Space rock-aligned prog-rock isn’t normally a genre that I would seek out. Which is strange. Because I love it. As you may have noticed if you’ve read my recent series of blogposts about Pink Floyd’s near-mythical gig at a tiny Quaker village hall in 1967, I am very much on board.
As well as the awesome band name, which sounds more like a post-rock band than a prog band (Godspeed You! Black Emperor & And So I Watch You From Afar, anyone?), the backstory and artwork are spectacular. The cover art for ‘Nostalgia for Infinity’ is beautiful and bleak. People with boxes on their heads, standing in the mist beside a grey and imposing wall is certainly the kind of image you’d expect to see for an album like this. Seven (of twelve) of the tracks on ‘Nostalgia for Infinity’ are based upon the novels by Science Fiction novelist Alastair Reynolds. I am already a huge fan of Reynold’s novels and included one of them, ‘Blue Remembered Earth’, in my blogpost about the 10 books which influenced me the most. This makes me particularly excited, going in.
The first track, “Century Rain” starts with a wash of keyboard and guitar ambience which just screams the word “SPACE” at you. Embedded in this ambient soundscape (which sounds how the mist on the cover art looks) is an arpeggiated synth line which sounds like it’s straight out of a Vangelis composition. You almost expect Harrison Ford’s dulcet tones and the harsh electronic bleeping of the Voight-Kampf test to emerge, dreamlike, from the aural mist. The arpeggiated synths are used throughout the album, as are the calming, ambient soundscapes. Both this song and the second track, “Twin Earth”, are based upon the novel called ‘Century Rain’ by Alastair Reynolds. It’s a gritty detective story set Paris during an alternative 1950s where, despite the failure of the Nazis, fascism still rose unchecked across Europe. As well as that, it’s also a time-travelling story of post nanocaust (pretty much how it sounds) survivors battling against the nanite swarms on Earth’s surface and attempting to save alternative Earths. I’ve probably oversimplified it as it’s a long time since I read it, the music does justice to it though.
“Ark”, a song about the World War 2 British aircraft carrier, Ark Royal, starts off with some gentle keyboards and guitars before changing up into several distinct sections built around piano and guitar. The various sections representing different periods in the Ark’s life, from its construction and launch, through to the sinking of the Bismarck and the eventual sinking of the Ark Royal herself. It’s a stirring piece of music and it has the potential to be particularly exciting in a live setting. The following track, “Chasing Neon”, is a retrofuturistic instrumental with more Vangelis-esque analogue synth workout with crunchy arpeggiated bass, floating vaporwave pads and mechanical, robotic rhythms. It’s actually quite unlike anything else on the record and has a wonderful video with visuals to match the vaporwave Bladerunner aesthetic (Check it out below).
After this, we dive back into the worlds of sci-fi with songs about nanotech tumours “Nanobotoma” & a four-track sequence: “Glitterband”, “Conjoiners”, “Scorpio” and “Inhibitors” based on the Alastair Reynolds epic Space Opera, the Revelation Space series. I have it on my shelf but am yet to read it. These are dramatic compositions full of menacing piano, changeable rhythms, and virtuous guitar playing. The penultimate track, “Voyager”, takes us back up into space, inspired as it is by the exciting journey of Voyager 1. It is a gentle, synth-led instrumental with lilting melodies and complex rhythms. The closing track, “The Sixth Extinction”, addresses the impending environmental breakdown by way of upbeat rhythms, alternating choppy and crunchy guitar riffs, and early ‘90’s funk metal-style fast speak-singing. The anthemic nature of the chorus further lends to this feeling while the lead guitar leads things firmly back into the land of prog.
‘Nostalgia for Infinity’ is available on CD & all the usual digital distributors.
Written by Tom Ray
The photos were sourced via Google and the videos via YouTube. If any of them are yours and you would like a credit or for them to be taken down please let me know.
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