I first became acquainted with the music of Amin Bhatia and his epic intergalactic synth masterpiece "The Interstellar Suite" when I happened upon the 1987 "Cinema Sampler" - a niche label of Capitol Records. The album featured the solo projects of progressive and new age luminaries Pete Bardens of Camel, Patrick Moraz of Refugee, Yes, The Moody Blues and several projects with Yes-mates Jon Anderson and drummer extraordinaire Bill Bruford, and German synthesizer ace Michael Hoenig of Tangerine Dream. Also on the album was an artist completely unknown to me ... Amin Bhatia, featuring excerpts from his album "The Intergalactic Suite". Now as much and I enjoy and respect the music of Bardens, Moraz and Hoenig it was the three tracks from "The Interstellar Suite" that overshadowed everything else on the album.
"Who was this guy - and where can I buy that album?"
Well try as I may, I never did obtain a copy of "The Interstellar Suite" on LP because soon after purchasing the sampler the Cinema label went belly-up. And as I learned, only a small run of the album was distributed Worldwide moments before the Cinema label closed shop. And unfortunately none of the record shops around me had a copy ... or for that matter knew who I was talking about. So years went by and I was resigned to accept the fact that unless I wanted to spend an exorbitant amount of money from a collector I would have to be satisfied with the three tracks on the sampler, and abandon any hope that this obscure gem would eventually find its way to CD. I even managed to talk myself into believing that these three tracks were probably the strongest on the album and everything else was filler - anything to keep me from obsessing about my futile quest for the Holy Grail of orchestral synthesizer epics.
But then one day I found myself surfing the web and memories of that elusive album once again haunted me, so I did a random search. And low and behold there was a website solely dedicated to the album created by Bhatia - and discovered "The Interstellar Suite" had been digitally remastered with bonus material and was available on Bhatia's independent label for $14.99.
Within a week the CD was spinning on my player and "The Interstellar Suite" far exceeded my expectations. And that foolish notion that only the best tracks were those on the sampler was immediately dispelled. This was a complete masterpiece from start-to-finish. It is deserving a place alongside Walter/Wendy Carlos "Switched On Bach", "Digital Moonscapes", and "Tales Of Heaven And Hell", Isao Tomita's "Snowflakes Are Dancing", "Pictures At An Exhibition", "Firebird" and "Planets", Larry Fast's Synergy projects "Electronic Realizations For Rock Orchestra", "Sequencer", Cords", "Games", "Audion", and "Metropolitan Suite", as well as the eerie Moog opus "Black Mass" from Lucifer (Mort Garson).
"The Interstellar Suite" plays more like a Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack to an unrealized sci-fi film featuring Keith Emerson on keyboards. Elements of Goldsmith's 'ALIEN' score occasionally filter through as do the bombastic Moog fanfares of vintage ELP - think "Emerson Lake & Palmer" meet 'ALIEN'.
Although the music has an organic symphonic texture, Bhatia employed no orchestral samples or sound libraries to emulate a symphony orchestra, nor did he use the Mellotron. At the time of the recording there was an ongoing debate on the use of sampled music and its adverse financial effect on performing musicians, so Bhatia made the decision to respect his fellow musicians by abandoning any use of digital samples of acoustic instruments by creating orchestral textures using only analog keyboards and percussion instruments (Mini-Moog, Oberheim Expander, Roland JX-10, Yamaha TX-816 - and two crash cymbals).
Amin Bhatia takes us on an incredible musical journey into the galaxy, complete with all the excitement and mystery the cosmos has to offer - quiet introspective passages that send you floating weightlessly in space, and high octane cinematic outbursts of unbridled energy that leaves you mesmerized in wide-eyed wonder.
At the conclusion of "The Interstellar Suite" an unnamed hidden track of Bhatia's more recent music can be found, smacking of an epic battle sequence from a Peter Jackson fantasy film complete with choir - equally as impressive as his 1987 masterpiece. Times and attitudes have changed and the bonus track reflects that as Bhatia appears to include digital sampled keyboards into his arsenal.
"The Interstellar Suite" is just a snapshot in time in the career of Amin Bhatia. He is a respected Emmy nominated composer with over 20 theatrical and made-for-TV films and 13 TV series to his credit.
"The Interstellar Suite" is required listening for progressive rock fans. Well worth seeking out and adding to your music collection.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on Januay 6th, 2012
[Editor's Note: This review sold me on this album. Thanks Joseph!]