Deep into space or beneath the ocean are two places that music often transport you to and they are places that I certainly like to dwell mainly due to the fantasy elements as they are places that most of us will never traverse. It is the former that we are taken to here courtesy of this new project by Josh Graham. If the name is familiar to you then it is possibly due to current involvement in A Storm Of Light, a band whose last album Nation To Flames blew me away even if I was a little late discovering them. Otherwise you could have encountered him as a member of an impressive list of other groups such as Red Sparrowes and Battle Of Mice or heard his input from working with everyone from Jarboe, Tombs and Tribes Of Neurot.
Here it’s a derelict space colony in view of Saturn that he takes us to in an enthralling journey of ambience and film soundtrack etched music. It’s one that is on the whole a very mellow place to find yourself, there are no ‘attack ships on fire’ here although the ghostly future landscape that haunts the likes of Blade Runner may well be an image that enters your mind when listening to this.
Starting out with ‘Signals From Home’ low percussion builds around gentle synthesized sounds and effects, transmitted through a void that is one evoking feelings of utter abandonment. These are signals that could well be sent to a planet that is no longer listening as some endgame catastrophe has finally wiped it out. Despite the minimalism of what I am hearing it gets the imagination flowing straight away with tinkling sounds and brooding melody constructed over an 11 minute running time. Feeling of abandonment and isolation is incredibly strong and you can easily imagine a space-suited skeleton bouncing off the walls and tools and flashlights in free fall over a massive craft with all the vacuum and atmosphere sucked out of it; it’s actually a lot more Event Horizon than it is Blade Runner and the sound effects that are like heavy breathing along with wind chime noises are incredibly evocative. It builds into a dramatic mass of keyboards with retro sci-fi effects about them reminiscent heavily on work by Tangerine Dream, Krautrock and John Carpenter, meaning that it is quite a familiar place to find oneself in rather than a completely alien one. ‘Colliding Horizons’ gently floats along after the weighty expanse that its predecessor took us to, ambience is at the forefront here but there is a lot of mood and emotion about it still and when it starts to pulsate and throb you are totally in its grip and on the edge of your seat just as you would be in a good film. From here it’s the two part ‘Transmissions Illumine’ that is left to immerse the listener and focus is drawn to a constant backdrop of radio transmitted voices, beamed up from a now derelict earthly plain. There is a big feel of tension about the sonic build-up and throbbing keyboards before they take on an eerie melody. Something that sounds like knocking is going on too, what could it be, I can’t work that out? Piano tinkles away, strengthening the melody and again very much haunting it, this is certainly a place where ghosts exist, just how threatening they are remains to be seen, it feels more like the knocking sound could be an attempt to be noticed more than anything else. The knocking has gone by the second part but the ebb and flow of the synth waves are glorious and are pretty much enough to have you floating off deeper into space with them.
The mood changes as we enter the ‘Black Galaxy’ things are a bit bouncier and the melody is not a million miles from Dr Who here, whether that’s cheeky or accidental it works well as a repetitive central motif on the track. To get a real sense of the imagery and where the artist is coming from just watch and listen to ‘On the Shores of Markarian 335’ below and see where it takes you, it will do the job of anything I could possibly write far better as well as providing a good snapshot of the album and giving you an idea of if this is a journey you would like to undertake. With this in mind it should come as no surprise to discover that Graham is also a visual artist and if you take a look at his fantastically designed website you will also get an idea that the imagery on the CD (or stunning looking green vinyl) backing up the music is well worth getting via physical medium rather than just on MP3. As for final chapter ‘Shaping itself From Dust’ well you will have to do that just to discover how this story ends.
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)