Space rock

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Space rock is a music genre characterized by loose and lengthy song structures centered on instrumental textures that typically produce a hypnotic, otherworldly sound. [1] It may feature distorted and reverberation-laden guitars, minimal drumming, languid vocals, synthesizers and lyrical themes of outer space and science fiction.


The genre emerged in late 1960s psychedelia and progressive rock bands such as Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, [1] and Gong [2] who explored a "cosmic" sound. Similar sounds were pursued in the early 1970s West German kosmische Musik ("cosmic music") scene. Later, the style was taken up in the mid-1980s by Spacemen 3, whose "drone-heavy" sound was avowedly inspired by and intended to accommodate drug use. By the 1990s, space rock developed into shoegazing, stoner rock and post-rock [1] with bands such as the Verve, Flying Saucer Attack, and Orange Goblin.


Origins: 1950s-1960s

Humanity's entry into outer space provided ample subject matter for rock and roll and R&B songs from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s. It also inspired new sounds and sound effects to be used in the music itself. A prominent early example of space rock is the 1959 concept album I Hear a New World by British producer and songwriter Joe Meek. The album was inspired by the space race and concerned human's first close encounter with alien life forms. [3] Meek then went on to have a UK and US No 1 success in 1961 with "Telstar", named after the newly launched communications satellite and thus intended to commemorate the new space age. Its main instrument was a clavioline, an electronic forerunner of the synthesizers.

The Beatles' song "Flying" (1967), originally titled "Aerial Tour Instrumental", was a psychedelic instrumental about the sensation of flying, whether in a craft or in your own head space. [4] Jimi Hendrix is also an early innovator of the genre, with such tracks as "Third Stone from the Sun", "1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)" and "The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam's Dice".

Pink Floyd's early albums contain pioneering examples of space rock: "Lucifer Sam", [5] "Astronomy Domine", [6] "Pow R. Toc H." [7] and "Interstellar Overdrive" [8] from their 1967 debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn are examples. Their second album A Saucerful of Secrets contained further examples: "Let There Be More Light" and "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" with explicit science fiction themes, and their third, More (1969) had "Cirrus Minor".

Hawkwind, an influential space rock band Hawkwind Donington 1982.jpg
Hawkwind, an influential space rock band

Peak: 1970s-1980s

In the early 1970s, West Germany's kosmische Musik ("cosmic music") scene developed among artists who explored "spacy", ambient instrumental soundscapes. [9] The term is frequently used as a synonym of krautrock, [10] but may also be used as a German analogue to the English term "space rock". [11] These artists often explored electronic music, synthesizers, and themes related to space or otherworldliness. [12] [9] Examples included artists like Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, Popol Vuh, and Klaus Schulze. [11]

In early 1971, Pink Floyd began writing the song that would become known as "Echoes", from the 1971 album Meddle . The song was performed from April until September 1971, with an alternative set of lyrics, written about two planets meeting in space. Before the Meddle album released, the lyrics were changed to an aquatic theme, because of the band's concern that they were being labelled as a space rock band.[ citation needed ]

A major album in the history of space rock was Hawkwind's Space Ritual (1973), [13] a two-disc live album advertised as "88 minutes of brain-damage" documenting Hawkwind's 1972 tour that included a liquid light show and lasers, nude dancers (notably the earth-mother figure Stacia), wild costumes and psychedelic imagery. This hard-edged concert experience attracted a motley but dedicated collection of psychedelic drug users, science-fiction fans and motorcycle riders. The science fiction author Michael Moorcock collaborated with Hawkwind on many occasions and wrote the lyrics for many of the spoken-word sections on Space Ritual. In Europe, Hungarian band Omega was the biggest space rock band with albums Time Robber (1976), Skyrover (1978), and Gammapolis (1979). Other European bands include the progressive rock groups Eloy and Nektar. Nektar, who were known for having a rhythmic liquid/slide light show at their concerts, released their album Journey to the Centre of the Eye in 1971.

Apart from Hawkwind, Marc Bolan and his band T. Rex probably had the most success with space rock, mainly appearing on album tracks such as "Ballrooms of Mars", "Venus Loon" and "Spaceball Ricochet", although he characterised his music as "cosmic rock" (at the end of his first No 1 hit in the UK – Hot Love). Like Hawkwind's Dave Brock, Bolan used pentatonic guitar progressions to design riffs.

In the 1980s, UK band Mournblade, cited in the music press as 'Hawkwind influenced', blended space rock with a harder, more NWOBHM edge and linked into the emerging 'grebo revival' scene of the late 1980s. From 1980s to 1990s, Magic Mushroom Band and Ozric Tentacles released space rock albums. [14]

1990s revival

Ed Wynne of space rock band Ozric Tentacles EdWynne5 (cropped2).jpg
Ed Wynne of space rock band Ozric Tentacles

Shoegazing, stoner rock/metal and noise pop genres emerged in the mainstream with the explosion of bands such as Julian Cope, Swervedriver, Slowdive, the Verve, My Bloody Valentine, Flying Saucer Attack, Klaus Schulze, Ride, the Flaming Lips, Orange Goblin, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, Mercury Rev, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Monster Magnet, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Richard Ashcroft, David Jackson, Magic Mushroom Band, [15] and Ozric Tentacles. [16] The sonic experimentation and emphasis placed on texture by these bands led their music to be dubbed "space rock".

In the mid-1990s, a number of bands built on the space rock styles of Hawkwind and Gong appeared in America. Some of these bands were signed to Cleopatra Records, which then proceeded to release numerous space rock compilations. Starting in 1997, Daevid Allen of Gong, along with members of Hawkwind and other space rock bands, started to perform with Spirits Burning, a studio project created to celebrate space rock.

The Strange Daze festivals from 1997 to 2001 showcased the American space rock scene in three-day outdoor festivals. A Michigan-based space rock scene included Burnt Hair Records, Darla Records, and bands such as Windy & Carl, Mahogany, Sweet Trip, Füxa and Auburn Lull. This was a modern movement of the traditional "space rock" sound and was pinned Detroit Space Rock.

French band Air released albums Moon Safari , 10,000 Hz Legend and Le voyage dans la lune .

21st century

In 2005, Tom DeLonge formed the rock supergroup Angels & Airwaves, who are known for having space rock influences in both its music and lyrics, in addition to having space-themed imagery and artwork.

In 2006 the British rock band Muse released the song Knights of Cydonia which is heavily inspired by the song Telstar from the Tornados.

In 2009 an off-duty NASA worker from the shuttle program synchronised footage of a Discovery launch with the Flowers of Hell's "Sympathy for Vengeance" in an online video which became popular amongst staff at the Kennedy Space Center. [17] [18]

The progressive rock band Starset is heavily influenced by space and astronomy, and many of their songs reference themes commonly associated with space.

In 2018, British rock band Arctic Monkeys released their sixth studio album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, based on frontman Alex Turner's concept of a luxury resort on the moon for rockstars. The album centres around topics of interstellar travel, consumerism, science fiction and technology, and features several characters such as an unnamed retired rockstar who serves as the narrator for several tracks, 'Mark', the titular hotel's receptionist, and the fictional 'Martini Police' mentioned in the track 'Star Treatment'.

See also

Related Research Articles

Gong (band) International progressive/psychedelic rock band

Gong are a progressive rock band that incorporates elements of jazz and space rock into their musical style. The group was formed in Paris in 1967 by Australian musician Daevid Allen and English vocalist Gilli Smyth. Band members have included Didier Malherbe, Pip Pyle, Steve Hillage, Mike Howlett, Pierre Moerlen, Bill Laswell and Theo Travis. Others who have played on stage with Gong include Don Cherry, Chris Cutler, Bill Bruford, Brian Davison, Dave Stewart and Tatsuya Yoshida.

<i>The Piper at the Gates of Dawn</i> 1967 studio album by Pink Floyd

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is the debut studio album by English rock band Pink Floyd, released on 5 August 1967 by EMI Columbia. It is the only Pink Floyd album made under the leadership of founding member Syd Barrett ; he wrote all but three tracks, with additional composition by members Roger Waters, Nick Mason (drums), and Richard Wright. The album followed the band's early chart success with the 1967 non-album singles "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play", as well as their influential performances at London's UFO Club.

Krautrock is a broad genre of experimental rock that developed in West Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s among artists who blended elements of psychedelic rock, avant-garde composition, and electronic music among other eclectic sources. These artists generally moved away from the rhythm & blues roots and song structure found in traditional Anglo-American rock music, instead exploring hypnotic rhythms, musique concrète techniques, extended improvisation, and early synthesizers. Prominent groups associated with the krautrock label included Neu!, Can, Faust, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Cluster, Ash Ra Tempel, Popol Vuh, Amon Düül II and Harmonia.

<i>A Saucerful of Secrets</i> 1968 studio album by Pink Floyd

A Saucerful of Secrets is the second studio album by the English rock band Pink Floyd, released on 28 June 1968 by EMI Columbia in the United Kingdom and on 27 July 1968 in the United States by Tower Records. During recording, the mental health of singer and guitarist Syd Barrett deteriorated, so David Gilmour was recruited; Barrett left the band before the album's completion.

<i>More</i> (soundtrack) 1969 studio album / Soundtrack album by Pink Floyd

More is the third studio album and first soundtrack album by English rock band Pink Floyd. It was released on 13 June 1969 in the United Kingdom by EMI Columbia and on 9 August 1969 in the United States by Tower Records. The soundtrack is for the film of the same name, which was primarily filmed on location on Ibiza and was the directorial debut of Barbet Schroeder. It was the band's first album without former leader Syd Barrett.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ozric Tentacles</span> English instrumental rock band

Ozric Tentacles are an English instrumental rock band, whose music incorporates elements from a diverse range of genres, including psychedelic rock, progressive rock, space rock, jazz fusion, electronic music, dub music, world music, and ambient music. Formed in Somerset in 1983, the band has released over 30 albums selling over a million copies worldwide despite never having signed to a major recording label. Throughout many line-up changes over the years, co-founder and guitarist Ed Wynne has remained the only original member of the band. The band is now credited as one of the major influences of the UK festival scene's re-emergence, becoming particularly associated with the Glastonbury Festival and their handmade series of cassette releases, mostly sold at gigs and through a fan club.

"Cymbaline" is a Pink Floyd song from the album Soundtrack from the Film More.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Interstellar Overdrive</span> 1967 instrumental by Pink Floyd

"Interstellar Overdrive" is an instrumental composition written and performed by Pink Floyd. The song was written in 1966 and is on their 1967 debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, clocking in at almost ten minutes in length.

"Bike" is a song by British rock band Pink Floyd, which is the final track featured on their 1967 debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

"Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" is a song by the English rock band Pink Floyd, appearing on their second album, A Saucerful of Secrets (1968). It was written by Roger Waters, taking lyrics from a Chinese poetry book, and features a drum part by Nick Mason played with timpani mallets. It is the only song recorded by Pink Floyd to feature material from all five band members, as there are several different guitar parts recorded by both David Gilmour and Syd Barrett.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Let There Be More Light</span> Song by Pink Floyd

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"Astronomy Domine" is a song by the English rock band Pink Floyd. The song, written and composed by the original vocalist/guitarist Syd Barrett, is the opening track on their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967). The lead vocal was sung by Barrett and the keyboard player Richard Wright. Its working title was "Astronomy Dominé ". "Domine" is a word frequently used in Gregorian chants.

Mythos was a German band formed in Berlin by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Stephan Kaske, bassist Harold Weiße and drummer Thomas Hildebrand in 1969. All doing their A level at the same school, the self-taught musicians released their eponymous debut in 1971. Influenced by Pink Floyd, Ash Ra Tempel and Hawkwind the album draws on science fiction and ecological themes particularly noticeable on the closing track "Encyclopedia Terrae". The release saw the band support Family, Colosseum at a festival and Humble Pie at their show in Berlin 1971, however after three years the band split. Kaske then recruited Axel Brauer on drums and Michael Krantz on bass. The band wrote and played live for two years but failed to record and split up. On his own Kaske signed, as Mythos, to Cosmic Chorus, and recorded various TV and film soundtracks before recording DreamLab in 1975. In 1976 Kaske expanded the lineup to include Sven Dohrow on guitars, Eberhard Seidler on bass and Ronnie Schreinzer on drums. The band adopted a heavier sound and released two albums, Strange Guys and Concrete City. Kaske left the band in 1980 in order to concentrate on setting up his own recording studio in Berlin and pursue solo projects, and released the two albums; Quasar and Grand Prix. Dohrow and Schreinzer formed The Twins, changing to a synthpop style and scoring a number of minor hits.

Pink Floyd World Tour 1968 was a Pink Floyd world tour spanning February to December 1968 in which the group visited Europe and North America.

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Ed Wynne English guitarist and keyboardist (born 1961)

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