RSS feed RSS Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook 15 Questions 15 Questions

Astralasia: A Coloured In Dream

img  Tobias Fischer

We're living in the age of quotes. Bach chorales are woven into Dub tunes. Techno producers are recreating classical compositions. Pianists are interpreting Techno tracks. Fate's a cycle, life's a loop, it all comes back, it all moves in circles: Fashion is harking back to the 60s. Rock stars are emulating the 70s. Pop producers are referencing the 80s. Dance is looking for inspiration in the 90s. And radio stations are happily playing tracks from five different decades and juxtaposing them with the hits of today. The members of Astralasia have seen quite a few of these trends come and go, watching them pass by from inside the eye of the storm. When Acid was rocking the clubs, their „Politics of Ecstacy“ held up Timothy Leary's ambient mirror to the jilted generation. When the world discovered Downbeat and Chillout, their exotically tinged Psy-Trance-anthem „Hashishin“ set the dancefloor on fire. They remixed rock bands when the idea still sounded bizarre and had the favour returned when the trend was already over. Over the years, parts of their work have been considered passe, progressive and classic – or, not untypically, all of these at once. In short: For more than twenty years, it would seem, the band have been a constant on the electronic music scene without ever adhering to the dogmas of the here and now.

On a first listen, „A Coloured In Dream“ seems to reinforce this impression.  The title track opens with a big-bang-like blast of Space-riffing and delirious guitar solos, seagues into a passage of 21st century Berlin-school sequencing and closes on a note of cosmic Jazz. Side-spanning „Room7“ takes listeners on a meditative journey from slow-grooving soundscapes, ultradeep bass fields and cascades of shimmering chimes to a sweet and quiet microsound-finale. „Lambslide“, finally, is a thinly disguised (or rather quite plainly packaged) tribute to Pink Floyd's „Sheep“, which the band play almost like a cover version of the original's first two minutes, extending the introduction into a piece in its own right and focusing on atmospherics where Roger Waters and company would resolve the tension into a hypnotic Rock-beat: A Rhodes is playfully placing seventh-chords in cyberspace, icecold urban strings are menacingly piercing their fabric, mysterious choral voices are harmonising in the distance and a Saxophone is absentmindedly floating on top, repeating the same melody ad infinitum.

Quite obviously, Astralasia are not looking at Krautrock from a technical perspective. They don't seem to be working with vintage tube amplifiers or living in a kibbutz. They're not trying to copy the pioneers or to ride the timemachine back to 1968. And even though they know their crazy game of genres and styles can not possibly work on paper, the point is in doing it anyway, in transcending all borders and seeing where the current takes you. As such, thinking in album-spanning concepts and ten to fifteen minute long tracks is not part of a historical game to the formtion, but in fact comes completely naturally, constituting just one alternative compositional option among many. „A Coloured in Dream“ accordingly never feel like a collage but simply like a band uncovering uncanning parallels between the past and the present using them as points of departure for something entirely their own. Adding specific references merely constitutes the sonic equivalent of including in-jokes and cameos in movies: They can add to the experience without being absolutely indispensible in terms of the story. Aptly, you can never quite tell whether the music was performed in the studio by a fully-fledged band or by one man in his bedroom. Whether it makes use of software synthesis or analogue hardware. Whether it was recorded in a single explosion of creativity or meticulously sculpted over the course of three long years.

What seems certain however, is that Astralasia's aesthetics are foremost the result of the formation's incessant touring and passionate live performances. More than anything, „A Coloured in Dream“ benefits from their knowledge of how to build sustainable narrative arcs and playing with moods, of guiding an audience along a razorblade of suspenseful motives and breaking the silence with a precisely-timed erruption of Noise. It draws its power from the fact that all of these ideas have been systematically tried and tested over and over again, honed, refined and tweaked for maximum effect and then organically reassembled in the studio.

Without a single doubt, Astralasia know their Bach canon from their Dub tune, their Techno from their Mozart and their 60s from their 80s. In fact, it is precisely because of their deep understanding of these influences that they are capable of referencing them without falling prey to the curse of the quote. Life may be a cycle but for the length of this album at least, it for once doesn't seem like a neverending loop.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Astralasia
Homepage: Tonefloat Records

Related articles

No-Man: "Mixtaped"; "Speak"; "Schoolyard Ghosts"
Famous before they die: Documenting ...
Robert Schroeder: "Taste It"; "30 Years After"
Far beyond the milky way: ...
Klaus Schulze & Lisa Gerrard: "Farscape"; "Come Quietly"
A License to provoke: Schulze ...
Caspian: "Tertia"
Not the same river twice: ...
LP Feature/ Sand Snowman: "I'm not Here"; "The Twilight Game"
Instruments take over: Delicate acoustic ...

Partner sites