“Formed in 2016 in the north west of England, Stupid Cosmonaut
draw inspiration from science fiction and the cosmos to create
beautifully haunting visions of a not too distant dystopian future.”
Space rock, like science fiction more broadly, has often been used as a way of developing theories of the future; be they utopian or dystopian. These are, of course, reflections of the culture and society in which they are written and performed. So it is with ‘Algol’, the debut album from Stupid Cosmonaut, a quartet who, for me, are looking to reinvigorate the genre for the times in which we find ourselves.
“Myriad calculations hum in the computer brain of an automated space craft,
it’s cargo, a lone passenger suspended in stasis, dreaming and oblivious as they
navigate a celestial storm at the barycenter of Algol, The Demon Star.”
This then is a journey into the unknown, a journey that is in turn and contemporaneously bleak and beautiful, a journey of the individual asleep and speeding into a fatalistic and irredeemable future. It is an allegory for our times.
As such this is an album that must be heard in its entirety, an album that needs to be surrendered to, and an album that has to be listened to a number of times to appreciate.
If you were to listen to the opening track, ‘Solitary Stasis’ in isolation, you would probably get that very feeling. It is a fine piece of minimalist music that has a strange sort of intensity to it. The sounds of the “automated space craft” allows the listener to explore and establish the scenario being played out, this is for me very much the overture to the piece.
This gives way to the spacey and spacious sound of ‘Demon Star Pilot’. Again there is a certain airiness to the sound here, you feel the empty space passing by. Slowly, however, new elements are introduced into the mix whilst retaining the feeling of stillness and quiet. Change is happening as the track develops more sinister and solid elements as drums and guitars surface through the wall of synths. A beautiful melody emerges emphasising the emptiness within and beyond, a melody that repeats and buries itself into your mind. The track somehow continues to build…somehow because you don’t really notice as you are lost in the moment…a long continuing single moment…a sonic hyperdrive that moves at the same time glacially and at the speed of light. It reminds us how the cumulative process of change can creep up on us and before we know it we are in a very different, perhaps darker, place than before; very much as we are finding ourselves as the twenty first century unfolds.
“Algol, invites you to discorporate and allow your mind to be piloted,
wordlessly, through stunning cosmic vistas of kaleidoscopic guitars
and dark synths before being ferociously atomised by the crushing,
untamed forces of deep space as its story unfolds.”
If ‘Solitary Stasis’ sets the scene, and ‘Demon Star Pilot’ represents the long journey through the emptiness of space; then ‘Passing Between Dancing Giants’ is for me the moment of joy before the impending doom…that respite from the crushing darkness…a moment of clarity amidst the numbness of eternity. This is a track that is euphoric and strangely uplifting which, in the context of the album, provides a moment of real joy as the synths soar and seem to momentarily triumph over the darker percussive forces within the track.
After that its time to buckle in for the final descent into…
….well into something that is much heavier and more fierce: ‘Barus’. Although staring with a simple recurring riff you can feel the cosmic clouds circling, the atmosphere becoming more intense as the music breaks out into a grinding stoner riff that is interspersed with much more complex and intricate moments…gradually though it is the heavier sound that prevails seemingly crushing the lighter and more labyrinthine sections as if squeezing the last drops of goodness and civility from our sleeping protagonist. Then, right at the denouement, comes a death growl…perceptible yet down in the mix…and then nothing.
‘Algol’ is space rock, but not as we know it. It emerges from its minimalist stasis and gradually, and almost imperceptibly, develops a heavy complexity that has you heading straight into a nebula of heavy riffs and searing rhythms. Stupid Cosmonaut may be new to some but that will not last for long because this is a band who are going places with their new take on well established genre. Their collective name may be self deprecating but these guys are anything but stupid.
‘Algol’ will be a very limited run of just 250 copies (50 of these going directly to the band) pressed onto black and grey side a/side b coloured effect vinyl to match the hand drawn pencil drawings of the cover art by band-member Steven McNamara. Available to pre-order now from Drone Rock Records here.
A1. Solitary Stasis (4:13)
A2. The Demon Star Pilot (17:05)
B1. Passing Between Dancing Giants (07:06) B2. Barus (11:49)
Steve McNamara – Synths, bass Sam Read – Synths, guitar
Andy Hunt – Drums
Mark Hawnt – Synths
Recorded by Stupid Cosmonaut at their own studio in Bury, Lancashire between Nov’16 and Jan’17.
Mixed and mastered by Steven McNamara.
Mastered for Vinyl by Chris Hardman (Dead Sea Apes)
Artwork by Steven McNamara.
Extra vocals on track B2 by Jordan McNamara.