This is not your average New Age recording...in fact, it isn't New Age but rather Ambient- Space music fused with avante-garde, jazz-fusion, 20th century classical, and New Age genres. Ground control to Major Tom: take your protein pills and put your helmet on!

Stephen Savage has had a long career in academic music and performing. He's absorbed a wide range of influences that consists of everything in the kitchen sink of the 20th century music. His approach is one of educated refinement, and this is plainly evident in his musical offerings. 

Savage collaborates with drummer Michael O'Connell, who encouraged him to create it and supplied the percussion tracks. The material started as improvisation and was molded and refined in the studio. Most of the instrumental sounds are generated by a digital keyboard. Some of the titles reflect the composer's interest in physics and science, like “Gravity,” “Lux” and “Talking Rocks.” Savage adds in some guitar licks on “Then There is Here Now” (Track 2), a space music piece that sneaks in a few Pat Metheny moments.

While Savage's musical skills are never in doubt, some of the tracks are more accessible than others. “Gravity” (Track 5) is ambient space music swerves toward becoming a space oddity. “After the Circus” (Track 6) reflects the composer's experimental predecessors like Charles Ives and Edgar Varese. The instrumental layers aren't necessarily in sync with each other or expressing harmonically-related content. Poly-tonality isn't instantly digestible for those unfamiliar with it, although Savage doesn't travel to the furthest extremities of this compositional style. “Riding the Cusp” (Track 8) shows some John McLaughlin influences. Is anyone reading this even old enough to remember the Mahavishnu Orchestra?

“Ponder” (Track 10) has a distinctly mystical edge to it. The tremulous chords are like bits of space rubble floating around in an asteroid belt. There's movement but it happens very slowly. “Ponder,” “Talking Rocks,” and “Lux” are the tracks I'd include on a playlist for a ritual or meditation ceremony, since they give the impression of expanding consciousness that's always a plus for boosting a spiritual moment to greater heights.

Listeners with musically educated ears will easily process the music and the composer's intentions. People who haven't had much, if any, exposure to experimental mid-20th century atonal or avant-garde music might struggle a bit to wrap their brains around this CD. The rules here are different from the typical “Hearts of Space” ambient-space music. Even though the music originated in improvisation, Savage knows what he's doing in all of the 20th and 21st century genres and isn't afraid to merge different styles and influences to see what happens.

This CD is an alchemical experiment in music. It's easier to appreciate it if you can comprehend the meanings of the symbols in the alchemy book's illustrations. “Future Memory” is the kind of CD that will grow on you over time; you'll get something different out of it each time it's played. 

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Artist: Stephen Savage
Danforth Music, 2012
54:11, 13 tracks
Available from Cdbaby.com, Amazon.com, and digital download locations like iTunes. www.ssavage.com and www.proofofinfinity.com

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