When I first wrote about Space Rock: An Interstellar Traveler’s Guide half a decade ago, this is how I began:
This recent release ticks all the wrong boxes: CD not vinyl, yet another compilation, probably too much of a good thing, odd-shaped package impossible to file… yet Space Rock: An Interstellar Traveler’s Guide is my CD of the year.
Dear reader, I was not entirely frank and full in my disclosure. Not exactly a lie, but bullshit. What was not revealed at the time was how far through the six CDs I’d actually got at the point of posting. Let me tell you now, a smidge over five years later: two. That’s correct, a measly third of the way through the galaxy of sounds contained within this 195mm x 195mm box. To be fair, there is a lot of music here. Over seven hours, in fact. Still, I feel better about clearing the air. And progress has been made. This very day Disc Six received its second listen, the official Vinyl Connection stipulation prior to an acquisition being filed. And what timing! Cleopatra Records have just re-issued the boxed set, meaning that space cadets may be able to avoid being sucked dry by the alien vampires of Discogs.
The set includes artists from the early days of space exploration (Can, Gong, Faust, Hawkwind) as well as 21st century psychoonauts such as Øresund Space Collective, Yuri Gagarin and Magic Wands. But what really impresses about this collection is how international it is. Øresund Space Collective, for example, are a collective of musicians from across Scandinavia. But there’s more coverage here than the World Cup.
Pyramidal – Spain
Equations – Portugal
Hydravion – France
Space Debris – Germany
Omega – Hungary
Vespero – Russia
Black Rainbows – Italy
Naxatras – Greece
Dark Buddha Rising – Finland
Sun Araw – California
The Dunes – Australia
An Emerald City – New Zealand
Plus, of course, plenty of artists from the UK and USA.
The range of music crosses as many genre boundaries as international frontiers. From psychedelic folk through to punishing drone-rock, space, it is clear, contains diverse lifeforms. The music surges and soars, pounds and pulsates, whispers and whooshes… it is a truly cosmic trip.
The accompanying booklet is detailed and well written, with an introductory essay by Dave Thompson. Band introductions are mostly good, though a few more dates would help anchor the selections in the space-time continuum; musically, if not astronomically. And I wish compilations would include track times. I really like to know whether I’m settling in for an expedition to Mars or a stroll to the local head shop. But we won’t dwell on that one omission, especially when the glorious art work is there to be appreciated. Straight out of 1950s pulp magazines such as Tit Bits and Galaxy, the uncredited retro sci-fi images are a total delight.
Space is deep. So, it seems, are the archives of space rock.
Space Rock: An Interstellar Traveler’s Guide [Cleopatra Records, 2016/2022]