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Astralasia: Volumes 1 and 2

One of the primary and best respected exponents of the space rock/trance style, Astralasia have appeared at WOMAD, Glastonbury and Phoenix festivals as well as many other smaller events in the rave scene over the last 20 years. This compilation is based on the contents of two 8-track recordings originally released as cassettes in the late 1980s. In this early line-up, Ed Genis and Mike Messer's slide guitars are teamed with Garry Moonboot on Didgeridoo and Kim Oz, vox. The eerie opening appearance of seagull samples immediately made me think of Hawkwind's early albums. As the sequence segues into the riff for "Astral Australia" you can hear a slowed down version of the figure for Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come's Time Captives. Didgeridoo adds the ethnic edge as the riff morphs into a march beat.

The band is noted in later life for its thumping dance beats as it covertly imported its hippie heritage more centrally into the acid house club movement but these early tracks have a slower-building, spaced out feel to them. "Snake Charmer" typifies this with its fading gongs gradually being replaced by a soft beat, misty synths and echoing guitar. Volume 2 gets us into a groove straight away on "Set me free" with its catchy juxtaposition of electronic claps and drums over a tapestry of weaving synth and female vocals. You can see the dance floor heaving on this one. "Stratosphere" has an early electro-pop feel to it you remember some of those from 69/70 when the synth was just getting off the ground? Some very tasty guitar emerges though as the track develops and moves us out into the rippling waters of space-rock. One of the best pieces on the album for my money.

"In your imagination" is spoken as if through a hypnotic trance and then melts into the epic track "Strange Celestial Dream". Lead man, Swordfish's emulated brass instruments are joined by his synths in this Gong-like yet powerful floating-in-space illusion. Two high quality previously unreleased tracks ("Midnight Hour" is a particularly impressive pop tune while "Blank formatted diskette" is very reminiscent of early Porcupine Tree) complete the album which is probably more for the long time fan and collector than the interested outsiders who would be better pointed in the way of Astralogy (which contains such classics as "Hashishin", "Sul-E stomp" and "Univeria Zekt") or the double CD, Away with the Fairies.

Track Listing
1. And in a few moments
2. Astral Australia
3. Snake Charmer
4. Set me free
5. Stratosphere
6. In your imagination
7. Strange Celestial Dream
8. Midnight Hour
9. Blank formatted diskette

Added: June 10th 2008
Reviewer: Richard Barnes
Related Link: Voiceprint Records
Hits: 1767
Language: english

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