It is easy to be cynical about music in the current age. Part of the problem lies with the parlous state of the mainstream, but a far greater problem lies with a music buying public increasingly unwilling to give a chance to an unknown quantity. It is ironic because what we are now seeing is that in an age where everything is available by hook or by crook, the preponderance of material seems to actually be putting people off from experimenting too widely. However cynicism and elitism comes at a price, and that price is missing out on some truly mesmerising acts lurking in the depths of the underground. One such act is Spaceport Union, a progressive band with a serious groove and an encyclopaedic knowledge of bands past and present, whose wonderful album ‘flirting with the queen’ draws upon decades of magical music making to present a joyous, richly rewarding experience that is utterly irresistible.
The album opens subtly, ‘simple lack of motivation’ coming over like Pink Floyd covering Buffalo Springfield’s ‘for what it’s worth’ before suddenly exploding into a dizzyingly beautiful burst of gospel-powered organ and lush vocal harmonies that is part Spiritualized, part Steve Winwood. Adam Basterfield’s vocals are quietly confident, recalling Pye Hastings and the song is the perfect introduction to the weirdly wonderful world of Spaceport union. In contrast, ‘writing’s on the wall’ places Caroline Spence on lead vocals and takes Supertramp’s ‘Breakfast in America’ as its template, all funky keyboard and gleaming solos. It’s brilliantly produced by Michael jack who keeps things warm and funky, and the song flows beautifully through funk and soul territory whilst keeping its roots in the progressive realm with some stunning solos and extended instrumental breaks. ‘Minnow’ sees the band refusing to stand still, the music taking a turn for the darker, as a subtly threatening synth line underpins an unconventional melody that recalls nothing so much as ‘The Wall’ at its most ambient before slipping into a deliciously seductive mood that sits comfortably between Massive attack, Nina Simone and Miles Davis. It’s a testament to the band’s skill that it all flows so naturally that despite the stylistic shifts nothing feels forced or out of place, and it’s a pleasure to let the music simply lead you where it will. And lead you the music does, through jazz-infused piano and art-house insanity, the song building to a dizzying climax that will leave you lying shattered on the floor.
After so epic a workout, the band change tack again for ‘Yer battery’s dying’, a mesmerising song that sounds like a clash between Radiohead and QOTSA, applying the latter band’s sensual grooves to the former’s grungy, progressive template established on ‘OK Computer’. It’s a highlight of the album and undoubtedly a brilliant live moment in the band’s set too. Another highlight is the lush, melodic ‘Block’, a pop song in the vein of Porcupine tree that makes great use of subtle synth and warm acoustic guitar. ‘You’ opens with the rolling thunder of toms and a groovy bass before slipping into reverb-laden indie-guitar territory in the vein of the Arcade Fire, with a similarly addictive chorus. ‘Fuelled by consequence’ is drawn from the heart of sun-drenched California, the jangly guitars and Beach Boys-esque harmonies all hinting at a lots era of innocence and wonder.
Dispensing with the sunny pop music that fuels the central part of the album, ‘Veritas’ slithers into view on the back of rolling drums and lovelorn piano, the vocals all breathy sighs and moans as the music shifts imperceptibly into a sinister minor key. It’s initially hard to explain exactly why the song evokes feelings of dread, but there’s a tangible build-up of adrenalin as horror movie synths and distorted guitars make their appearance and the track cuts across the senses like a splash of cold water after the gorgeous warmth of the preceding tracks. The album closes with ‘for years’, a slight, acoustic lament that is part Radiohead, part Pink Floyd’s ‘breathe’ and part Patti Page’s ‘Old Cape Cod’. It’s the perfect conclusion to the album and one that guarantees you’ll want to return as soon as possible to the band’s rich sonic pastures.
On ‘flirting with the queen’, Spaceport union have drawn from a wide cross section of popular music past and present to deliver an album that is as rewardingly inventive as it is timeless. Subtlety is the key, and Spaceport union rarely rush to get anywhere, and each song is given ample room to breathe and grow with the result that the album as a whole flows perfectly from start to finish. Quite simply ‘flirting with the queen’ is a triumph that will win the hearts and minds of all who hear it and for progressive fans it is an absolute must.
Don’t wait to chack the band out – you can listen right here!