an object that looked to be over 40 kilometers in size was detected, heading past Jupiter in the general direction of Earth. This new object was soon named Rama, after the Hindu god of protection.

As Rama came closer, various theories came and went attempting to explain the unusual way it was moving, it had an extremely rapid rotation period of four minutes (a normal “day” for an asteroid is several hours) and was exceptionally large. Most interstellar objects, such as asteroids, are rough chunks of matter, Rama appeared to be a perfect cylinder, as if it had been turned on a gigantic lathe. As it got even closer it was apparent that it was not a solid object, it was hollow, 20 kilometres (12 mi) in diameter and 50 kilometres (31 mi) long, and almost completely featureless.

The spaceship Endeavour was sent out to encounter this rapidly approaching gigantic enclosed hollow object, which was created for unknown intentions.

1 Extravehicular Activity 02:48

As the Endeavour approached, the surface of the object known only by humans as Rama, appeared to offer no immediate opportunities for convenient docking. This was an artifact millions of times heavier than anything that humans had ever put into space. The purpose as well as the age of Rama was waiting to be discovered, but only after figuring out how to resolve the problem of landing a five-thousand-ton spaceship at the center of a spinning disc with a radius of six miles, located at one end of a cylinder over 30 miles long. Before making contact certain fundamental safety issues must be resolved. Is there the presence of anti-matter? This could presumably be established by cautiously spraying the area from a safe distance. An anti-matter reaction involving even a few milligrams would have produced an awesome fireworks display, briefly providing the nearest planets with a second sun before vanishing.

Now, where to land. If Endeavour touched down even a few meters from the axis, Rama’s rapid spin would start her sliding away from the pole. At first the centrifugal force would be very weak, but it would be continuous and inexorable, and the landing craft would eventually be hurtled off the edge.

Composers: Johan Agebjörn and Stefan Strand (Between Interval)

2 Passing the Gates 06:12

Commander Norton emerged from the safely landed Endeavour to begin a closer exploration of the gigantic cylinder.

Rama was silent as a tomb, which, perhaps, it was. Upon closer examination of the area near the landing site, a strange indentation interrupted the smooth surface. Is it some form of a decoration? Six radial grooves, or slots, were deeply recessed in the metal, and lying in them were six crossed bars, like the spokes of a rimless wheel, with a small hub at the center. There were deeper recesses at the end of the spokes nicely shaped to accept a clutching hand. (Claw? Tentacle?)

He grasped two opposing spokes of the windlass, braced his feed against the surface, and tested the wheel. It did not budge.

“Try turning it the other way.”

The wheel rotated almost effortlessly through a full circle. Then, very smoothly, it took up the load, and like a slowly opening clamshell, the road to Rama lay open. The interior was pitch black.

Composers: Johan Agebjörn, Mikael Ögren, Stefan Strand (Between Interval)
Track artists: Johan Agebjörn, Mikael Ögren, Between Interval

3 The Plain 05:59

He was looking at the largest enclosed space ever seen by humans. Orientation was different here, on a globe there is the planetary surface with the sky above. Here, the surface circled around overhead, there is no sky. One could switch “up” and “down” in any direction, and could pretend that what appeared to be the scattered towns and cities, and the different colored and textured areas, were all securely fixed to the towering walls. The various complex structures that could be seen hanging from the dome overhead were perhaps no more disconcerting than the pendant candelabra in some great concert hall on Earth. What was quite unacceptable was the Cylindrical Sea.

Composers: Johan Agebjörn, Mikael Ögren

4 The Storm That Passed 05:47

The interior of Rama was completely blanketed by clouds now, he looked outward along the axis of the world, and could see nothing except a glowing, featureless tunnel of white, reaching all the way to those strange mountains at the South Pole.

A few minutes later, the cloud ceiling ended as abruptly as it had begun. The clouds moved away to reveal the blinding glare of the Raman day, made more brilliant by the light reflected from the low-hanging clouds. There was the familiar curving plain – now made more more acceptable to the mind and senses because its full circle could no longer be seen.

Composers: Johan Agebjörn, Mikael Ögren

5 Flight Over the Sea 05:18

A sky-bike is usually found only in Lunar Olympic competitions, and is not an ordinary part of an exploratory mission. The way it works requires reduced gravity in places like the moon, the rider uses their legs to propel the ultra-light spiral shaped turbine which provides lift. There is a single control, a stick, to adjust the direction of flight.

On the moon the rider can stay aloft for hours, but here the flight would be even more sensational inside Rama, with no gravity at all. You could fly right along the axis, from the North Pole to the South – and back again, the one-way trip would take three hours, nonstop. But of course you could rest whenever you wanted to, so long as you kept near the axis.

The long tapering wings of the Dragonfly were almost invisible, except when the light struck them from certain angles and was refracted into rainbow hues. It was as if a soap bubble had been wrapped around a delicate tracery of aerofoil sections, the envelope enclosing the little flyer was an organic film only a few molecules thick, yet strong enough to control and direct the movements of a fifty-kph air flow.

If the Dragonfly came down in the sea, the rider, Jimmy, would probably drown, quite unpleasantly, in its poisonous waters. The Dragonfly was now well out over the sea, pedaling along at a steady twenty kilometers an hour, going not only where no one had ever been before, but also where no one would ever go again.

Jimmy had been flying fast over water, but as soon as he reached the south coast he unconsciously relaxed and his speed dropped, he might be in wholly alien territory, but at least he was over land.

Composers: Johan Agebjörn, Mikael Ögren

6 Static Air 04:39

Something was tickling the back of his hand. For a moment he thought an insect had landed there. When he looked at his hand, he noticed that every individual hair was standing straight upright. He was in a tremendously powerful electric field. The oppressed, heavy sensation he had felt was that which sometimes precedes a thunderstorm on Earth.

Jimmy felt naked and alone in a suddenly hostile sky, surrounded by titanic forces that might discharge their furies at any moment. The sound he heard was the electric wind carrying away the tremendous ionization that must be building up, and suddenly a sheet of flame burst out behind him, filling the sky. He had time to see it split into six ribbons of fire.

Then the concussion reached him.

Composers: Johan Agebjörn, Mikael Ögren, Johan Emmoth (Le Prix)

7 Octapod 03:49

At first sight it was impossible to tell whether it was an animal or a machine. Two of the arms were broken, snapped off at the outer joint. The others ended in a complicated collection of manipulators. Then they saw that it was not alone. Swimming around it, and snapping at its still feebly moving limbs, were two small beasts like overgrown lobsters. They were efficiently chopping up the monster, dismantling it like a broken machine, and it did nothing to resist, though its own claws seemed quite capable of dealing with the attackers.

Then another thought struck Commander Norton. “My God, suppose they start on us!”

Composers: Johan Agebjörn, Mikael Ögren, Johan Emmoth (Le Prix)
Track artists: Johan Agebjörn, Mikael Ögren, Yves Gibb

8 Monitoring the Zooids 06:59

Ten meters away was a slender-legged tripod surmounted by a spherical body no larger than a soccer ball. Set around the body were three large expressionless eyes, apparently giving 360 degrees of vision, and trailing beneath it were three whiplike tentacles. The creature was not quite as tall as a human and looked far too fragile to be dangerous.

It was fast, and it covered the ground with such an extraordinary spinning motion that the human eye and mind had real difficulty in following it. Within a few hours there were hundreds of the spiders, and they were all over the plain. Through the telescope it could be seen that the Southern Hemisphere was also infested with them.

As time went by, the zooids took no further notice of the explorers, and after a while the explorers took little notice of them.

Composers: Johan Agebjörn, Mikael Ögren

9 The Hall of Crystals 05:19

About a kilometer away to the right was a square that glittered like cut glass, or a gigantic display of jewelry, which turned out to be quartz crystals, millions of them, set in a bed of sand and covered with an apparently random pattern of hollow metal columns, set close together and ranging in height from less than one to more than five meters. It would have appeared a continuous surface had the tiles not been colored all the hues of the rainbow.

Composers: Johan Agebjörn, Mikael Ögren
Track artists: Johan Agebjörn, Mikael Ögren, Martina Björk

10 Interplanetary Threat 01:09

The Hermians had made a clandestine launch, which in itself was a breach of space law. The conclusion was obvious: their “vehicle” could only be a missile.

Officially the missile did not exist. If it were detonated against the thinnest part of the shell of Rama, underneath the Cylindrical Sea, the skin would be ruptured and the spin of the body would complete its disintegration.

“We have been studying the behavior of the biological robots – the biots – inside Rama.”

The Hermians had come to the conclusion that there were assumptions that had been made about Rama that overlooked possible existential threats to Mercury, the homeworld of the Hermians, and there were defense precautions they must take on their own initiative.

The Hermian ambassador continued. “Rama is a termite colony. When there is no conflict of interest, we tolerate each other. But when either needs the other’s territory or resources, no quarter is given. Consider now the appalling threat that Rama may – I do not say must – present to human civilization. What steps have we taken to counter it, if the worst eventuality should occur? It may be argued that we have acted unilaterally… All future generations may one day thank us for our foresight.”

Composers: Johan Agebjörn, Mikael Ögren

11 Space Travel 08:10

The second day back on the Endeavour, as it headed away from Rama, everything had almost returned to normal, and the exploration of Rama already seemed part of another life.

Rama was now foreshortened into a stubby cylinder, and the searing rim of the Sun had peeked over one edge. There was one huge prominence, at least half a million kilometers high, that had climbed so far from the Sun that its upper branches looked like a tree of crimson fire.

Rama was under way at last, accelerating at the modest rate of 0.015 gravities, but Endeavour was somehow caught in the wake like a piece of flotsam whirling around and around behind a speeding ship.

Rama was falling away from Endeavour at steadily increasing speed. As the distance grew, the anomalous behavior of the ship slowly ceased; the normal laws of inertia started to operate again.

Composers: Johan Agebjörn, Mikael Ögren

12 Final Sight 08:33

Everyone had been so certain that Rama would lose speed, so that it could be captured by the Sun’s gravity and thus become a new planet of the solar system. It was doing just the opposite.

It was gaining speed – and in the worst possible direction. Rama was falling ever more swiftly into the Sun. Something was happening to the solar magnetic field in the region around Rama. The million-kilometer-long lines of force that threaded the corona and drove its wisps of fiercely ionized gas at speeds that sometimes defied even the crushing gravity of the Sun were shaping themselves around that glittering ellipsoid.

Faster and faster Rama swept around the Sun, moving more swiftly than any object that had ever traveled through the solar system. In less than two hours its direction of motion had swung through more than ninety degrees. It was dropping out of the ecliptic, down into the southern sky, far below the plain in which all the planets move, it was aimed squarely at the Greater Magellanic Cloud, and the lonely gulfs beyond the Milky Way.

Composers: Johan Agebjörn, Mikael Ögren

Artefact is an adventure in electronic music that pays tribute to a classic science fiction diegesis, a story that raises more questions than provides resolutions, which is the best way to write a book. Who made the cylinder? Why did they make it? Where is it going and what will it do once it gets there? Most of the chronicle assumes that Earth is somehow part of the mission of the mysterious craft, at the end of the novel the artifact just whizzes by, and Earth was only a blink on the way past. The sounds are pure electronica, beats and sweeps, beeps and melodies, with lots of awesome effects. Imagine that you are falling slowly through wind and darkness, there are colored lights and extraterrestrial vehicles swaying and moving to the music. We are traveling through the melancholy of a long journey in the cosmos, the feeling is bittersweet and positive, the sound is dreamy and electronic with lots of sustained echoes and glowing atmospheres, decorated with a beating pulse in most places and just soaring with no limits in other places. It works well for dreaming as well as for launching your voyages into deep fantasy, experiencing science fiction stories.

1. Extravehicular Activity
2. Passing the Gates (with Between Interval)
3. The Plain
4. The Storm That Passed
5. Flight Over the Sea
6. Static Air
7. Octapod (with Le Prix)
8. Monitoring the Zooids
9. The Hall of Crystals (with Martina Björk)
10. Interplanetary Threat
11. Space Travel
12. Final Sight