Visit Venus – Music For Space Tourism Vol. 1

Daddy was a NASA sound scientist

As much as it may be a compliment when you say that an album was way ahead of its time – there’s a tragic dimension to it as well. For obvious reasons as the visionary qualities of that album will not be attested in its time but rather when a good deal of the time that it’s ahead of will have passed. Which would be around twenty years, in my case.

Looking back from 2021, “Music For Space Tourism” is a remarkable album with an immensely creative and entertaining story behind it. For this album, Mario Cullmann and Mario von Hacht came up with this really brilliant story that both their fathers had been working as sound scientists for NASA. Their project was to create music that would be played for passengers on their long journey to Venus. According to their story, they discovered the secret tapes recorded for that project and then used them to create this album.

The fun thing about this album is that it actually lets you take that little back story and enjoy it while you listen to it, departing from “Brooklyn Sky Port” all the way to the “Venus Beach Resort”. The fact that this is a pretty good album helps as well, of course. It’s sort of a very early work of the upcoming Downbeat and Lounge era, and the elevated level of coolness hints at the fact that space tourism is an upscale experience.

It really is a trip to the future as most of the material is deeply Trip Hop and Downbeat way before these labels even existed. It already starts with a transmission from a year or two ahead as “Brooklyn Sky Port (Departure)” is pure loungy instrumental Hip Hop – the stuff that would be heard in bars around the world in the pre-Millennium world. It’s almost prophetic to place the sky port in Brooklyn – back in 1995 you’d rather have been robbed than lobbed into space.

Mario and Mario were really good at creating tracks for every stage and aspect of the journey to Venus – and giving them entertaining titles. Right after departure we pass Earth’s little buddy listening to “First Man On The Moog”, a track that features an aptly deep and groaning bass and really classy horn samples. By then we might actually already be holding our second Martini, wondering if the other side of the moon is as dark as they say.

After the Moon it’s “One Step Beyond” and a little too much emptiness in the sky (no, this track didn’t need six minutes, but it’s still enjoyable). Some of the passengers might catch a case of “Stellarphobia” – a good dose of Rhodes and a relaxing layer of beats are served as a remedy, and soon after the passengers are off to sleep listening to faint choirs from somewhere deep in space.

Naturally, trips to outer space (especially cool ones like this) will attract one or the other famous person. Is it really? No, it can’t be… But look. And listen. The soundtrack gives it all away with its elements of Blaxploitation – it really is “Shaft In Space”. Now how cool is that! He’s up front at the bar, all chilled out and having a drink – no gangsters flying along to Venus. Still, good to know he’s on board.

Cullmann and von Hacht take their time to tell the story. It’s a three piece vinyl with songs that roll along for up to nine minutes, like “Zoom” – the song that well represents the main part of the journey, gliding through space, stars sparkling and all, chatting with other passengers, having a surprisingly lavish meal on board, hardly noticing but still appreciating the tasteful music that is played. The guy sitting next to you saying did you know this music was exclusively produced for these flights? Some Germans, I heard. Who would have thought.

You know how it is up there – the inflight beverages are quick to give you a buzz, so you just let the music play, enjoying the plushy seats and the amazing view of Venus gradually becoming bigger out there as the spaceship approaches the planet. And there you are. The shuttle is waiting already and in no time you arrive at the “Venus Beach Resort”. They have a slightly Latin theme going but the band seems to be a little bit in need of practice – the beats are taking the being-broken-ness a little too serious. This is probably the moment you notice that Mario and Mario don’t really know how to swing all too well. But look at that sunset… so fiery red… Too bad Venus doesn’t have a moon though.

Isn’t it a shame how time flies when you’re on vacation. In no time it’s off to the sky port again. But what’s going on at the counter? “One Passenger Lost”. A lonely trumpet is out looking for him, sonic sound finders trying to locate the lost soul – but it sure is no reason to change the underlying grooves as more Hip Hop drum loops keep the passengers relaxed.

The captain explains that the young co-pilot is on his “Orbital Workshop 2”. Judging from the sound of the bass he might just be a descendant of the Second Man On The Moog. You quickly doze off and dream of electronic sheep until the cabin chief’s landing announcement wakes you up – really, back already? An elegant sweeping curve before landing, offering a look at “Harlem Overdrive” while the inflight entertainment offers warm jazzy rhythms to prepare you for landing. Classy stuff, really.

“Home”. A wistful saxophone admits that an additional week up there would have been a good thing, but now it’s off to the street to hail a cab, back in Brooklyn with beats to match the scenery and hints at familiar amounts of gravity. The way it sounds it’s good to be back on Earth, back at the house.

For those who chose the vinyl the party isn’t over yet – and I love both the fact that there’s a bonus track and that the title is so well chosen: “Après Sky”. The the sound of the saxophone last evening of a stellar vacation includes a drink or two, and there must be some good friends around, chilling out on the roof, under the stars, and hey, isn’t that Venus over there on the horizon?

“Music For Space Tourism Vol. 1” is a really classy album. The big advantage of music that was ahead of its time: it ages well. No problem slipping one or the other track in when you DJ at the bar. And if someone asks where that track is from you just give them a smile and say “It’s from Venus.” I like that.

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