Adem - Love and Other Planets
Ever since I read the book Moondust, I have become obsessed with biographies of astronauts. At the moment, I am reading the story of Mike Collins, the third astronaut who flew in Apollo 11. His accounts of the Gemini missions are wonderful, the testing ground for the moon landings. In a tin can, no bigger than the front seats of a medium sized Volkswagen, Collins and his co-pilot were in orbit for three days. Half way through the flight, Collins had to conduct a photographic experiment, opening the hatch to stand up out of the spacecraft, a bit like poking his head out of the sunroof. He therefore went from a tiny, enclosed space with the smallest of windows, to view the whole earth below and the universe beyond, stretching out into infinity.
The new album by Adem is just the sort of album that I would like to listen to in space. Apart from anything else, it contains enough organic, natural noises to ward off any feelings of homesickness. We hear the rumble of trains, the deep growl of a cello, handclaps, slaps, and at one point a sound that makes you feel like you are in a field of goats on a mountainside, their bells jangling around you. This is also an album full of orbital imagery that talks of life and love on other planets, the sprawl of the cosmos and how this relates to the individual. The only problem is how insular everything sounds. The moments where the hatch opens and the world floods in are too few and far between. The feeling of being inside the spacecraft is intense, and at times smoothers this album.
The whole album has an ache, a feeling of longing and yearning throughout. There is a sadness to it, which can be really felt on opening track "Warning Call". It brings to mind a solitary figure, hunched over a guitar, spinning through space in his capsule. It is intimate and personal and stricken with a sadness. "Something's Going to Come" is more optimistic though, sounding like a more acoustic Belle and Sebastian. "Launch Yourself" is excellent, full of tiny handclaps and gentle invention. Space imagery invades the lyrics at all sides, as people launch themselves into orbit whilst Adem feels strangely left behind.
The theme of space is also strong on title track "Love and Other Planets", a simple song played on an old sounding organ. "On a clear night, if you look close enough, you can just make out love on other planets...we are not alone". The song writing is very strong throughout, but swamped in a general feeling of depression and sadness.
"Sea of Tranquillity" is a lovely piece, close to Nick Drake, which leads nicely into "You and Moon", a much perkier little number. Strangest track has to be "Last Transmissions from the Lost Mission", the one which sounds as if it was recorded on a hillside full of goats with little bells round their necks. It is strange and compelling and very intimate indeed, hushed vocals, a gentle piano, amid this curious jangle.
"These Lights are Meaningful" is something very special, the track that comes closest to what you might term a conventional pop song. The words are excellent, as are the backing vocals on the chorus. The album ends on a sad note, "Human Beings Gather 'Round" a plodding instrumental that evokes memories of the opening song.
This is an album of much maturity, with a sense of gloom that threatens to suffocate it at times. Full of atmosphere, with very little light, "Love and Other Planets" is a compelling album. I just wish Adem would open the hatch more often and let the sun stream in.