Let us journey in to the far reaches of space. Let our mind travel through dark matter and push forward the boundaries of human knowledge. What soundtrack should we have for this celestial voyage to the outer regions? Why, Sula Bassana’s new album, of course.There’s a rush of noise like the lift off of a giant craft and then all of a sudden a motorik beat hits in and we are on our way to “Moonbase Alpha Alpha”. This is space cruising music; with samples of astronauts and the ever-driving rhythm, this is like The Orb meets Klaus Schulze via Kraftwerk. The capsule you leave Earth on is a time machine that transports you back to everything that was wonderful about Berlin School Krautrock. But it’s that driving, pounding beat that gives the piece its Saturn 3 booster rocket forward momentum. Hold tight; the trip has begun.
“Shushi Express” starts with a drone, a sampled voice and a Gary Numan-style staccato rhythm. This track reminds me of Banco De Gaia in deep trance cosmic trip mode. It’s like you are entering the atmosphere of an alien world, trying to look for recognisable landmarks. Then in the distance you think you see a glint of a shard of light from some type of ancient building. It’s the steady rhythm that pulsates around this track which a breathes life around the swirling synth lines. A haunting melody hovers over the top and moves like a giant flying insect from speaker to speaker.“No Time: No Eternity” starts off with big bass notes and a slow drum pattern that sounds like the marching of a robotic army of workers. The synths are warm, analogue-sounding, conjuring up the sound of hot Martian vistas as cities are built in this inhospitable landscape to house its new inhabitants. This is the closest track, sound wise, to early Eighties Tangerine Dream that the album gets and wouldn’t have been too out of place on Exit.
“Planeta Bur” starts with a 6/8 rhythm similar to that used on Oxygene by Jean Michel Jarre, unsurprisingly as Sula uses the same Korg Minipops 7 drum machine here. Rolling bass rhythms jostle under lighter than air synth melodies that still have a feel of the darkness of space about them. At times there’s even a hint of Hawkwind in its Mars rover rhythm as the track seeps into your mind with its beautiful Seventies cosmic vibe that could be a soundtrack to a Chris Foss painting. This is a track that is heading for the high ground, but this time its going for Olympus Mons rather than for one of the smaller peaks.“Shipwrecked” starts with a quieter, more contemplative feel. Its high notes trickle like a stream while the lead synth is mournful, but somehow comfortingly relaxing. It is a track to gaze out over man’s newly conquered world as the two ancient moons climb slowly in the evening sky. There is almost a slight melancholy to the piece; but it still feels blissful at the same time. The last track on the album is “No Way”, which starts with eerie notes being played over twittering synth sounds, and here we stray into the sounds of Irrlicht and Cyborg-era Schulze. It is the sound of night time on our alien world, the darkness before a new dawn rises and we realise that we are now separate from the rest of humanity.
I first listened to this album whilst star gazing through my telescope on a crystal clear winter’s night. The half moon shone brightly in the night sky and the music made me wonder what it would be like to live on another world. Sula’s music always seems to conjure up images in your minds eye, but this album in particular was the perfect soundtrack for pondering the mysteries of the universe.