Sunday, October 25, 2009

Take whenever necessary - Spiritualized, "Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space"

When you push the play button on Spiritualized’s 1997 album, Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space, you actually hear the album’s title coming to you over a PA system – and floating in space is exactly what you feel you’re doing, with a gentle, swaying, floating melody that promises to take your pain away.

It’s a fitting beginning for an album with liner notes that read like a pharmaceutical product information leaflet. And it certainly is druggy music – as much about spiritual drugs as chemical ones. There’s even the London Community Gospel Choir there. But if there’s anything of a revivalist gathering here, it’s one that you would only ever find yourself at after doing a few tabs of LSD.

Vocals, guitars, keyboards, organs, percussion and a whole orchestra, it seems, of electronica all mix and meld together, whether in swinging rock, like in ‘Come together’, or in slow, spaced-out shoegaze, like in ‘Stay with me’, becoming rich and thick and organic – noise with a tune.

There’s an intense unity of purpose in this music, no matter what it’s doing. Listen to the way that slow, solemn, calming passages alternate with loud, wild chaos in ‘All my thoughts’, while holding everything together like two sides of the one coin, sparking you up and calming you down like a day and night analgesic.

It’s the whole, much more than the parts, that you notice on this album. Even the fantastic guitar riffs on ‘Electricity’ are woven in as part of the fabric rather than stepping forward, making a spectacle of themselves, in the footlights. Simple lines that start to tell you a bare and unadorned story soon get drowned in floods of sound, like in ‘Home of the brave’, as if nothing is allowed to hog the limelight here. It’s the forest, not the trees, that matters.

This album takes you through so many paths as all rich, dense forests do - climbing up into the sunlight here, descending down into the shadows there. You'll love the vastness of 'No God ony religion', with more tunes and things going on than you can poke a stick at; but if you have ever been deeply sad you are surely going to feel the pain, and the pain relief, all over again when you listen to ‘Broken heart’ – music that seems to tell you that, in times of sadness, consolation is only a drink away.

Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space is an album of big music. Its music washes over you, sometimes sweeping you up, like in the gospel-infused ‘Cool waves’, sometimes throwing you back down, like in the bleak drugworld blues of 'Cop shoot cop ... ' a fantastic 16 minute track with an awesome anguished instrumental interlude and a grim love song at the end, where lines like “The desert is any place without you my friend/And I will love you even if I’m in it til the end” make you think that the lover is not a person, but the next shot of heroin.

Rightly or wrongly, this album helps you forget for an hour or so that there's a plain and mundane world out there. The liner notes’ suggested dose for Spiritualized is “once, twice daily or as recommended by your doctor or pharmacist”, but I’m inclined to suggest that you take it as often as needed. It might become a bit addictive but, as the leaflet says, it’s to treat your heart and soul – and you can never get too much of that.

Thanks again to Lucas for the introduction.

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