I still remember the first time I heard Pauline Anna Strom’s Trans-Millenia Consort album and being completely mesmerized. It was in the late ‘00s or early ‘10s when kosmische-tinged synthesizer music was anywhere and everywhere, but as soon as “Emerald Pool” gently flowed through my speakers, I knew I was hearing something different, something special. Strom was a world builder and astral traveler and her music is a window to a different universe where anything seems possible.
The aptly titled Angel Tears in Sunlight arrives two months after her passing, a final gift to her fellow travelers. This music teems with light. Exploring newfound horizons with the skill of a master, but the wide-eyed enthusiasm of someone stepping into a new country for the first time, Strom concocts sonic potions that trace a connection to her earlier works while sounding fresh. As the album unfolds, it feels as though Strom was just getting started and the possibilities ahead endless.
Watery textures and emotions glow throughout Angel Tears. Effervescent tones rise from the ground and cut through like a knife of positive intentions. “Small Reptiles on the Forest Floor” is a skittering, joyous dance through midnight woodlands, clattering percussive elements punctuating each synth pad. Strom unveils this majestic, beautiful space from surprising, elemental imagery. As I get lost in the piece, I can see the reptiles in question in their environment, untouched and unbothered by outside influence.
Weightless harmonies are a warm, muted cocoon on “I Still Hope.” This short track is a velvet hammer. Swirling, minor-key melodies rise and fall like tiny empires, lamentations on paths not taken, but still laden with dreams of what might have been. The push-pull of these dichotomous sentiments drive much of Angel Tears in Sunlight, but are most present on “I Still Hope.” Those feelings return on the flickering rhythms of “Equatorial Sunrise,” but in the rearview as her compass now points straight ahead. Intricate synth patterns are like aural lace, intertwined and looped together like a dense jungle canopy. It’s a stunning piece of music.
Of course the circumstances of the past few months make Angel Tears in Sunlight somewhat bittersweet. Listening back to Strom’s previous work and considering the context of the intervening years and how long she went without making music, it’s obvious that this was the beginning of something new. Her work hits me on some kind of metaphysical level that I have a hard time explaining, but it has true importance in the astral framework. Sound can instantly create new worlds and transport listeners unlike any other medium and with Angel Tears in Sunlight, Pauline Anna Strom has left us with a limitless universe to explore.