An a cappella chorus of alien echoes accompanied by gritty electronics launches A Present from a Small Distant World. It is singing President Jimmy Carter’s 1977 Voyager speech, the grainy reverberating voices chanting “we cast this message / into the cosmos,” ringing in ever-increasing strength. From there, the album’s celestial sound twists and turns through Shakespearian odes, Broadway tunes, and sweet Bach melodies, all the while maintaining an otherworldly sound.
A Present from a Small Distant World showcases eighteen years of compositions by the Toronto-based composer Alex Eddington, and highlights his ongoing collaboration with the soprano Kristin Mueller-Heaslip, who’s featured on many of the tracks. While each piece is inspired by different texts—from classic lines of Yeats and Shakespeare to modern texts written by Mueller-Heaslip herself—some of the most compelling ones feature no lyrics at all. Between many of the longer, sung tracks there enter ethereal, barren winds of swirling, distant electronics and the faint, distilled plucks of a guitar. These tracks—each listed in all caps—transport us into that mystifying other world that Eddington is dreaming of, centring the twinkling mystery that makes outer space such an enticing topic to explore. With the final glimmers of “INTERSTELLAR / To the Makers of Music,” which unites glistening instrumentals with starry-eyed vocals, Eddington’s vision crystallizes, and we are catapulted into into another galaxy.