In terms of apocryphal stories about a long lost album, Jürgen Müller’s Science of the Sea is a whopper. If your imagination runs deep, Müller was an Oceanic scientist studying at a German University in 1979 (coincidentally the moment when krautrock went kosmische). With no musical training, Müller decided to soundtrack his studies. He borrowed synthesizers from a local school’s music department to write lush synth music in the mobile studio on his house boat while filming a documentary about sea-water toxicity, eventually releasing the music on a private press 100 copy run. That’s quite a bit to call bullshit on.
Still, it’s clear that the story of the album, however true, is supposed to inform the album and enhance its already rich sonic narrative, to pose it as surrogate from any current fancy for new age tidings or the gimmicky crest of seapunk. Müller may indeed be as real as Steve Zissou, but the music from his guaranteed lone LP is as affectedly gorgeous as a dewy pearl plucked from the bottom of the sea. Arpeggiated tones are muffled beneath a thick layer of atmosphere, giving the entire album a sense of otherworldliness. Certain tones float and glissando with the grace of a united school of swimmers and the loose rhythms of the sequences have an airless quality to them that fill the listener with the same sense of mystery and awe that a deep sea diver in the ‘70s might have had. At its zeniths, and there are many, Science of the Sea rivals many of Müller’s “contemporaries” (regardless of how contemporary they may have been) in Eno, Cluster, Raymond Scott, and Ashra. Beyond pure field recordings, all music is artifice, the creation of sonic fiction in service of some external need or desire. The story behind Science of the Sea is intended to enhance the album experience, but strip it all away and the mellifluent sounds already plumb some great depths on their own.