Wednesday 30 November 2016

Spaceheads – Laughing Water

Electric Brass Records EBR006 

Sometimes it seems that Spaceheads are such a self-contained unit, they need nothing else. Put simply, Andy Diagram covers the melody and Dick Harrison takes care of the rhythm. With such a clear allocation of roles, and an equally unambiguous objective – to storm the sonic boundaries – Spaceheads have been active for some quarter of a century and, until the ideas dry up (and there’s no sign of that), there seems no reason for them to stop doing what they do. The press release, with unkind justice, refers to Diagram and Harrison as ‘ancient astronauts’. Here they come to earth in a graceful landing. 

Their last, A Short Ride on the Arrow of Time, proposed a jaunty excursion through space and time, just like the title said. Laughing Water is just right too, for music that is consistently adventurous and witty. ‘Be Calmed’, with its found sounds (someone is playing with the dial on an analog radio) is like a travelogue posted from the poolside of some luxurious continental hotel, with the guests too blissed to stir. Recording for the album, so the credits inform, began in Geneva in 2005 and finished in Cheshire in 2016. Actually much of the set has a meditative quality, presumably the Swiss counterpart to Norwegian pastoral. Music as individual and spontaneous as this is uncommonly open to the spirit of place. The passing siren, the last sound heard on the album, has a definite Swiss feel.     

But wait. Something has happened betwixt and between A Short Ride on the Arrow of Time. Laughing Water contains a sterling contribution from bassist Vincent Bertholet (of Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp), which gives the grooves a new limber elastic resonance. Otherwise, Dick Harrison’s beats are as astringent as ever, and Diagram’s flow of melody – utilising trumpet, loops and samples – still continuous and inexhaustible. And the collective chant contributed by friends on ‘Machine Molle’ – “Everybody needs a piece of the world to find peace in the world” – is at one with the Surrealists’ notion that human society can only recreate itself through joy. Here Spaceheads depart from the spirit of our mean and fearful times. ‘Quantum Shuffle’ and ‘Pedalo Power’ are characteristically dance friendly. This is social music for Zurich and Manchester Dadas, by way of Geneva, but absolutely everyone is welcome to join the party. 

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