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Alien Planetscapes:Life On Earth
Label: US Galactus/AP Music, Inc.,
191-32 116th Avenue, St. Albans, NY 11412.  1997.
Web site: http://www.borntogo.com/ap_01.html
Phone: (718) 723-1662.

The brainchild of veteran space-rocker Doug Walker, since 1980 Alien
Planetscapes has recorded and performed intense progressive spacerock in
and around New York.  It's not too much of a stretch to suggest that
Alien Planetscapes is probably America's longest-lasting spacerock
outfit. With Walker as its hub, the band has delved into all kinds of
dark sonic explorations, frequently suggesting great early spacey rock
and jazz bands like Hawkwind, Soft Machine, Gong and King Crimson.

Over the years Alien Planetscapes has released over one hundred
cassette-only recordings -- a mind-boggling output -- with all of this
effort culminating in the 1997 CD Life On Earth, on the band's own
label, Galactus music.  In addition to this album, the band has appeared
on three Cleopatra Records compilations/tributes, and has recently
released a special edition CD-R of some early 1990s excellent work by
one of its larger incarnations.

The album opens with 'Radiation King', an intense out-there heavy
rocker that reminded me of Hawkwind around Warrior On The Edge
Of Time, filtered through the cosmic dust of a Starless And Bible
Black era King Crimson improvisation.  This more than sets the tone
for the rest of the material on the CD, and is the shortest of the
pieces presented at 5:01.

Track two, 'Chris In Space', is a complex layering of spacey electronics,
full of pulses, bleeps and blurs -- taking me back to Hawkwind's 
Space Ritual days.  The heavy guitar and the sax playing will make
Hawknauts feel right at home, especially when the rhythm section blast
the rocket ship off into orbit.  Tasteful Mellotron wavescapes compliment
the sound perfectly in the way the Simon House used 'tron on the mid-
70s Hawkwind releases.  Since Mellotron isn't listed as an instrument
in the credits, I must compliment Doug Walker on some very skillfully
utilized 'tron samples that sound very much like the real thing.

A very dark ambient intro, built around effects and flute opens the
third track 'Gravel'.  Out of this the band transformed itself into
a jamming groove, also reminiscent of early Hawkwind.  Once the heavy
riffing guitars joined in, this ship was plunging into trippy psychedelic
space.

Track four, 'Love Shack Radio', continues the heavy space-rock approach
of 'Radiation King', the band finding a powerful aggressive groove and
working it right to the point where it would get tiresome if not reined
in.  At 5:07, it's a perfect length.

The fifth track finds Alien Planetscapes showing more of its jazzy side,
traversing territory that will seem familiar to fans of Soft Machine
Third (my favourite early SM release).  This is cleverly alluded
to in the title of the piece, 'Soft Martian'. The band unfolds its array
of chops, stretching out effortlessly to deliver the kind of free-flowing
psychedelic jazz-rock that made early Soft Machine and Gong so much
fun.

The extreme experimental music side of the band surfaces on track six,
the highly imaginative avant-garde 'Birds Of St. Albans'.  This is a wild
excursion into the universe of spaced-out electronics-laden sound-effects.
Take Pink Floyd's effects work on 'Dark Side Of The Moon', and move it
several light-years further out into space to get an idea of what this
strange, trippy, hallucigenic, piece is all about.  Clearly these guys are
willing to boldly go out into the void!  If this is too much electronics
for ya, just hit fast forward.

'Lucky 13', the seventh and last tune on the CD, begins with more trippy
electronics, out of which emerges a lurching, menacing, King Crimson meets
Hawkwind psychedelic rave-up.

Who would like this?  Any lover of intense spacerock should get off on
this, especially if they also have a taste for the dark jazzy excursions
of early Soft Machine and King Crimson.

Who would hate it?  If you are put off by squonking, dive-bombing
electronics, stay away 'cos there's lots of it.

The best tracks:  "Chris In Space", "Soft Martian", "The Birds Of St.
Albans".

The track that best represents the style and approach of Alien
Planetscapes: "Chris In Space".

Star rating: 3 1/2 out of 5.  I'd probably have given 4 except that the
dive-bombing blipping synths and wild electronics occupied a bit too
much space in the mix for my tastes.  Having never heard these guys
before I was very impressed, and look eagerly forward to hearing
other albums.

The Band:
Matthew Block -- drums, percussion, effects.
Chris Altenhoff -- bass guitars, effects, electronics.
Blaise Slwula -- alto and soprano saxes, CB radio, effects.
Rob Alfonso -- guitars, devices, effects.
Doug Walker -- synthesizers, sequencers, organ, electric keyboards,
electronic reeds and flutes, effects.

Arranged and produced by Galactus/AP Music.
Engineered by Douglas Arbuckle.
Recorded live at Space Station Studio, Queens, NYC.

The Tunes:
1. Radiation King [5:01]
2. Chris In Space [9:15]
3. Gravel [8:30]
4. Love Shack Radio [5:07]
5. Soft Martian [11:13]
6. Birds Of St. Albans [12:36]
7. Lucky 13 [8:19]

Steven Davies-Morris (SDM) -- A 21st Century Schizoid Man
sdavmor@systemstheory.net

http://systemstheory.net



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