Pauli The PSM is a creative who has worked as music director for FKA Twigs and Harry Styles, as well as a composer for the YouTube Original production “Black Renaissance: featuring Michelle and Barack Obama.” They are revered for drumming, as a longtime performer for Gorillaz and have toured with performers such as cellist Kelsey Lu. Pauli is constantly pushing the bounds of what is expected from an artist, performer and philanthropist. Their latest project is OFFAIR: The Power of your Subconscious Mind Vol 1: SPACE.
“I love that music can be the conduit to providing an out-of-body, paranormal experience,” Pauli shared with me, “I made this music with the intention that listeners could mentally leave earth without ever having to leave their bedrooms. The process of creating music has always been my escape, and my first foray into ambient music has provided me a level of catharsis that I’ve never experienced before.”
Pauli has long held a deep connection to space. He founded Badman Space Program to help nurture young Black kids and disenfranchised students’ love of space and S.T.E.A.M. Pauli also previously performed at the Kennedy Space Center with NASA as a Constellation.earth crew-mate, after which he wrote, “I believe that the musician and the astronaut aren’t too dissimilar in that they leave the earth’s atmosphere physically/mentally to pursue an individual voyage that yields new information that can possibly offer new truth to the masses. This truth is both individual and universal.”
For those unfamiliar, Afrofuturism is a musical, visual, artistic, philosophical, academic, written and fashion movement that, “dares to imagine a world where African-descended peoples and their cultures play a central role in the creation of that world.”
The term was first introduced in 1993 by Mark Dery, in his piece “Black to the Future.” He wrote, “But African-American voices have other stories to tell about culture, technology and things to come. If there is an Afrofuturism, it must be sought in unlikely places, constellated from far-flung points.”
Afrofuturism existed long before Dery’s terminology came to be. Earlt allusions to this phenomenon can be found in Jean -Michel Basquiat and Octavia Butler’s work. Taylor Crumpton wrote in Architectural Digest, “The first Afrofuturists envisioned a society free from the bondages of oppression—both physical and social. Afrofuturism imagines a future void of white supremacist thought and the structures that violently oppressed Black communities.”
An interesting element of music in Afrofuturism is the inclusion of contemporary Black culture in the postmodern work. Musicians George Clinton, for example, intertwined funk in his Afrofuturist productions. OSHUN incorporates R&B and funk in their instrumental and lyrical composition.
Pauli’s album, however, has no lyrics. There is no grounding element. The listener is transported away from this planet and all elements of “Earthly” music. However, his identity and the subtleties of his personality are never absent from the project. Afrofuturism confronts the concept of being “Other,” and the isolation of space encapsulates this very experience.
This album greatly differs from the other music Pauli has released, utilizing a more conceptual design. Still, their previous music also contains the drama and instrumental experimentation that courses through OFFAIR: The Power of your Subconscious Mind Vol 1: SPACE.
Even the corporate element to this album is unconventional. The project is made through OFFAIR Records, which is a collaboration of Universal Music Canada (UMC) and Versus Creative brand, which is globally distributed by UMC and Virgin Music Label.
Each track is named after a different constellation/astrological sign. The songs match the formation of the stars and the meaning of these signs. “ARIES” has intense and sweeping moments, fitting for the fire sign of the ram. “GEMINI” is layered and full staccato, perfectly matching the dichotomy of the twin sign. He expertly crafts songs that fit the overall intention of the project, while rejecting lyrics and obvious instrumental moves.
The inclusion of “OPHIUCHUS” further breaks from what may be expected. Often called the “13th astrological sign,” it is a controversial constellation amongst astronomers and astrologers. It is not used by any astrological system. It is found within the celestial equator and is serpentine.
Roman poet Marcus Manilius, one of the final didactic poets, describes this constellation of Ophiuchus and the snake in the collection Astronomica, “…[B]ending its supple neck, the serpent looks back and returns: and the other’s hands slide over the loosened coils. The struggle will last forever, since they wage it on level terms with equal powers.” The reflectiveness and turmoil are replicated in Pauli’s project, as OFFAIR even wades into the didactic waters with its philosophical and scientific lessons.
Collaborators are important on this album. Astronaut Jean-François Clervoy is a highly decorated and traveled astronaut, who, on the track “LEO,” shared his thoughts on space travel, accompanied by a piano. The beauty of the piano, the richness of the music and the sound of a human voice is jolting amidst the stillness of the rest of the album.
Clervoy recounts, “I had forgotten I had a body. When you float…you just don’t feel you have a mass, [or] you have a physical body. You are just a floating conscience, and you are so shocked, positively, by the view. The vision is such a strong source of sensation and emotions that the rest disappears.”
On “VIRGO,” astronaut Ron Garan speaks on the track about the beauty of space and how it looks to see the Earth from above. This time, there is a steady drum, wiring sounds and beeping to replicate the presence of technology.
Garan reflects on his time on the International Space Station, “I think there’s a tranquilness to it, a quietness, a stillness. You realize if you were able to zoom into the microscopic details of this beautiful canvas that you’re looking at…all of that just blurs into insignificance in comparison with the beauty. It all just becomes part of the pigment of this beautiful masterpiece of a painting.”
Tawaih lends her haunting vocals, without standard lyrics, on “OPHIUCHUS” and film score composer Anne Chmelewsky helps to conclude the album on “SAGITTARIUS.”
OFFAIR: The Power of your Subconscious Mind Vol 1: SPACE is quiet, thoughtful and poetic in its silence. The muted beats and gentle celestial trills create an atmosphere of escape. It allows listeners to transcend the bounds of this planet, culture and musical standards. When listening to the album, it is as though the listener is floating through space, with only the metallic bumps of space station materials piercing through the quietude. The lack of air in space creates a vacuum, meaning it swallows all sound waves. This is much like the period of protest and the pandemic, where much of life, sound and controversy collapsed in on itself.
You can stream OFFAIR: The Power of your Subconscious Mind Vol 1: SPACE everywhere now.
Feature image courtesy of TCB Public Relations