Monday, 27 April 2009

Space Mirrors - Majestic 12: A Hidden Presence

I must confess that I’ve rather lost track of what my old friend Alisa Coral has been up to since hearing her 2004 Space Mirrors CD, The Darker Side of Art which was released on Andy Garibaldi’s Dead Earnest label. Since then she’s released another, Memories of the Future, through the Greek label Sleazy Rider Records (in 2006) and now she’s back again with this release, her second through Sleazy Rider.

First up, it’s a bit unfair of me not to credit Space Mirrors as a band, because alongside Alisa is her long-time creative partner (another of those long distance collaborations so beloved of Spacerock bands it seems), guitarist Michael Blackman, who also makes music under the Alien Dreams banner and vocalists (perhaps new for this album?) Martyr Lucifer and Amber. In addition, this time around the band have recruited welcome guest appearances from two of the most ubiquitous contributors on the Spacerock scene, the father of the whole scene, Nik Turner, and the exceptionally talented electric violinist Cyndee Lee Rule, complete with her now legendary ‘Viper’ violin. Damn good starting point then.

A quick summation, then, about Space Mirrors: Alisa Coral is a multi-instrumentalist Russian musician who attracted favourable coverage at the start of the decade, when her Neutron Star instrumental album got her noticed in the Spacerock arena. The Darker Side of Art saw Alisa collaborating on-line with Australian Michael Blackman producing something that had a clear line from Hawkwind and Ozric Tentacles (whilst being denser in texture than either) whilst on Memories of the Future they took inspiration from the Dune novels of SF writer Frank Herbert.
Their new album leans heavily on those staple ingredients of Spacerock: alien visitations, Roswell, Area 51, and UFO conspiracies. Now, there’s part of me that wants the genre to move away from these concepts. I’m sure there’s plenty who’ll disagree with me, but I’m of the view that we are have reached a point where the general UFO mythos has been largely debunked and, from a Spacerock viewpoint, Hawkwind’s foray into the subject in the mid-90s is arguably the pinnacle of using UFO mythology and touchstones in this context.

Is it, therefore, redundant to write about these subjects? Not if it’s done well of course, and the lyrics here are a cohesive joining-up of associated themes so that aside from the key elements of UFOlogy, we have secret societies, ancient alien civilisations, and conspiracy theories. Plenty then to get our teeth into in this extremely well-realised concept album; it’s dark, mysterious and heavy with a huge sense of atmosphere. The vocals on the opening ‘Tunguska’ (from the credits, I’m not clear whether this is Alisa or Amber) have an unearthly quality that blends perfectly with the overall tone of the music, itself in places a little reminiscent of the Space Ritual opening ‘Born to Go’ but more expansive and varied, whilst Nik’s sax playing adds another dimension to the density of the surrounding guitar and drums. Martyr’s vocals elsewhere are guttural, variously credited as ‘clean, screaming and growling’, giving an abrasive Space Metal feel to his tracks.

Certainly not always an easy to listen to album, this record is challenging and startling, possessing huge presence – Martyr’s vocals are defiant and aggressive whilst the music is heavy and bold in its construction without losing sight of the need to be melodic. There is light and shade, Nik playing some lovely flute at the end of ‘Dreamland II: Area 51’ whilst his dialogue on ‘Krill Report’ is well realised. This is a well thought-out work, definitely residing at the extreme Metal end of Spacerock.

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