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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Astralasia June 16, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Astralasia, secretive (well so it is said, but I’m always curious as to how that term is applicable to bands who…er… make music… hold gigs… release albums, etc) trance outfit who started life as an electronic/dub/dance side project of psychedelic influenced The Magic Mushroom Band. Now, I’ve seen the YouTube clips of TMMB and frankly I don’t much want to see them again. I know I mentioned this crew only the week before last, but there’s space rock and space rock and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

But in a way it’s quite interesting how this sort of reboot of hippy manifested in a sleeker sort of form on the back of rave and house. Of course it eschewed all those guitars and embraced technology, but the basic dynamic remains. Listen to “Seven Suns” and it’s sort of a continuity between the Years of Zonk most obviously typified by – natch – Hawkwind and later developments (and tellingly Astralasia were responsible for a number of remixes of Hawkwind tracks in the 1990s). Looking inward to see outward and all that sort of guff. And in a way, Hawkwind did forge this path, with electronics inflecting their music from the start. I’d almost go so far to argue that for some of us Hawkwind’s openness to electronic music was crucial in smoothing the path into enjoyment of electronica years later.

Anyhow, soon enough Astralasia were well into psychedelic trance and producing music that one either loves or hates. I tend to sit in the former camp, I’m a bit of a pushover for trance – albeit the less cheese inflected side of it and these guys from all points in their career manage to hit the spot for me. The earlier Politics of Ecstasy (clue, they liked the stuff) is good albeit a bit overly ambient to my mind, but Pitched Up At The Edge Of Reality is better because it is more overtly dancey. They got into harder and harder trance as the 1990s progressed, apparently to the discomfiture of some of their fan base, as it moved from being relaxing and chill out to being… anything but. Now how well that works is a different matter. “Prophecy of Life” from 2001’s Something Somewhere I’m fairly partial to, but the album itself isn’t entirely coherent, though “Out There” is pretty good. Anyhow, it’s all here, pulsing synths and percussion, big keyboard sweeps, multi-tracked female voices and muffled samples of people talking about how people can change the world by… er… taking psychedelics…still on-message so.

The weirdest thing for me listening to the later output is how much of the sounds seem to merge almost seamlessly with the sort of music that came via industrial and goth into the Electronic Body Music/Futurepop genres, i.e. acts like Covenant, Apoptygma Bezerk (in the early years) and VNV Nation. Of course they took a much less celebratory approach, even a dour one – as you do when Ian Curtis is an influence. But the sounds are remarkably similar. Convergent evolution or so it would seem.

But, back to Pitched Up At the Edge of Reality, from sub-Yes cover to not a million miles away from William Orbit, right down to the only a year or two out of date sequenced piano sound, and it’s still pretty good. And to go with these a sampling of their output from the 1990s into the 2000s.

Enjoy.

Celestial Ocean Pitched up at the edge of reality

Jongle Kakano Pitched up at the edge of reality

Seven Suns (1994)

Alien Love Song (1996)

The Sea (2001)

Prophecy of Life (2001)

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