Recent developments in space exploration have made Mars more accessible than ever. Organizations such as NASA and SpaceX are even considering manned missions to the planet, fueling public excitement and imagination.
D.C. musician Bill Crandall does not share that excitement.
“Are we really so irredeemable,” asks the Petworth resident, “that we are reduced to putting our hopes in a planet that offers literally nothing of what we need?”
The former guitarist in rock band Dot Dash addresses this question with his project Místochord (pronounced MEES-toe-chord). He recently released New World Voyage, a concept album about a fictional trip to Mars and the mental burden that comes with extreme uncertainty.
“I imagined what that would actually be like for the first people to leave Earth,” Crandall says. “Even those who took ships across oceans to past new worlds could assume they’d find air, water, food and a chance for basic Earth comforts where they were headed.”
New World Voyage begins its story with a crew’s departure into space. The group includes children and adults, and the songs explore their individual states of mind as their journey stretches on. Crandall, an award-winning photographer by day, pairs the album with a booklet of abstract images further illustrating the mix of anxiety and hope characterizing the trip.
The music consists of fleeting melodic phrases over a bed of minimal electronics. Crandall says the tracks represent what the crew would sing to themselves for entertainment, calling them “melancholic future folk songs set against the backdrop of the sounds of the ship and space.”
Crandall spent four years obsessively working on New World Voyage. “I had to learn Ableton, learn MIDI, relearn how to get the most out of my voice,” the musician says. “I really didn’t know what I was doing. It was terrifying, but I wouldn’t stop.”
It was upon meeting collaborator Sean Winters and producer Mike Fanuele that Crandall’s ideas took clearer shape. He hails Winters in particular as the album’s secret weapon.
“Sean’s work was so critical to the power and depth of the final result,” says Crandall. “I said, ‘I’m the crew with their hopes and fears, and you’re space, gamma rays, cosmic s**t-storms, mechanized environments, signal distorting and fading across vast distance. All I ask is that you let the crew live.'”
The music and art for New World Voyage are available for download through Místochord’s Bandcamp page. (Extremely limited physical copies, which include a print of his original cover art, go for $250 a pop.)
Crandall says the journey hasn’t reached its conclusion yet — he has already created enough music for a follow-up to his interplanetary migration tale.
The original version of this post inaccurately described the role played by Sean Winters in the making of New World Voyage. He was a collaborator, not a producer.