Banner Photo by Joseph Nguyen
I have my coffee in front of me and I’ve just clicked on the Origin link for the first time. Naturally, a rush of intuitive observations come to mind, like At-the-Drive-in without the punch of Cedric, Prog-Rock in general, metal hair bands from the 80s ( I think it’s the tone of the guitar), and I’m imagining the space man from the band name, of course. It’s like when you know the new Halloween Redux movie is starting, the popcorn crunches, your 3-D glasses have a fingerprint in the top-right corner, but you’re just intently waiting for that mask to appear for the first time. I’m on an all-out manhunt for the Origin of the Spaceman.
I tend to associate space with ambience rather than bang bang, but everyone has their own story. A few years ago, I spent quite a bit of time researching space sounds when I was putting together my own album, and the eerie nature of the frequencies of Venus or Saturn almost suck you into a chair like a black hole. It can be life-changing knowing that all of this energy circulates through the cosmos without you really paying much attention to the grander picture. Its literally riveting, like your body was being welded at the seams. And so when I read the song/album/single title, I imagined something of like The Mars Volta 's spiraling dreamscape… I imagined a concert of noises, even warped sounds of conversations on the subway slowed down to 50bpm. I honestly expected the imagery of whales in space and rumbling, stomach churning tones. I was kind of in the right direction regarding the prog-rock element, but not so precise on the rest of my anticipation. Maybe its my love of classic bands like Led Zeppelin and The Mars Volta that move me to reject things like Dream Theater and Rammstein as lacking innovation and interpretation. There is music that is of formula and there is music that has structural theory. I have to be honest. I feel like I’m meeting the big boss in an old Nintendo game listening to this. But I will, on the other hand, say that I know playing this kind of music is not easy or whimsically thrown together. In fact there is a great amount of care taken into the crafting of these sounds. But I first want to break the music into two basic spaces: Introvert and Extrovert.
This is the part where the music quietly takes a breath and repositions itself in relation to the “other” part. Don’t get me wrong, I hear more than two parts. But the break, in my opinion should be less box-like, less repetitive. It’s nice to have a riff you like, but send it through the tale rather than just loop it. Give the string a special voice, fall off the metronome for a minute, deliver something as organic as the life that created it. The heart slows down and speeds up based on emotions and the events that impact those emotions. So I am a big fan of mutilating the tempo and breathing through an introvert section. Make it a whole minute long, at least 40 seconds. This allows the ear to rest and absorb the barrage that comes later.
Now, I may be wrong in calling this the extrovert part. When I made music like this years ago, the quiet parts were the extrovert sections and the louder parts acted as the introvert. The louder sections are so mathematically engaging to the artist that you almost feel lost and one with the rest of the guys. You almost feel like the cymbal crashes are coming from the guitar when you hit that one note. This unification of effort is very rewarding as a musician. The entire orchestration of making this kind of music is solely set upon the reading and tight changes of the melodic runs. However, it is very clear to me that the guitar player is the head of the show here. The drums are thundering, but the voice in the guitar tells me that this/these guy(s) put a great deal of time and effort into the construction of the patterns in the song. Unfortunately, the patterns sound very much like… just patterns. Again, I think the repetition is a bit much. Listen to Drunken Ship of Lanterns and you can engage Omar’s ‘almost-repetition' alongside meandering, trailing thought processes, the reinvention of stories and climactic elements that tell the listener that the story is in fact a phenomenon of what is real. In Hold My Hand Spaceman, I am having difficulty finding the pulse of this animal. I hear a life force deep inside, but it’s more icing than cake, more fretwork than a sitdown and deep discussion about what this song actually means. I would like to see the band break from the calm and storm tirade and add some middle ground. I think a producer should have suggested to these guys that middle ground is crucial. A motivational speaker isn’t either yelling or whispering. There must be organic tension, a rise and fall to the orgasm. No one goes from studying words in a dictionary to a psilocybin mind blast in a fraction of a second. Yes we do get startled or inspired at the drop of a hat, but life flows, it grows.
I would also like to see the band step away from fixed genre a little bit and reach into their story a bit more. When I peruse the Facebook page, I read nothing about the motivation of the band. There is no story. There is no cerebral entity telling me that this thing will last longer than a year or two. I would suggest that if you do want it to last, you have to get into a book and start bringing that discussion to the table. Random inspiration fades and when your legs get tired, the body will fall. So strengthening your foundation now will grow your future later. It is difficult to judge just one song, especially since the amount of work that went into this is by no means an illustration of lazy. But being able to do it is very different than calculating its long-term impact. You want people listening to this in 5yrs from now saying, the recording is alright, but the message just punches me in the nuts. As it is now, there’s no nut punching. You could put them on the kitchen table and they're safe at this point. Don’t mean to be harsh, fellas, but you have to find that beast inside and let the primal energy speak and flow. It feels far too controlled and contrived at the moment. Its not a gear issue. You don’t need to buy anything new. You just need to simply reach out into that void, close your eyes and feel for that hand of the spaceman, himself. And by all means, don’t stop. Challenge yourself to go that one step further. Rage, mi amigos. That’s what people need; honest, raw, un-contained rage.
Hold My Hand Spaceman:
Written by Christopher Braga, Jonathan Basilious, Matthew Iannuzzi & Matthew Nguyen
Engineered by Matthew Iannuzzi Produced by Josiah Clelland & Matthew Iannuzzi Mixed & Mastered by Josiah Clelland
Artwork by Sam Reynolds