Music to Die Alone in Space To, by Spruke
Suggested by Stuart Emerson
I did not enjoy this album.
First, it’s obviously a concept piece. Second, it’s massively ambient, full of plinks and plonks and twangs and bings, as if someone has dropped a box full of primary school percussion instruments down a spiral staircase. Third, it feels amateur, somehow, in need of a cupful of post-production oomph. And fourth, the song titles are all appended with codes, in the format “Axxx”, where the X’s are numerical values. It’s less an album tracklist, more a roadside A-Z or satnav bus route.
There’s a story, of sorts, running through Music to Die Alone in Space To. An astronaut is lost in space, doomed to die a lonely death. This comes through in sections of female narration, starting in the opening track Adrift A66 (Scotch Corner to Penrith), continuing through Uncertainty Principle A81 (Glasgow to Callendar), on to Spaceksick A76 (Kilmarnock to Dumfries) and finishing with Distant A92 (Dunfermline to Blackdog, through Fife, Dundee, Angus, Aberdeenshire, and Aberdeen City). It’s a ship’s log of sorts, recording our intrepid hero’s final moments before being devoured by the blackness of an infinite void. It sounds other-worldly, but not in a particularly designed way. It has a narration, acted sound, as if it’s a voice-over for a survival horror XBox title. It helps shape the narrative, but does little to elevate the drama.
Musically, there’s some attempt to layer the story from a beginning, through middle, to end. For example, the earlier tracks, such as Refract A71 (Edinburgh to Irvine) and Rotations A139 (Stockton-on-Tees to Billingham) are light affairs, with twinkle-twangle sounds and a mellow yet pulsing bass. As things progress into later tracks such as Pulsar A102 (Charlton to Clapton) and the final track Oblivion A142 (Chatteris to Newmarket), things get decidedly more unnerving. The bass throbs, the synths menace, and the tone gets bleaker by the second.
My standout track is the rather brooding Void A135 (Stockton-on-Tees through Eaglescliffe to Yarm). It has a vibrating, hypnotic quality, almost disquieting and rather intense, given the framework in which it squats. I still didn’t really enjoy it, but I appreciated the change. However, if you want to listen to one track that sums up the entire album, go for Absolute Zero A105 (Canonbury to Enfield Town), which is in many ways the nadir of humanity’s creative slump. Random computerised warbling followed by blips and bongs and swishes and sploots, into a gentle winding down of everything, before the return of all of the previous stuff, again, together. It’s truly the nipple on the bell curve of banality.
Music to Die Alone in Space To gets a paltry 4/10. While I don’t quite hate it with the fire of a thousand suns, it’s very much a musical black hole, and nothing can escape its merciless pull. If you’re after A1 entertainment, this ain’t it.
(St Paul’s Cathedral to Edinburgh.)