It’s so refreshing to find that part of the cure for a godsplitter (grandmother of all headaches) can come from good music, and funny how today God Is An Astronaut seems to do the trick for me. This post-rock band from Ireland has some of the most intense chops I’ve heard and touches a nostalgic nerve with me, since, at least on their first album, they reveal such a strong kinship with the likes of Tangerine Dream, one of the bands I grew up with. I can’t help but draw a direct line in my head from T-Dream’s “Mars Polaris” and “The End of the Beginning”. The same aseptic, cool melodic lines, digital and glowing with neon light, the same expansive, patient beats, the same vast sound-effects, soothing and smooth in their immensity.
I don’t know if there’s such a term as “agoraphilia”. It’s meant to be the exact opposite of “agoraphobia” (the fear of large open spaces), but I can’t be bothered to actually look up a valid antonym. In any case, that’s what I’ve got. I keep praising bands who’s music makes me feel like there are no bounds to the space around me and I suppose it’s a pattern I can’t really break away from. God Is An Astronaut captures this feeling of vastness, of cool, echoing space which I seem to be so keen on. The tension in their music doesn’t come from reaching limits, it comes from speed. The flux of the music makes the listener feel like he’s undergoing variations in speed, creating the illusion of traveling without moving.
This particular way of structuring and conceiving songs seemed to be a lot more popular a few decades ago. As I said, Tangerine Dream were masters of this craft, along with some very nice forays by Mike Oldfield and even Vangelis, even though I’ve always felt he could never really help giving his music a very organic feel, even on the most spacey of his albums (no that that’s a bad thing). As you can see, the precursor artists that come to mind are almost all part of the great “electronic music” umbrella genre which made so much sense in the seventies, eighties and even early nineties. I think this is a bit of an oddity for a post-rock band, and this is what sets God Is An Astronaut apart, from my point of view. Sure, rock is one big happy family, but I’m not sure this is post-rock, it feels to me more like an electronic music revival, or tribute, call it what you will.
Simple melodic lines, airy musical strokes, pulsating beats, no self-indulgence, no walls of noise to speak of, very little “quiet-LOUD” structure to speak of – God Is An Astronaut have a very different approach that most post-rock bands. Less shoegazing, more precision, less lament, more visualization. I don’t think there’s anything soporific about them, nor are they particularly keen on meditative passages. Their music has the elegance and precision of astronauts’ movements in space – utilitarian, thoroughly choreographed, with maximum economy of movement and straight to the point.
I think this music is to be listened to with a robust pair of speakers. It needs to overwhelm, it has something fluid about it that needs room to expand. If you’ve got fidgety neighbors, go for the headphones. If your neighbors are cool, treat them to this sonic breath of fresh air. It’s a sunny November day here, my favorite weather, and I’ll be damned if I won’t pound this headache right out of my skull with some God Is An Astronaut. A bit monotonous? Maybe. But sometimes, when you tune into a certain vibe, you just want to ride it as long as possible, am I right? So give these guys a shot if you’re feeling a bit nostalgic for the good old visions of the future from decades past, updated with a bit of digital know-how. And turn up the volume!