Storms OV Jupiter: Space Is The Place
By Patrick Wall
In space, no one can hear … well, anything. Sound waves need air to exist, and outer space is a the closest natural approximation to a vacuum; its deepest reaches contain only a few hydrogen atoms per cubic meter. That sparse density of matter makes the chances of molecular collision, the resulting transfer of energy of which creates sound, infinitesimally small.
But our universe is not silent.
In 1990, NASA released a fascinating collection of recordings made by Voyager I of electromagnetic interactions on Jupiter — charged particles from solar winds interacting in the planet’s magnetosphere. The resulting waveforms, when derived from the transmitted electronic signals and converted to audible frequency, hit the ear as an overwhelming drone, a series of ghastly whirs and crackles. Voyager II captured the sounds of the Jovian moon Io; its song is an eerie, ringing warble.
Musicians have long looked to space as inspiration — Gustav Holst’s orchestral suite The Planets being but a particularly famous example. But abstract Columbia electronic duo Storms OV Jupiter use these interstellar symphonies as the basis for their own otherworldly drones.
“I’ve sampled Jupiter’s magnetic fields for other projects I’ve done, and it’s definitely a huge influence on our sound,” says Tim Chappell, one half of Storms, “particularly on [the duo’s debut EP] Dying Screams of an Imploding Star. I used to sample different recordings from outer space, mix them together and then meditate on the sounds of the universe for hours.”
Both Chappell and his partner Matt Chamblee have been involved with avant-garde noise projects in Columbia for years, “exploring the dark caverns and light-trapping singularities of sound,” Chamblee explains. Their fascination with space, along with their shared musical ambitions, sparked a collaboration following a February noise exhibition organized by Chappell. Their first practice — with Chamblee playing an array of synthesizers and Chappell making soundscapes with noise and drone generators— resulted in a massive wall of sound. It reminded Chappell of his lifelong enthrallment with space, particularly of Jupiter’s giant storms, so they took the dominant feature of the solar system’s largest planet as their namesake.
“Even as a child, I remember being fascinated with the planet and its Great Red Spot,” Chappell says. “In a lot of our material, we try not to have a real definitive beginning or end to represent the infinite nature of our universe. As far as being fascinated with space, how could you not be? That would be like not being interested in your own existence. We are part of it. It is part of us.”
Indeed, the sounds of space are in the duo’s DNA, and their five-month collaboration has already produced two albums with prominent interstellar influences. The overwhelming and alarming Dying Screams of an Imploding Star is anchored by the cataclysmic title track, a 21-minute drone composition of caustic feedback and wraith-like sirens. The expansive Cosmic Apocalypse is a 75-minute affair that collects malevolent whirs, hypnotic piano, sinister synthesized rhythms, piercing noise and dreadful pulses.
Producing close to 100 minutes of diverse and daring music in such a short time seems a herculean effort, but for Chappell and Chamblee, it was unavoidable.
“Every moment of the day, vibrations are traveling through us, within and without, completely enveloping the very essence of our beings,” Chamblee says. “Harnessing and channeling these vibrations into hypnotic, inter-dimensional soundscapes is as natural to us as drawing breath.”
Given how quickly Chappell and Chamblee create, and with their sound having already expanded from the monolithic style of Dying Screams to the significantly more complex Cosmic Apocalypse, the universe — perhaps literally — is the duo’s playpen, one in which infinite sonic exploration is possible.
“The day you stop expecting more new music from Storms OV Jupiter,” Chamblee says, “is the day the stars fall from the sky and interstellar magma engulfs the multiverse.”