THE SONIC ASTRAL VOYAGE
OF MICHEL HUYGEN & JIMÉNEZ DEL OSO
By: M.Montes & J.Munnshe (1996)
The latest activities by Michel Huygen (Neuronium) are, as usual, amazing. Among them, there is the release of his album Astralia, where he has collaborated with Dr. Jiménez del Oso, a famous researcher from Spain of enigmatic phenomena, to unite music and literature in a sonic experiment that reveals us the darkest face of his music. We interviewed Huygen in his home some time before this CD was released, and also some time after that, we had a conversation with him and Jiménez del Oso at a press conference on the occasion of the release of this CD attended by several personalities in the artistic and cultural world, including besides several personalities from other areas, like for instance the consul of Belgium. From both encounters we have selected the most interesting comments, and we have written this article with them.
Michel Huygen is a very friendly, nice person. He is very accessible, he treats his fans like friends, and he shows how an artist of this stature can keep the humility of a common man. The same can be said of Jiménez del Oso, a very well-known character in Spain and other countries due to the television programs he has conducted and sponsored.
Huygen initiated his way into Cosmic Music in the early seventies, founding the band Neuronium in 1976, of which he is the only member since 1983. He has recorded more than twenty records and has composed soundtracks for movies and television. He has collaborated in other works with different artists among whom most noteworthy is Vangelis. He has given live performances with great success, like for example at the British festival UK Electronica. He also has undertaken diverse activities associated to the musical avant-garde, ranging from the implementation of the Department of Electronic Music of the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Arts Center Queen Sophie), to becoming the producer of some electronic musicians, among them Trans-X (the Techno band led by Pascal Languirand that in the mid eighties sold several millions of copies of his theme Living on Video).
Jiménez del Oso has combined his task as a researcher and his divulgative work of mysterious issues, with literature and painting. In the seventies, he began to conduct and present the weekly program Más Allá (Beyond), on the state television channel (TVE), having a nationwide coverage. This program, devoted to the research and popularization of enigmatic events, constituted as well one of the first paths throughout which the strange, alternative and electronic musics began to spread among the Spanish audience. These kinds of music turned out to be the perfect soundtrack for the reports on UFO sightings, events that could be labelled as paranormal, and similar questions. Jiménez del Oso personally used to take care of the musical selection, often bringing the records that were played from his own home. As time went by, Huygen and Jiménez del Oso came into contact as both of them had common interests and each one of them was familiar with the work of the other. They began their professional relationship as Huygen created several soundtracks for some productions by Jiménez del Oso. The most important ones are compiled in the albums Olim and En busca del misterio (In Search of Mystery).
In Astralia both of them have shaped an unusual collaboration. Designed as the re-creation of an astral voyage, the album combines Huygen's music with a narration written by Jiménez del Oso, that he himself narrates. The result is a ghostly, unearthly odyssey. "The compact disc is very complex. Because we begin, from a narrative and musical point of view, in Egypt, and we end up in the Cosmos". The mutual understanding between both of them has been fundamental so as to achieve a solid, homogeneous result. "Since the first moment, each one of us understood what the other had in mind". This is an unusual album indeed. Not only because it includes a literary segment, but also because it is designed to be listened to in some given circumstances which enhance the effect that Astralia has on the imagination of the listener. "This is why we have included in the CD leaflet some 'Instructions for Use'. We are aware that the disc must be listened to exactly as we advise in these instructions. It is not suitable to be played in public, nor is it ambient music. This is obvious ever since the first moments of the recording".
In the CD sleeve it is described as "the first natural and musical relief for stress without contraindications", and therefore the work is presented as a relaxing product. However, when they were finishing the recording, the authors feared that perhaps they would have achieved the opposite effect to what they intended in fact, as they had endowed their work with such a depth that it could cause fear rather than calming the listener. Both the music and the text are, in actual fact, on that very suggestive edge that separates the fear for the unknown from the fascination to explore new worlds. Although the general outline of the album rather points towards that second perception, it cannot be denied that there are some musical and literary passages that could provoke sensations of fear to easily impressionable people. With respect to what the muscular torso printed on the cover of the CD symbolizes, they explain us that it is a reference to certain spiritual beliefs that consider the human body as a series of energy centres sited in different parts, among which most remarkable is the one placed on the stomach.
Apart from releasing Astralia, Huygen is involved in the preparation of several editions marked by the 20th anniversary of the foundation of Neuronium (in 1996) and the 20th anniversary of the release of the first record by Neuronium (1997).
As for Jiménez del Oso, among his latest activities it should be pointed out that he directs the new magazine called Enigmas since recent times, and also that he organized a collection of books on enigmatic issues, called Nueva Biblioteca de los Temas Ocultos (New Library of The Occult Themes), published during 1995-96.
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