I’ll tell you the moment that I really get into, really start to ‘get’ this record. It’s on track 3, ‘Notaki’. Spacerockers, it’s ‘Dream Of Isis’. I mean, it’s not actually ‘Dream Of Isis’, a Hawkwind song so obscure that even the Hawks themselves haven’t dug it out, dusted it off, and reintroduced it to the set. (For those who can’t bring this one to mind, it’s the B-side to ‘Back On The Streets’, their standalone 7” recorded circa Astounding Sounds… that slightly jazzy, partly funky, partly experimental and touching on oriental with indecipherable chanting, oddity). It’s not clockwork and regimented, or minimalist but energetic, like ‘Dream Of Isis’, instead its organic and spacey, but there’s an echo of it in its bass-lines and its plaintive background chanting and the frenetically busy feel of the whole thing. Coincidence… or an influence? I don’t know! It’s bloody great and I’d love to think that within this new space rock there’s a nod or glance back at something also great, but now overlooked, which ‘Dream Of Isis’ is. I might just be way off though… or properly way out, man, like the thoroughly exciting and engaging ‘Notaki’ is.
Pure Phase Ensemble 4 include Ride’s Mark Gardener and Ray Dickaty, once of Spiritualized and from that, and the musing above, you can tell that this comes from that crossroads out in the ether where shoegaze and spacerock somehow meet and condense the 70s and the 90s into one soundscape that owes progressive and indie and twists it into something contemporary. The band was put together specifically for the annual Gdansk SpaceFest event – I’ll quote here from the PR for this release: “The city of Gdansk plays host to this blossoming music festival each year in the first week of December, at which time numerous select musicians from Poland and abroad gather to take part in a special workshop series. They collectively compose a concert's worth of music, which they then present live to the festival-goers. Each year, this unique performance is recorded live and subsequently released as an LP.” The idea is that each festival is co-curated alongside Dickaty and Nasiono Records’ Karol Schwarz, and this one fell to Gardener.
"For me, this is interesting - it's perfect because it reminds me in some ways of how some of the early Ride songs came together... I didn't come in with a script, nor does Ray. There is no pre-work on this. It was just completely spontaneous," explains Mark Gardener. "Sometimes music like that is good before things get thought about too much and worked on too much. That can kill the energy sometimes. Of course some things have got to be worked and developed, but in this scenario, with such little time and to get an interesting set together, I think it's been good to keep it fresh and not over-worked."
It’s a hugely atmospheric set infused with melodic playing and, at points, some perfectly crystalline vocals, setting itself out into the vastness of space and drifting off in an interstellar, kaleidoscopic daydream haze. Bright colours, bright lights but still ethereal, intangible. It travels as though everything is about the journey, dancing out across stars and rejoicing in the way it effortlessly disperses out into multiple pathways.
Photo © Pawel Jozwiak
What Gardener and collaborators have created, what they’ve composed and sent forth, is music with heart. It envelops its listeners, pulls them into that journey, and floats out, all kindred spirits together in our collective mind’s eye. A mind journey. ‘It’s not over/until it’s over’ sings Gardener on ‘Morning Rise’, a warming and comforting mesh of sounds with an uplifting, life-affirming lilt. You can hear it, let it fill your headphones or your headspace, and want it never to be over.