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Spacemen 3 - Transparent Radiation CD (album) cover

TRANSPARENT RADIATION

Spacemen 3

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.00 | 1 ratings

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TCat
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Spacemen 3' was a psychedelic band that existed between 1982 and 1991. Through those years, the line up changed several times, but 2 members remained consistent, both Jason Pierce (who would go on to form the band 'Spiritualized') and Peter Kember (who would later record as 'Sonic Boom' and 'Spectrum'). Both members would have success with these later projects.

Spacemen 3 was well-known for it's members use of recreational drugs and how this influenced it's music. They used the formulas of other previous psychedelic/space rock bands like 'Hawkwind' and experimented with other styles as ambience. After their debut album and the companion EP, they broke away from the louder and heavier psychedelic rock and started to introduce more dynamics and ambience into their music. While working on their 2nd album 'The Perfect Prescription', they recorded a cover of the 'Red Krayola' song 'Transparent Radiation' and released it as a 5 track EP in 1987. The EP is actually as long as many albums at over 38 minutes. The tracks from this EP would later show up in a collection named 'Translucent Flashbacks ' The Glass Singles', released in 1995 and combining this EP with two other early EPs onto one album. The original EP would also be reissued in 2011.

As mentioned previously, the first track, 'Transparent Radiation' is a cover of a song by another psychedelic band 'Red Krayola'. In this track, we get the expected psychedelic sounds, but everything is muted and the vocals have a thick echo/delay effect, making for a blurry, layered background with guitar riffs appearing from the foggy accompaniment. There is also no percussion.

'Ecstasy Symphony' builds from a drone that fades in and is soon joined by spoken word 'I was wide awake in a dream.' Swirling ambience continues with synths and a subdued violin. This drone ebbs and flows while the violin plays around it, twisting in, out and through the drone while occasional short spoken word passages come out of nowhere. This continues on for just over 9 minutes.

'Transparent Radiation (Flashback)' comes next, thus bookending the 'Ecstasy Symphony' with different versions of the title track. This time, the track is much softer and the lyrics easier to understand. It is also longer at over 7 minutes. Where the previous version used a thick wall of layers, this one is much softer allowing you to hear each individual instrument which is mostly driven by the violin and the melody. Strummed and plucked guitars become more apparent later.

'Things'll Never Be the Same' begins with a wailing guitar fading in and becoming backed by another fuzzy guitar providing a drone base. This one is more intense and heavy with somewhat angrier vocals. Percussion is finally apparent, but it is minimal as everything else is intense. The entire track is based around a non-changing chord.

'Starship' is the final track and the longest on the EP at over 11 minutes. It is written by the band with help and inspiration from 'MC5' and 'Sun Ra'. Reverb effects are applied to the entire group of instruments playing, melding and melting sounds together. This all breaks down after minutes with nothing but guitars churning out feedback and losing control. Intensity rebuilds until that wall of noise returns being led by punished guitars that soon return to their repeating patterns. At 7:30, the wall falls apart again and this time the feedback is not as heavy, but the fuzzy guitar is trying to generate intensity again, which it finally succeeds in doing. Now everything really comes crashing together into chaotic noise which continues to the end.

This EP is good insight into the differing styles of Pierce (who is responsible for the softer, more ambient tracks) and Kember (who influences the noisier and heavier tracks). While some of these tracks appear on the album 'The Perfect Prescription', they appear in different mixes, or versions. The EP itself is still a worthwhile recording showing psychedelia and space rock taking on new sounds and textures as Spacemen 3 expand the boundaries of the genre. The EP is one of the first to demonstrate the use of ambience more extensively to lend variety to the sound. If you are a lover of this style of music, then this is an important recording to have whether you can get it as an EP as originally intended, or in the collection. Either way, it is an excellent album for your progressive library as far as the development of psychedelic music goes.

TCat | 4/5 |

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