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
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