02 Feb 2021 - Pat O'
I first heard God is An Astronaut play live in 2007 and it’s a moment that’s embedded in my mind forever. I stood in awe as images were projected onto a screen, with three silhouettes etched to the forefront. Thought provoking clips flashed and fizzed across the small stage as the band captivated us with wave after wave of hard hitting, emotive Post Rock beauty and melancholia. It was all incredibly euphoric and memorable. Fast forward nearly fourteen years and they are still playing mind blowing shows and releasing dramatic and cosmic material. “Ghost Tapes #10” is the latest chapter in their story.
It’s a heavy and Intense affair, and one could say that it’s a reflection of the uncertain times we now find ourselves in. The artwork of David Rooney certainly echoes that sense of foreboding we all have been thrown into over the last twelve months. Musically its a little different to what we’ve become accustomed to from God Is An Astronaut, but at the same time it’s fresh, moving and equally as enthralling as their previous works.
The album kicks off with “Adrift”. It’s a belter of a track and sets the vibe for what is to come on this all-consuming album. A solo drum passage gives way to a ripping guitar chord, followed by a hefty bass line, that soon morphs itself into a high octane, brooding piece of measured hysteria. It’s abounding and atmospheric and is some of the heaviest and intense sounds to come from God Is An Astronaut that I can remember. There are moments of Russian Circles reverberating through it, but I hasten to add, this is done with more melody, direction and purpose here. Midway through this opener, the power is alleviated by lush and more familiar God Is An Astronaut atmospheres. Haunting soundscapes are soaked with rich guitars and create a massive, sonic synth haze.
“Burial” follows suit and is probably the standout track for me, with its fierce and memorable delivery. Starting out in true God Is An Astronaut Fashion, it meanders through the darkness, with crestfallen piano and synths, all very reminiscent of 2018’s “Epitaph”. This feeling is short-lived as distorted guitars set fire to the sky, and drums erupt to create a moment of unsettling joy and splendour. A huge bass line followed by lamented guitars and drums, create a finale that is destined to close out many live shows in the future. It’s simply epic.
The overlying message on Ghost Tapes #10 is that of intensity. 2018’s release “Epitaph” was a great album and needed to be recorded, and it showcased a darker, more forlorn side to the band. It was so emotionally charged that it felt in some ways restricted to me. It captured a moment in time that will be fondly and respectfully remembered. However, with “Ghost Tapes #10”, a newfound energy has been stirred up. The return of Jamie Dean has raised the energy levels and given the band a shot of adrenaline, allowing this great gathering of musicians to become a stronger unit.
Tracks like “In Flux” and “Fade” are bursting at the seams with energy and melody and maintain that haunting and emotive qualities that God Is An Astronaut always deliver on. There are very few bands out there that can stir up such emotion and feeling with their music.
“Spectres” is another piece of brilliance that caught my imagination, with the drumming of Lloyd Hanney, being quite simply mind blowing. The groove and pace he plays at hereis just mammoth. As always both Niels and Thorsten Kinsella are immense, and their imagination and creativity knows no bounds. They have been creating these emotive and ethereal sounds for twenty years now and judging by this release there’s no letting up.
“Luminous Waves” closes the album with a calming and trance inducing melody. The amazing talents of cellist Jo Quail reverberates through this dense and wondrous passage to produce a fitting and memorable ending to what is a superb album.
Any release from God Is An Astronaut is a big deal. A tenth studio album is a big deal. Twenty years and still going strong is a big deal. It stands to reason that Ghost Tapes #10 should be a big deal, and it is! It sounds fresh, energetic and powerful. Well done lads.