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(83:04; Fruits de Mer)
TRACK LIST: 1. Alooland 7:52 2. Ghosts Inbetween 5:44 3. Oceania 7:11 4. Tangerine Skies 6:00 5. Kaleidoscopic 6:25 6. North Star 7:17 7. Astral Voyager 7:44 8. Ishdan 5:43 9. Mushroom Heartbeat 4:33 10. A Long Shore 2:31 11. Time & Tide Eternal 22:04 LINEUP: Wayne Buaku - bass Swordfish - drums, bass, synth, effects Paul Chousmer - piano, synth Peter Pracownik - guitars Maria Szabo - vocals with: Dick Man - effects Phoebe Thomasson - flute John Chinn - guitars Pete Bingham - guitars, sounds Stevie B - saxophone Simon House - violin Francesca Stella - voice
Prolusion. UK band ASTRALASIA have been a going concern for just about 30 years at this point, originally starting out exploring material with more of a trance and techno orientation and then developing towards a more ambient, expressive and psychedelic sound over the years. The band have more than a dozen studio releases to their name, and the most recent one of these is "Oceania" which appeared at the start of 2017, and was released as a double vinyl album through UK label Fruits de Mer Records and their sublabel Regal Crabomophone.
Analysis. Fruits de Mer Records specialize in psychedelic music, and while Astralasia is a band that is perhaps a wee bit on the outer edges of what most associate with music of this kind they most certainly belong inside this context. Their core foundation is, perhaps obviously, on the electronic side of the spectrum, and their palette within this specific landscape is a fairly broad one. There are many types of different compositions on this double album, but what most of them share are dominant traits from ambient music. Soft synthesizer and keyboard layers, dream-laden moods and atmospheres, careful and sparse use of regular rhythms and a stronger emphasis on electronic rhythms and electronic sounds that have rhythmic and melodic elements to them. We are introduced to landscapes with a firm foundation in ambient dreamscapes, at times with a guitar, an electric piano or a saxophone adding variation and their own specific mood-emphasizing sounds. Some of them gets to be a bit more intense, with flavors of the more accessible parts of the catalogue of artists such as Jean-Michel Jarre or Tangerine Dream hovering nearby. Other landscapes have more of an energetic spine, higher in tension, drive and groove, and strikes me as being pretty close to both Tangerine Dream and Ozric Tentacles in mood and atmosphere, the use of cosmic, mystical and futuristic sounds often the deciding factor on whether I associate the material with the former or the latter. Some of the most interesting creations on this double album can be found in the compositions roughly fitting this description, at leas t as far as my own personal taste in music is concerned. Then at last we have the one-off on this double album, the massive concluding epic 'Time & Tide Eternal'. Which is an ambient creation, but one made with a much stronger expressive orientation. Non-melodic sounds and noise textures have their place in this sound sculpture, where melodic elements, effects and noises swerve, fluctuate and hover, with surges and wavelike patterns used to good effect alongside details coming and going in and out of the sonic tapestries. A creation revolving around building moods and atmospheres up and down, adding and subtracting, seguing over from one phase to the next and probably documenting that ambient soundscapes can be challenging material along the way too.
Conclusion. Personal taste will dictate how much or not you will enjoy a creation like this, but if you want to try it out for size, it may be somewhat challenging to get hold of this production, as it is long sold out by the label. Otherwise I note that those with a strong interest in ambient electronic music as well as the music of artists such as Tangerine Dream and Ozric Tentacles should be the perfect audience for this band and this album.
Progmessor: July 25th 2019
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