‘Astronautica’ is a beautifully packaged, five track record from Hidria Spacefolk, the progressive, space rock act from Finland. The sort of band who take great pride in their artwork, the digi-pack edition has a stunning gatefold interior and exterior which speaks of a great love affair with the progressive acts off the seventies, while the lengthy tracks give plenty of room for the band to explore rarely visited psychedelic realms with a panache that will have listeners hooked.
Opening track ‘ad astra’, an eight minute exploration of the psyche, draws from Hawkwind, Pink Floyd, yes and even Jeff Wayne to deliver a synth-enhanced, mesmerising trip into outer space. Entirely instrumental, the track draws the listener into Hidria Spacefolk’s brave new world via a mixture of Jeff Wayne synth and carefully regimented guitars all layered over jazz-infused percussion. The result is a track that has great depth and scope but which also feel open to exploration rather than heavy and oppressive. To this end the music feels natural, almost spontaneous, and listeners will quickly find themselves at the opening of the second track, ‘cycloop’ without really having been aware of the passage of time. ‘Cycloop’ is strangely alien instrumental rock with a funky beat and wailing guitar lines that sound like a cross between Steve Vai and H.G Wells. The music is… well it’s fun – like someone took the music that underpinned the early sci-fi based computer games and fleshed it out in the studio, creating the perfect prog rock soundtrack for Elite’s wire-frame explorations of distant worlds in the process. It feels strangely retro, despite its futuristic trappings, and the musicianship throughout is exemplary. With elements of Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd and Tool in the mix, the music movies through distinct and varied landscapes, never dull, always seeking something more, and it’s hard not to feel invigorated by the band’s palpable excitement at being allowed to cut loose in this way. ‘Badding’, the album’s third track, is a quiet, gently shimmering number that speaks of distant stars and devious aliens possessed by the spirit of Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck, the driving bass and propulsive beat underpinning some sublime, jazzy piano work and liquid guitar. The song builds up a head of steam over twelve glorious minutes, always challenging the listener’s expectations and delving further into territory rarely explored by contemporary bands.
The introduction to ‘Endymion’ with its chiming bells, rich organ and fuzz-laden guitars does nothing to prepare you for the scattershot rhythms and jazzy syncopation that awaits you. Like spending Christmas in a house co-owned by Dave Brubeck, the prodigy and George Clinton, the track is an imaginative voyage into a sci-fi dominated unknown, rich with progressive atmosphere and benefitted by a funky underpinning that has you tapping your feet rather than scratching your head. The sound is warm, inviting and genuinely cosmic, and the lush soundscapes the band traverse on the track are indicative of a group of musicians confident in their skill and genuinely involved in the music they are making. ‘Seirenes’ is a lengthy finale to the album which cruises on a funky beat and which gradually incorporates elements of all that has gone before from the vibraphone to wild guitars and epic synth. It’s like the soundtrack to a sci-fi movie yet to be made, a soundtrack to all the Arthur C. Clarke books you read as a child and a possible gateway to dreams long left in the realms of Pratchett-esque fantasy. With a pulse-quickening beat and more than a hint of Mike Oldfield, ‘Seirenes’ leaves you in no uncertain doubt that Hidria Spacefolk are a wonderfully unique band whose music explores the outer reaches of pop, progressive and more with a beautiful, genre-hopping spirit that is simply a pleasure to listen to.
With stunning artwork and songs which haunt the memory for days and even weeks after you played the album, Hidria Spacefolk are a band for people who like their music to take them on a voyage of discovery. Don’t expect predictability or easy hooks – this is music to challenge and excite the senses and ‘astronautica’ is a brilliantly conceived, played and produced album that will surely appeal to those whose pleasure lies in hearing something wonderfully new when they explore their record collection. Happily the album is also available on vinyl, a format for which ‘astronautica’ was surely made and if you are to track down the band’s work, that must be the way. Overall, ‘Astronautica’ is an absolute gem of a record, a journey not unlike Dave’s final voyage into the unknown in 2001 and a brilliantly exhilarating body of work and thus comes with the very highest recommendation.
Don’t waste time – check out Hidria Spacefolk right now!