Restored 11 April 2017, originally published 3 February 2015
In this era of increasingly frequent and ambitious space exploration, I thought it only appropriate to spend some time reflecting on how far we’ve come and listening to appropriately-themed music.
Less than 60 years after the Wright brothers made their first historic flight on the sands of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, a Russian man-turned-cosmonaut, Colonel Yuri Gagarin, made another historic leap by becoming the first human being in outer space. While his brave contributions have been chronicled the world over, we will remember him today by reviewing an album produced by one of his compatriots, the artist Astronaut Ape. A fitting moniker for sure, Astronaut Ape specializes in spaced out, tech-y, chill out music. His EP A Little Closer To The Stars features four such tracks, one that opens the album and three that commemorate major milestones of the Russian aerospace program. They are “Sputnik”, the first artificial satellite launched into space; “He Was The First”, alluding to Col. Gagarin; and the pinnacle of the album, “Mir Space Station”, which was humanity’s first modular space station.
Before we get into the music, I want to take a moment to consider the album cover. This is a stylized image of Col. Gagarin adorned in his space regalia. And here is an image of him wearing a cheerful smile and a furry, white hat.
Moving onto the album, listening to it is like riding a slow motion rocket through the atmosphere and into space. In terms of track composition, “Intro” sets the scene for what to expect: space and technology sounds like synths, bleeps, and tweaks. Russian communication signals are intercepted and woven into the music. Beats are subtle where they are found, but the tracks are not lacking in structure. The electronics provide the steady sensation of progress. “Sputnik” and “He Was The First” reinforce the growing feeling of an imminent climax. Their sheer length — each is over 9 minutes — ensures that feeling is stretched out as long as possible. As the album progresses, volume and pace quicken until “Mir Space Station” wherein everything comes together and the mood reaches maximum tension. At this point in our journey, we’re breaking through the final slices of blue atmosphere to join the speckled blackness of space. In the wake of Sputnik and Col. Gagarin, we fly around the earth at incredible speeds, taking in the surreal beauty of our planet and our corner of the galaxy.
Mellow, technologic, and climactic, A Little Closer To The Stars is the perfect sound track for star trekking.
Astronaut Ape – “Mir Space Station”
A Little Closer To The Stars release page at Microcosmos Records netlabel