Space Elevator II (May 25) @SpaceElevatorUK @TheDuchessSpace

Here’s a taste of the new album Space Elevator II coming on May 25 from Space Elevator:

There’s a new mix on the new album of a track from their first album. As a preview, here is the frenetic new video for the song:

Why can’t the Duchess be the new Doctor Who? She’d be amazing…

In the first episode, she could travel back in time to get Genesis to sing a song about her on Duke.

U2’s sad descent into self-pastiche

John Waters pens a scathing indictment of U2’s sad decline over at First Things:

U2 were not natural-born rock ’n’ rollers. Raised in middle-class estates in an area of Dublin where the rivers had been concreted over to build houses, they went in search of the roots of this music that entranced them, scrambling in the mud of the Mississippi for the blue notes that would resonate with the ineffable parts of themselves. They had no particular skills, just raw instinct, street smarts, and five loaves and two fishes’ worth of inchoate talent. They couldn’t play other people’s songs, so they wrote their own, strange lolloping tunes that sounded like they had been made by teenagers from outer space.

They were gauche and naïve. The British rock press hated them, so they went to America, read their way into the spirits of the originals, finding tones and harmonies to match their hearts’ desire and writing songs around them that were like the missing links of the rock ’n’ roll story. Within a few years, they fetched up on the cover of Time as the Greatest Rock ’n’ roll Band in the World. The four Dublin neophytes became the darlings of the dinosaurs, like Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and B.B. King. And they really had broken the code, producing two of the greatest albums to grace the pantheon, The Joshua Tree in 1987 and Achtung Baby four years later.

In the beginning, three of them had been born-again Christians. The exception was Adam, at the time the band’s Dionysian token, now the saintly one abed with his cocoa while Bono burns the candle down the dens of Bacchanalia, his arm around Noel Gallagher.

It’s hard to say where they stand with Jesus these days. He’s still there in (some of) the lyrics, but sometimes you get to thinking that the U2 trajectory looks more and more like a belated discovery of the delights they eschewed in youth, a front-loading of the piety of age followed by an eruption into delayed adolescence.

In the beginning they wore their hearts on their album sleeves, unabashedly proclaiming their faith in songs like “Gloria,” “Tomorrow,” and “40.” After their third album, War, the Christian element became more subtle, and remained so. With Achtung Baby, they went ironic, adapting the Berlin industrial harmonic clangor developed by Bowie and Eno for Low, Heroes, and Iggy Pop’s masterpieces The Idiot and Lust for Life.

But Achtung Baby was the beginning of a Faustian pact, struck at the end of a very tricky tightrope. Next, U2 entered an experimental phase that threw up numerous distinct possibilities. Pop, their 1995 album, was too diverse to be a popular hit, though it contained some of their finest work, and possibly their best song, the psalmsesque blues hymn “Wake Up Dead Man,” a blast of rage at God in the hope He might show Himself in His own defense. And perhaps it was the lukewarn response to that album that caused U2 to steer back into the mainstream in search of the essence of whatever it was that had worked for them in the first place. Panic set in, leading to U2’s creative descent into self-pastiche, while commercially they surged forward in leaps and bounds.

In the end, all you could say is that they settled for less than they promised. Having become themselves by remaining aloof from rock’s narcotics and narcissism, they gradually settled deeper into the embrace of the vacuity they had eschewed. More and more, their public stances seemed to be about attitude, about being cool, about remaining top of the league.

U2 has settled so determinedly into the mainstream of contemporary rock culture that it has now finally waived the role of re-evangelizing the music’s sacred roots, and is accordingly all but redundant. Once a band uniquely capable of standing against the seduction of the material, U2 has become indistinguishable from the herd it has latterly so assiduously courted, volunteering for enslavement to fashion, cool, and emptiness.

Lainey Schooltree’s Badass Rebel Prog @schooltree

Check out this great interview with Lainey Schooltree, in which she offers a sociological meditation on the definition of prog:

There’s a range of self-identifying prog fans, from purists extolling classic conventions to those with more expansive, flexible conceptions of the genre; lots of debate flows from that rift, but it generally falls within the expected confines. Like other art forms and fields in the 21st century, one of the things on the table for the ruling class during social change is relevance; the time for inclusivity as a choice is coming to a close as important social movements (Black Lives Matter, Time’s Up) promote wider understanding of the dynamics of privilege. People of color and women comprise many renowned hip artists and influencers. There are certainly people from various backgrounds making music that qualifies as prog. Whether they choose to identify that way, though, will depend on whether it’s desirable to do so. You and I have talked about wanting to see a rebranding of sorts for prog. Personally I’d like to see it framed as the set of musical preferences chosen by badass rebels who subvert consumerist norms by embracing (and ideally pioneering) unconventional complexities across genres. A take on the rock-n-roll spirit, prizing innovation and experimentation. And since it’s almost sorta kinda cool to be a nerd these days, there’s some hope for popularity (or at least reducing the stigma).

Another thought is that we’re moving toward a more fluid use of genre (not unlike other social paradigm shifts happening right now), which contextualizes how musicians identify. “Progressive” is increasingly likely to be applied as part of a set of descriptors than an identity. It’s less a thing you are and more a thing you do. I think that’s ultimately a good thing for culturally decompartmentalising it. Barriers are being broken down, man. It’s an exciting time to be making stuff, for all its challenges

If you somehow haven’t managed to get Heterotopia yet, well, what are you waiting for?

A badass rebel, indeed, one who is pioneering unconventional complexities across genres…

Chloe Alper, Apprentice of the Universe @chloealper

Chloe Alper, whose magical voice and versatile musicianship was no small contribution to the enduring magic of Pure Reason Revolution, is doing some very interesting solo work these days, creating amazing music that still gives us “something to dream about” — to quote PRR’s first-released song, “Apprentice of the Universe” (April 19, 2004, on Poptones MC5089SCD).

Check out this nifty video for her current project, Tiny Giant, which showcases the witty single “Thirsty,” the first of a double A-side:

The Glass Bead Game: from MP3 to DNA

Now I have finally discovered the music storage format of the future:

While CDs only last a few decades, DNA—yes, the same stuff that contains our genetic instructions—is thought to be “readable” for over a million years, if stored in the right conditions. So Mezzanine is going to be stored in DNA molecules, encased in tiny glass beads.

The scientists who will do the encoding work at the Functional Materials Laboratory at ETH Zurich, a Swiss university. According to Robert Grass, a professor at the lab, their technique should ensure the album lasts for “hundreds to thousands of years.”

“While the information stored on a CD or hard disk is a sequence of zeros and ones, biology stores genetic information in a sequence of the four building blocks of DNA: A, C, G and T,” said Grass.

Mezzanine will be cut down to 15 megabytes using the Opus music compression format, and the data will be split into 920,000 fragments, each of which will be encoded in a short DNA strand. The scientists will then pour the DNA into 5,000 nanometer-sized glass beads. All of this will apparently take a month or two to accomplish.

“The Intention Craft” by Pure Reason Revolution

On Oct 24, 2005, the enhanced CD was released, as catalogue number SonyBMG 6759302. Included were three tracks plus a video:

1. The Intention Craft
2. Sound Of Free
3. Asleep Under The Eiderdown
4. The Intention Craft (Video)

The three tracks were also released on 10″ blue vinyl with a picture sleeve (as SonyBMG 6759306).

Even more rare, there was also a white label, white sleeve 10″ vinyl pressing, exclusively for record company staff, the band, and management (and, confusingly, also numbered SonyBMG 6759306).

The entire album of The Dark Third was then released on April 10, 2006, but without “The Intention Craft” on the UK version.

There, The Dark Third was the nine-track version with “The Exact Colour” and “The Twyncyn/Trembling Willows” as tracks 5 and 8, respectively.

Not until July 25, 2006, was the US version released, which was now a ten-track version (adding “Asleep Under Eiderdown” as a hidden track). This was the version that you (like me) probably know best, with “Nimos and Tambos” and “Arrival/The Intention Craft” swapped in for tracks 5 and 8.

For me, “Nimos and Tambos” was the gateway track. It immediately grabbed me and has never, ever let go since.

In my own playlist, I find the album flows perfectly with the US tracks for 5 and 8 placed immediately after the UK tracks for 5 and 8 respectively.

I call this 12-track playlist “The Definitive Version,” and I wish someone would do a CD reissue with this optimal track order, all on one CD.

As a band we’re fascinated with the questions raised about the origins and meanings of dreams. By the time we die we’ll have spent more than six years of our life dreaming, and a third of our lives asleep, relays Pure Reason Revolution’s lyricist/songwriter Jon Courtney. The Dark Third is kind of a concept album that investigates the supposedly sharp boundary between dreaming and wakefulness, and that perhaps the two states aren’t so different. So begins the surrealistic sonic journey of The Dark Third, Pure Reason Revolution’s explosive debut album. A love of art and a passion for music come together on their debut, where the surreal serves as inspiration for concrete lyrical and musical ideas. Pure Reason Revolution’s sound marries all that is good in rock `n’ roll, an infectious blend of today’s pop sensibilities and classic rock stylings as refreshing as it is timeless.

Other advance singles included: “Apprentice of the Universe” (Apr 19, 2004, with “Nimos and Tambos” as the B-side) and “The Bright Ambassadors of Morning” (Apr 11, 2005, also with a video of the song).

Also preceding the full album was a limited promo sampler:

1. Goshen Remains
2. Apprentice of the Universe
3. The Bright Ambassadors of Morning
4. Bullits Dominae
5. The Intention Craft

More widespread was the sampler Cautionary Tales for the Brave (Oct 3, 2005), SonyBMG 82876725952:

1. In Aurelia
2. The Bright Ambassadors Of Morning
3a. Arrival
3b. The Intention Craft
4a. He Tried To Show Them Magic
4b. Ambassadors Return

“In Aurelia” was also later released as a single (Nov 2005), and on An Introduction to Pure Reason Revolution (July 2006):

1. Nimos & Tambos
2. The Twyncyn / Trembling Willows
3. Asleep Under Eiderdown
4. In Aurelia
5. The Intention Craft

Note how this sampler ends with “The Intention Craft.”

Because The Dark Third is such a startling, unexpected masterpiece that towers above decades of releases, it deserves to be kept in print, but this time in a definitive edition. I would add “In Aurelia” and “Sound of Free” to fill out such a one-disc edition, to 14 tracks.