After 25 years of composing for video games and film, Michael Giacchino finally released his first-ever non-score album via Death Waltz Originals. Performed with his Nouvelle Modernica Orchestra, Travelogue Volume 1 tells the story of a space traveler seeking solace on a planet that isn’t as broken and lost as her own distant world, upon discovering earth the story unfolds throughout its 11 captivating tracks.
Pulling deeply from the classic lounge and exotica music of Les Baxter and Martin Denny, the outer-space vibes of Giacchino's album also lean into more modern interpreters of the genre like Combustible Edison and Air, keeping this from feeling as though it's just an homage to a bygone era but rather a continuation of a tradition.
While the music is, at its heart, locked into that '50s and '60s lounge feel, some pieces manage to go further. Sidereal Day 6 features some funk wah-wah guitar mixed with Yma Sumac-like vocal workouts, which is not a mix one would normally think would work, but it's absolutely refreshing in just how groovily otherworldly it sounds. The sweeping strings and soaring, lyric-less vocals do an amazing job of conveying emotional weight, while also feeling as though the listener is soaring through the cosmos.
While the narration throughout Travelogue Volume 1 is at first perfectly alien in its almost monotonic delivery, as the space traveler goes about her journey, there's an amazing level of heartbreaking growth to be heard. The use of the storytelling device brings together the tonal variations, allowing Giacchino's album to be more than a mellow backing track, and instead, causing it to be interwoven with the sound of the world around it.
As the story of the album progresses, the listener gets a sense of change and progress and learning, and when one reaches the penultimate track, Sidereal Day 39, and its insistent repetition of the phrase, “Everything is going to be okay,” the mantra-like delivery over the sound of breaking waves will drive one almost to tears in just how perfect it is.
The final track, Remembrance, takes its influence from Santo and Johnny or the instrumental work of Les Paul, sleepwalking its way to the end of the album with aplomb. The entirety of this record is a peaceful, dreamy exercise takes the music which Giacchino has done for film and goes interstellar. Think of it as The Incredibles, but once they've had a chance to relax, and maybe Bob is having himself a cocktail.
The double LP release of the album comes pressed on 180-gram coloured swirl vinyl, and the gatefold jacket allows Henry Abrams' artwork – which looks as though it was taken right from the era being referenced – to really shine. The printed inner sleeves help tell the story presented over the course of Travelogue Volume 1, and are loaded with detail which will keep the listener's eyes glued to them. It's as captivating a visual experience as it is an aural one.
Travelogue Volume 1 is available from Mondo.