Astral Social Club Neon Pibroch

[Important; 2007]

Styles: experimental, space rock, ambient pop
Others: Tangerine Dream, Flying Saucer Attack, Fennesz

Let's get this out of the way: if you don't like music that could soundtrack a scene depicting an alien spacecraft touching down on Earth to make contact with humans (preferably misunderstood ones), then you can stop reading and move on to the next review.

To those of you still with me, I bring great news of the soundtrack for your next celestial mindtrip. Neil Campbell, a longtime contributor to the UK's underground drone scene, offers three cohesive sonic meditations under his Astral Social Club moniker. Unlike Campbell's better-known work with the Vibracathedral Orchestra, ASC bears few traces of folk or any other genre that existed prior to the advent of electronic ambient music in the 1970s.

Shimmering layers of synth drones wax and wane, while swells of distortion and buzzing fade in and out of the mix. The effect is a rich patchwork of otherworldly ambient space-pop. Which isn't to say that Neon Pibroch need be received as background music (though it works nicely as that). In fact, roughly the first half of "Tripel Foment" is dominated by an insistent bass drum that eventually subsides to allow for a more cacophonous melee of percussive bits. This onslaught beckons passive listeners to turn up the volume and appreciate the madness that they would otherwise miss at fewer decibels.

This music's versatility is truly one of its strongest charms. Kept low, it seems like a magical dusting on a quiet afternoon; played louder, it reveals more of the restless complexity underlying its deceptively placid veneer. At peak levels, it could help define a truly transcendent moment in a heady sci-fi flick (Anyone see Sunshine? If not, make it happen). So do yourself a favor -- kick back, pop in Neon Pibroch, and adjust the volume to achieve your desired experience. Then just wait for the interplanetary craft to arrive.

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