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Spiritualized, Beach House, Youth Lagoon & More Explore The Cosmos (Literally) On “The Space Project”

Youth Lagoon – “Worms”:

On Record Store Day this year, Portland, Oregon-based Lefse Records put out one of the more intriguing releases of 2014 thus far, The Space Project. The wild idea involves placing recordings the Voyager space probes have made during their celestial explorations in the hands of an impressive list of artists (Beach House, Youth Lagoon, Mutual Benefit, The Antlers, Blues Control, Benoit & Sergio, Porcelain Raft among others) and seeing what they came up with. Lefse Records had this to say about the project:

Last Thanksgiving, Matt Halverson, who runs the Portland-based label Lefse Records, was talking with his brother in law, Exogenesis President and Chief Scientist Sean Anklam, who described a trove of recordings the NASA-launched Voyager space probes had made in the outer solar system. Halverson, the Walter White to Anklam’s Hank Schrader, was overtaken by an idea: to commission imaginative artists to create songs and soundscapes out of the Voyager recordings. The interest among musicians—including , Spiritualized, Beach House, The Antlers, Mutual Benefit, Blues Control and others—was overwhelming. Lefse will release the resulting album, entitled Space Project, on April 19, Record Store Day. It will be available on vinyl, CD, and as a 7” box set.

The audio tracks that form the raw material for Space Project were recorded by the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes that NASA launched in 1977 and still uses to study the outer solar system. The satellites carry numerous instruments fine-tuned to record in different portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The “sounds” recorded by the Voyager probes aren’t sounds in the conventional sense; rather, they are electromagnetic radiation fluctuations in the magnetosphere of the planets, moons and large asteroids the Voyager probes traveled near. Each celestial body is composed of different elements, has its own size and mass, and therefore sounds unique.

As you can imagine, the sounds from are other-worldly drones of noise, which makes it a bit difficult to tell exactly which sounds are the “space sounds” and what you’re hearing in each of the songs. All the same, the overall tone of the record is very unified and consistent, something that’s often lacking in compilation albums and makes The Space Project a very satisfying listen.

The feel of the record is set immediately with two somber but alluring instrumentals from Porcelain Raft and The Antlers that make up the “Jupiter” portion of the album, which then bleeds softly into Mutual Benefit’s “Terraform”. Beach House’s minimalistic “Saturn Song” recalls Julee Cruise’s delicate and haunting work with David Lynch. Trevor Powers’ Youth Lagoon project giddy contribution “Worms” is among the album’s best, which is understandable considering most of Youth Lagoon’s catalogue already sounds like it was made in outer space.

Spiritualized Mississippi Space Program – “Always Forgetting With You”:

Probably the most obvious choice for such an album is Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce, and here he’s in top form, although it seems he was originally less than enthused with the project. In typical “I’m-fucking-grouchy-mate” J. Spaceman fashion, Pierce told British mag NME recently, “It was set up by [my label] Fat Possum, who I’m signed to, so there was no thought in getting me involved, really,” he said. “Plus I was broke. That was my main motivation. They said they’ve give me $1,500 to do a drone, which I can do in my sleep. And they got lucky, because I didn’t go in to write a tune, but I came out with that song, so it kind of worked out.”

Regardless of why the man who wrote “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space” was involved, he came out with a very nice song and also told the mag that the experience motivated him to begin work on the next Spiritualized album. Recording as the Spiritualized Mississippi Space Program for The Space Project, “Always Forgetting With You” is vintage J Spaceman, with lonely and cosmic lyrics like: “If you want a lonely heart, I will be a lonely heart for you / If you want a rocket ship, I will be a rocket ship for you” Pierce sounds like he is afloat in an endless sea of narcotic stars, perpetually bummed out and lost in more ways than one.

The Space Project scores points for originality and for putting together an A+ cast of contributors. By the time of the record comes to a close with the “Io” section featuring two DFA-affiliated acts (Larry Gus and Benoit & Sergio), the celestially-haunted vibe has been achieved and sustained by very strong and very different tunes throughout the album. The Space Project makes for a thoroughly intriguing and satisfying listen, especially if you’re gazing up at a clear night sky, wondering what’s out there. For a track list and full stream of the album via Youtube, scroll down.

Beach House – “Saturn Song”:

The Space Project track list:
A: Porcelain Raft, “Giove”
B: The Antlers, “Jupiter”

A: Mutual Benefit, “Terraform”
B: Anna Meredith, “Miranda”

A: Spiritualized “Mississippi Space Program,” “Always Together With You (The Bridge Song)”
B. The Holydrug Couple, “Amphitrites Lost”

A: Youth Lagoon, “Worms”
B: Blues Control, “Blues Danube”

A: Beach House, “Saturn Song”
B: Zomes, “Moonlet”

A: Absolutely Free, “EARTH I”
B: Jesu, “Song of Earth”

A: Benoit & Sergio, “Long Neglected Words”
B: Larry Gus, “Sphere of Io (For Georg Cantor)”

The Space Project, full album stream:

Final Thoughts

Haunting and mysterious, a very satisfying listen.

Overall Score 3.7