There’s a supercool app out there called SkyView that helps us folks grounded on earth identify the planets and stars we see in the night sky. In recent times, both at nighttime and sometimes early morning, it’s made sure I’m aware that the bright beacon of light that often seems close enough to reach out and touch is our closest neighbor, Venus. While I had been aware of Venus had been named for the Roman goddess of love, beauty, fertility and victory, it was not until I immersed in the story behind guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Michelle Qureshi’s exquisitely composed and produced, richly textured and spiritually evocative ode to the planet, A Day on Venus, that I learned an important fact about its rotation.
Namely, a day on Venus unfolds at a leisurely pace, as the planet spins slowly and clockwise, taking 243 earth days. This means a single day is longer than its year and has a sunrise every 117 earth days. That’s a lot of waiting in the darkness for morning to come – but that extended period would allow us time to explore what’s known as The Rose of Venus, the sacred geometry pattern Venus’ orbit forms as she dances with the earth. The orbit creates this sacred mandala, a five petal rose design that is flush with Venus’ alignment with our seemingly elusive earthly goals of universal love, compassion and harmony. Perhaps this unique dance between the planets is our solar system’s ultimate romantic expression – if we could only look up and feel the pull on our hearts.
For all of the nonstop array of awards Qureshi has received over the past 12 years from prestigious musical organizations like Zone Music Reporter and One World Music, the celestial inspiration driving this generous 18 track, 55-minute collection leads to the most expansive expression of her artistry ever. While her previous album Within (2020) was focused primarily on her trademark acoustic guitar, A Day On Venus allows her to explore different dimensions of the planet via a journey filled with other dynamic instrumentation. Most prominent of these elements is her seductive, ethereal flute playing, which infuses the dreamy atmospheric flow of “Luminous Fields” and creates a tender artful dance in tandem with her hypnotic acoustic guitar on “Dusty Springs.”
While Qureshi deftly incorporates some dramatic piano chords into deeply ambient, soundscape heavy gems like “Being There” and “Warm Waters,” the most compelling tracks are the ones like the meditative opening title track, the trippy, intricate and hypnotic “Electric Blue” and “Before You Speak, in which she caresses her acoustic and electric (most prominently on “Electric Blue”) energies with soothing and sometimes propulsive synth ambience. Perhaps the most dramatic fusion of her bass, electric guitar fire and celestial streams of electronic ambience is found in the transcendent star streaming glories and feeling of rebirth on “Rain in Heaven.”
It’s pretty deep in the tracking, but another fascinating element she includes is the use of singing bowls, which add a seductive vibrational energy at the start of “Wondrous” before she embraces some darker mysteries via a lush swirl of intricate electric guitar and synth ambience. There’s a sense of loneliness and longing she expresses in the sly and soulful slide guitar she plays on the aptly titled “Sliding Away” and the celestial psychedelia of “Light Rain,” and fans of Hawaiian music will be most fascinated by the graceful ukulele harmonies she brings to “Before You Speak.”
Yet for all open doors and unique and fascinating emotional and spiritual explorations these other textures allow her, there’s still something truly mystical/magical that happens when Qureshi stays earthbound and lets the intimacy of her acoustic guitar drive the narrative. Complementing all the larger productions are her subtly beautiful, contemplative solo pieces “American Prelude,” “Belonging Here,” “Mayan Trails” and the charm-filled final track, a soundtrack to a “Walk at Dusk.” Knowing the night on Venus is so long, it’s as if she’s cherishing every second of the twilight.
Finally, one of the more intriguing creative decisions Qureshi made in channeling the mysteries and majesties of Venus was the duality of the soft spoken acoustic piece “Within This Night” and the later inclusion of “Without This Night” that surrounds the same soft guitar line with a haunting atmosphere. It’s all part of the incredible time you’ll have spending A Day on Venus.