Shards Of Reason – Satellites
(s/r and iTunes)
By: Brett Spaceman
Shards Of Reason is an ambient, electronica project with nods to progressive rock and jazz. Proof that good music can be found anywhere these days. Even Birmingham. Good album title, this. Satellites is a reference to our moon and many other moons of the solar system besides. (See variously Titan, Europa, Io, etc.) Shards Of Reason take us orbit spotting then, on this their third record (I think) but first with a new line up. (Mainstay Phil Lawton is joined this time around by Beth Freeman.) But as well as the celestial name-checks, the objects, Satellites also references those peripheral subjects that perpetually circle our own lives.
The LP begins with ‘Luna’ which has a beat cycle a step away from Jungle. (If the drum and double bass genre didn’t already exist, Shards Of Reason just invented it.) The music overlaps an old, 1960’s, US, Space Race speech that I suspect was Kennedy. I’ve always had a thing for the ‘speech with music’ ensemble going back to the days of Ambrose Reynolds (of Pink Industry). Luna is also my wife’s nickname so I’m biased. (Sue me, I’m not worth a nickel anyway)
Shards Of Reason have presented us their own Lunar Suite with this album. Satellites could be a modern day successor to Holst. Fans of n5MD stalwarts SubtractiveLAD and Arc Lab will find much to interest them on this album, particularly on material such as ‘Early Morning Eruption…’ which shifts more toward Vangelis territory. ‘Phobos & Deimos’ are rendered more ghosts of mars, than moons in flickering, ephemeral glory. ‘Cryogenic Slumbers’ is another delight. Again it’s like a symphony – this time Górecki’s more hopeful alter-ego.
The more urgent, beat-laden pieces (such as ‘Final Descent To Triton’) nudge the record subtly toward Psychedelic Space rock. Not to the extent of an Ash Ra Tempel, but maybe something Robert Fripp might have conjured if Pro Tools had existed in the Seventies. I think these pieces would suit documentary or gaming. Then it’s back to gentle ambience. But Just when the album threatens to become innocuous (‘Ice Station Europa’) it re-rails with the beautiful piano refrain of ‘Io Fly-by’. Wowser! (Can I say that?) Traces of Erik Satie here. The jazz influences return and remain for album closer ‘Hydra’.
There’s a lot of junk orbiting our planet. Thankfully this album doesn’t add to that. After reams of weighty, provocative and too clever by half ambient offerings of late it’s nice to get back to something uncomplicated yet crafted. With a band name suggestive of fragmented sanity, don’t expect a jarring, wrong footing, cattle prod to the head, mindfuck of a listen. Satellites is unafraid to be relaxing and melodic in the way classic old-school, back in the days when it was called “new age”, ambient, was supposed to be. Escapist? Of course it is. The album offers any number of escapes. Ten tracks, ten outposts, and a whole universe utterly divorced from the humdrum of modern life.
I now plan to watch the end sequence of Solaris with the sound muted, and this playing instead. I offer no apology for this behaviour.
Satellites is available now via iTunes. For the physical release I would recommend going directly via the band website.