Checking out Matthew J Van Howe’s bio while listening to his divinely trippy ancient meets modern mythological melodrama Legend of the Galactic Princess, it’s not surprising to learn that the Chicago based visionary singer, songwriter and adventurous master synthesist is not only an established recording artist – whose industrial rock driven debut album Transmogrify earned him a small but passionate fan base – but also an indie film director (“Voice of the Vespers”) and board game designer (Hadrian’s Line).
You can totally envision a multi-platform/media extension for Van Howe’s visually compelling, sonically ambitious universe as you immerse your senses into the fascinating, sonically inventive and spaced out, ELO on steroids wall of sound and imaginative storytelling about thousand year old Azell’a being reborn to gather sacred data collection to save the galaxy anew from her archnemesis Drakot’a and save the galaxy. It’s fun picking out his quasi Shakespearean English (thine, sayeth, slewen, thou, needeth, maketh, breaken) from the colorful narrative, swirls of melodic synth oddities, haunting atmospheres and oft-intense percussion.
Yet over the 11-track narrative, it gets increasingly difficult to hear every word he’s “singing” because his synthetic, computerized alien filtered vocals get kind of lost in the wild textured mix. It sometimes feels like as fascinating as the narrative is, the whole project was created to showcase his ample sense of synth invention and just how weirdly he could modulate his voice. So if you dare indulge – because, let’s face it, an hour of hardcore space synth and vocal manipulations aren’t everyone’ bag - you must listen with the lyrics and an overview of the story in front of you to get the full redemptive, triumphant effect of the story.
Thankfully, Van Howe complements the storytelling tunes (starting with “Set Forth” and the hands down best cut “Jungles of Syroolya” and wrapping with the feisty, militaristic “Reborn the Warrior” and soaring title track) with two dynamic all-instrumental tracks – one that takes us hypnotically “Across the Starry Sea” to a section of the galaxy teaming with a nursery of newly created stars, and the sweeping closer “Waterfalls of Dymoora,” a synth wash jam which would be the perfect piece to roll credits to when the film is made.