What does space sound like? Last week, as Voyager escaped from our Solar System, a couple of ionised gas vibrations were converted into sound. It’s eerie and terrifying, a far cry from the expansive and dreamy sounds that the genre of Space Rock has fed our senses since it first blasted off.
Reality vs. expectations, it’s a real pickle and if the problem is choice, then go for the fancier, less realistic choice. So let’s stick to Space Rock’s version of the sound of traveling and floating through space.
This whole ramble matters because Spacesuit shares two members with one of the best Space Rock bands in this planet, The Life and Times. Mind you, they do not pull rank in this band, herded by Clayton Brown. A few years in the making, Spacesuit’s Future Girls is a labour of love from a quartet of compadres who wanted to make a collection of reflective & moody songs. With a few controlled explosions, Mythbusters-style.
And reflective they are. 9 songs, clocking at 40 minutes, all displaying emotional shades of grey with their sadness-tinged vocals and a slow beat that adds the occasional change of style to remind you that Mr. Epley and Mr. Metcalf are on board in this joint venture, with Mike Myers (from the horribly overlooked The String and Return) rounding up the line up.
“Quiet sounds, almost whispered vocals.” These are the thoughts that come to mind when ‘Piltdown Man’ starts to flow freely, like an aerosol compound seeping through loose soil, rarefying the fields. Then it combusts, as if a serendipitous spark triggered the reaction. This is the nature of Spacesuit‘s music – a slow but sure expansion that culminates with a band but then offers a slow denounement.
‘No one’s glad you came’ is hurtful. It’s also a lesson that you don’t need to shout to pierce someone’s feelings, just be curt. You can feel a sense of anger creeping up, paired with some regret. The sudden change in rhythm is pure delight. ‘Rubber band’ keeps that slow feeling swaying like an old couple dancing in the darkness, letting bygones be bygones. The guitar solo is gorgeous.
Once you get to ‘Future Girls’, you can sniff out Spacesuit‘s Modus Operandi: slow musical cascades interconnected by short but unforgiving rapids. Maybe ‘That’s everything’ is the slowest groove in here, as an explosion is hinted at, but never quite happens. ‘Where did I go wrong?’ feels like the mirror image of ‘No one’s glad you came’. I struggled to tell them apart at first, but then that little noise that flutters and drones gave it a distinctive scar. I’m overanalysing but I feel both songs are connected in narrator and antagonist, with a single heartbreaking emotion being passed through very vocal interchanges. Little aside: where do they get that wonderful guitar tone?
Funny, I keep saying this is Space Rock, but it feels very down to Earth. Then again, each of our minds feels like a different planet. This is specially true of relationships.
Anyways, albums generally have “that song” that stings like a bee and ‘It’s cold outside’ is that dancing butterfly that suckerpunched me. ‘It’s cold outside’ smoulders quietly until it encompasses you with a drawn-out crescendo that equals the heat death of the universe. Even when that saturated drone recedes, you can still feel it as the song tucks you away back into safety.
‘Heavy Sleepers’ is quite the ethereal track, as percussion is a little more sparse but soundscapes layer and swell, creating this sort of hazy atmosphere that is not quite shoegaze but pretty much approaches it. Gorgeous little track. ‘Stratford on guy’ feels like a “normal” track. As normal as anything Spacesuit will present to pay homage to their former selves. If all the previous tracks felt like Wind Elementals, ‘Stratford on guy’ would feel like a Clay Golem, shambling through a foggy forest until you can’t see it anymore. EDIT: I’ve been informed it’s a Liz Phair cover. I didn’t recognise it, which shows how much the band made it its own.
I’d hate to compare this album to anything by The Life and Times because although 2/3 of that band are here, there’s enough detachment to make it a whole different beast. Heck, I get a few sniffs of The String and Return too. Perhaps it shows what the amalgamation of both bands could look like?
If anything, Spacesuit manages to tickle those nerve endings that few bands manage to do, nerve endings that you develop when you look at the sky at night and wonder what those little lights are and if anyone lives there, would they play music and enjoy it as much as we do? Future Girls might have been years (okay, decades) in the making, but the final product is worth it, because even if the moods are mostly slow, there is an urgency to every single track presented here. Somebody give these four dudes a long warm hug.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López