All India Radio Go Exploring on New Album SPACE
All India Radio Go Exploring on New Album SPACE
Downtempo/electronic/alternative/progressive rock music that honestly defies classification, and definitely won’t put you to sleep.
I’m a night owl. This is both due to both psychological and physical disposition as well as occupational. Sometimes though I have to go to sleep relatively early if I have to work early or catch a flight the next morning, and as is the case for most of my waking life, my sleeping life is buffeted by music. I need music to successfully cross the fragile twilight bridge between waking consciousness and sleep. Often times, classical music is the best midwife to a peaceful birth into Morpheus’ realm as I find it very relaxing. Since I still have a clock radio beside my bed, old habits die hard, and sometimes my iPhone needs charging, I set the sleep timer to run to an NPR station that plays classical music overnight. Sometimes, if I have to go to bed really early, I catch an NPR program called Echoes, which plays ambient, downtempo, and gentle electronica. Often times though, long running host John Diliberto, who’s musical tastes are rooted in the likes of the British Invasion bands, and Pink Floyd, plays music from artists who take influence from them and other more mainstream rock bands. I discovered Whitehorse through Echoes, and recently discovered another, not so ambient or electronic band, although they are that as well, while attempting to fall asleep to Diliberto’s playlists. Obviously, when I heard the tracks he played off of All India Radio’s (AIR) newest release, SPACE, I obviously couldn’t get to sleep as my ever inquisitive mind couldn’t get enough of what I was hearing. I ended up not getting to sleep very early that night, but the discovery of All India Radio’s music was worth it.
All India Radio is a band out of Australia that is comprised primarily of guitarist and keyboardist Martin Kennedy who was a member of the band Pray TV and cross collaborates with fellow Aussie Steve Kilbey of the band The Church. Kennedy’s music, as quoted by Diliberto on the Echoes July CD of the Month page, “has…a sound ranging from ambient to downtempo, progressive rock to space music, electronica to shoegaze.” Diliberto also goes on to tout the Pink Floyd influence on SPACE, even discussing the artwork for the album being the original, unused, artwork depicting an eclipse by David A. Hardy that almost became the cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon (an image of which is reproduced above). Anyone familiar with Pink Floyd will immediately hear what Diliberto is referencing as regards the Floydian influences on SPACE, and I really cannot explain them better, or review the album itself any better than Diliberto already has at the Echoes site.
I can though comment on the fact that, for an album highly influenced by Pink Floyd, it’s definitely one of AIR’s least rock sounding albums. Kennedy’s (and on one track, Kilbey’s) guitar is heard here, but there’s a much more prevalent synth presence on the album than I was expecting when I listened to it all the way through. The album’s opening track, “Vega,” is the album’s most Floydian sounding song. It has electric guitar and the type of synth breaks that evoke Floyd at their most cosmic sounding. The album’s second track, “Monsters” for which a video was made and features long time AIR collaborative vocalist Leona Grey, is much more heavily influenced by Gary Numan (as Diliberto rightly acknowledges-and his influence is all over the album as well), but I hear more of Vangelis in it than Numan, at least at the outset. As the song progresses, and Grey’s lovely, soulful, bluesy vocals take center stage, more of what composes the distinctive AIR sound bleeds in. The vocals, guitar, live drums, and bass guitar all outweigh the synths and atmospheric conjurings here. “Monsters” is a soft/prog rock type of song that distinguishes AIR from fellow labeled ambient, electronica, or downtempo bands. This genre defying trend continues with “Heirs of Neptune.” Like “Monsters” it has guitar, live drums, and bass as its foundation upon which keyboards and some looping synths oscillate. Unlike “Monsters” though, “Heirs of Neptune” is a ponderous 13 minutes and 19 seconds long. Around a third of the way through, “Heirs of Neptune” devolves into a long ambient break that feels like it really could have been shorter. Couple that with the near white noise break that occurs about two thirds of the way through, and what could have been the album’s centerpiece becomes a track that will most likely get skipped over on repeat listens unless one is listening to the song in their headphones only. “Holding” pairs itself well with “Monsters” by featuring the album’s second most traditional song construction and more of Grey’s beautiful vocals. The sinister sounding opening to “Eurydice in Scarlett” is fitting considering the mythological tragedy that is Eurydice’s (and Orpheus’) tale. Heavy laden with synths, its trippy beat, and echoing live drums that evoke the mental image of something, or someone, being yanked back out of reach (as Eurydice was when Orpheus turned around), “Eurydice in Scarlett” is perhaps the album’s most dance club ready, and image heavy, song, but also one of its best.
“Anja’s Eternal Light” is aurally evocative of Brian Eno’s atmospheric work (betraying yet another influence beyond the Floydian one here on SPACE), and makes some of the album’s best use of its sparse electric guitar lines. “Theo’s Sunlight Dream” is the album’s most straightforward rock song that is primarily propelled by its electric guitar riffs.“Sonda IV” ambiently finishes out this cosmic saga of an album that skillfully probes both the outer space of our vast universe and the equally vast metaphoric spaces that exist between the residents of one of the universe’s small specks.
SPACE is another entry into a catalogue of music by a band that I am having the pleasure of just discovering, and enjoying. All India Radio has releases that range from mostly ambient to borderline rock, but everything I’ve heard has been complex and interesting. Sometimes not falling asleep to music you intended to ends up being a blessing in disguise. Even if your eyes the next day look like half eclipsed moons themselves.