Jeff Mills needs no introduction- IT'S JEFF MILLS. His legendary status is such that he could release the sound of him eating his breakfast and brushing his teeth and it would still sell in numbers that most of the other artists reviewed on this site would be envious of. The danger of course is that once you reach such a level, there's no obligation to put any effort in, and a half-baked artist album can be knocked out on a whim.
Luckily though, nothing like that has happened here. Mr Mills- or perhaps I should just call him 'sir'- has clearly put together "Free Fall Galaxy" as a labour of love, a deeply sincere artistic project on the head-bending sci-fi theme of a chaotic galaxy operating outside of the usual physical laws. It's a fictional concept that Mills has completely made up, as far as I can tell, but both the music and the accompanying promo tackle the subject with not only a straight face, but a downright stern face.
So here are thirteen tracks which sound like they have been moulded out of radio telescope data of this distant galaxy, fed into Mills' synths and arpeggiators and translated into frequencies we can hear. Much of it is deeply experimental, some of it is borderline drone, and while there are loops and patterns in it in tracks like the rather bleepy "Aurora", more often than not it bears more of a resemblance to a modern-day reimagining of the Radiophonic Workshop than to techno as we know it (captain).
Several of the tracks recall Tangerine Dream, none more so than the 17-minute epic "Entering (The Free Fall Galaxy)", with some others being more reminiscent of Jean Michel-Jarre in their production, except with a sometimes stoic determination to avoid melody.
"Inner Synthesis" has a pressing synth bassline building throughout, threatening to invite its big buddy the kick drum, but the kick drum never appears, the sense of urgency drifts and we wander back into the ethereal. The kick does finally make cameo appearances in "Solar Crossroads", "Tri-angularism" and the three-minute workout "Rabid Star Clusters". These are among the shortest tracks on the album, rare and strangely unexplained foray into club sounds- and the sounds people may more commonly associate with Jeff Mills. It's as though we stop off at a stellar disco on our way through deep space. The structure of the album makes these numbers stand out like a sore thumb, and anyone planning a truly mesmeric relaxing experience with the album will need to set up a playlist with those tracks excluded.
The production quality is exemplary throughout, this is expert stuff with all the polish of a project that's been a long time in the making. Hit this release at the wrong angle and you might find it self-indulgent and pretentious, but if you're in the right mood, a classic spaced out, chilled out, zen mentality with a yearning for digital sci-fi, this is an epic journey. The only real mystery around it is with the slightly schizophrenic ordering, that bounces us chaotically between ambience and rhythm.