A1 Fantasize to Realize
A2 Don't Drop The Bomb
B2 Set Me Free
B3 ASTRALASIA Pt 2
Got to admit that I didn't hate this anywhere near as much as I thought I was going to.
This is in no small part due to the fact I appear to have misplaced two 12" singles by Astralasia: Rhythm of Life/Celestial Ocean and MAD - and I know for a fact that MAD is a terrible, terrible record. I must have blanked the memory of binning them as being too traumatic, or maybe I gave them to some passing hippy (out of spite, obviously). Regardless, the prospect of only having to listen to one Astralasia album and two singles, rather than one album and four singles, veritably put a spring in my step.
Astralasia spawned from The Magic Mushroom Band back in the late 80s, and began as a warm-up act for said band, doing more of an ambient/dub/trance kind of thing, much in the way that Eat Static span off from the Ozric Tentacles. Here's the blurb from their official site:
One of the originators of the acid-house rave revolution, and major player in the trance scene across The UK and Europe. Early appearances include many Techno and underground parties at venues and clubs such as Megatripolis, Escape from Samsara, Whirl-Y-Gig, Return to The Source, and the Shamen's Synergy raves. Astralasia have appeared at Womad, Glastonbury and Phoenix Festivals, and appeared on many compilations such as Big Chill Classics, as well as having toured extensively across the UK and Europe.
Given all the above, you can see why I thought this was going to be a big pile of patchouli-scented poop, can't you?
Anyway, this is their first LP, a private pressing, which contains some tracks from their first cassette releases, and an exclusive number to sucker the fan into buying it on vinyl. I would have bought this soon after it came out, probably from my paper round money, and more than likely from the Freak Emporium, although it would have been from a paper-based catalogue back then, not a website, which I'd pore over, rather than skim (writer sighs here, as at lost joys).
Opening track Fantasize to Realize is like listening to a female motivational speaker with Steve Hillage playing guitar, and someone dropping slap-bass moves all over the shop. I hate positivity, and at least this is mercifully brief.
Don't Drop the Bomb, by contrast, fills the rest of the first side, and must come in at about 15 minutes. There is only one bass line and one drum loop for the whole track, and they never change, fade, or get effected in any way. Synth lines are laid over the top, as well as samples of varying degrees of relevance. The first vocal sample, which crops up loads, is "I won't drop the bomb". Another is, "I haven't got enough time", which is surely an in-joke, given the track length. The final sample at the end goes, "Maybe kids are smarter than us... they think dreams do come true" in a male american-moviestar kind of voice. In between there are car horns, Big Ben, and other clock samples. It's vaguely reminiscent of early Orb or Coldcut, and pleasant enough, but too monotonous.
Sexsquat is a real low - I remember this track from my first listen 16 years or so ago, and I still think it's dire. It begins with an eighties-hangover late-nite-sax-mood style saxophone solo from David Jackson, a former member of Van Der Graaf Generator, a crime for which I hope he has been justly punished. I kept expecting him to break into Baker Street. What follows is some kind of break-in/rape fantasy about a squatter "coming up the stairs", "he is touching me now", "feel it" etc. etc. It nearly put me off me dinner. There's more Hillage-esque guitar, and the vocals stop about halfway through, to be replaced with quiet moaning for the rest of the song. Not quiet enough though.
Track 4 features slap-bass (again), and a cheap horn-stab synth sound, standard trance drum loops, and yet more female sloganeering. This time along the lines of "Decide on me... Set me free!", "For all it's worth", "I can see it changing", "Don the haggis", and "Help yourself". I think it's about sexual release, which means I may have misheard the haggis line, and then again I may not. There's an interesting boingyness to the drums that I've not heard outside of the Chemical Brothers before.
I enjoyed the last one the most, as it had the most complex layering of sounds of any of the tracks. Lots of ambient droning, various instruments that you would associate with hippy bands - sitar, tabla, pan pipes (no didgeridoo thankfully), and a surprise trumpet solo at the end. It was all nicely effect-laden, relaxed and drowsy, and reminded me of Timeshard, Tangle Edge, or Popul Vuh. Not bad at all.