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Hawkwind - X In Search Of Space CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.62 | 350 ratings

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Luis de Sousa
4 stars This was the record where the magic started to happen. The band managed to move onwards from the incipient psychedelic delirium to something more solid, producing some of their classical material. This record also marked the beginning of the band's collaboration with Robert Calvert, whom would start the futuristic lyricism that marked some of the band's finest moments.

Calvert started reciting poetry during the band's performances at the invitation of Nik Turner, the two being acquainted professionally (Turner is a car mechanic and Calvert worked then at a tyre shop). Calvert would then evolve to singer and composer, writing some of the band's most lasting material, regarded as a New Wave pioneer and Punk Rock inventor.

The distinctive sound of the band in this period comes from three "instruments": . the audio generator ? actually an electric engine passing through a wha-wha pedal; . Nik's filtered saxophones and flutes ? I use the word "filtered" since I'm not certain which equipment he used, also a wha-wha, but possibly more; . Synthesizer ? which model I don't know, but used in ways to especially mimic the sounds present in 1950s and 1960s sci-fi movies. It is the folk imaginary of space pre 2001 and Also Sprach Zarathustra .

The tracks:

You Shouldn't Do That ? it starts with what could be described as the cacophony an alien space-craft produces during take off. It rapidly evolves to a repetitive psycho riff immersed in sound effects and never ending sax improvisation. The same line is repeated to exhaustion with repetitive lyrics (a single phrase) making it hard to endure beyond some point. Those brave enough to resist are grated with some final minutes of pure free jazz. A difficult track to hear for most, still pretty much along the lines of early Hawkind; but if you're in the mood to it and appreciate free saxophone playing, Turner has plenty to offer.

You Know You're Only Dreaming ? still a trippy track but on a more solid format. Mostly instrumental, all musicians seem to find space to stretch their legs without diluting the basic direction. Brock improvises along Turner, who uses the filtered sax during most of the track. The soothing ending is set with real saxophones, where you seem to get dragged into deep space without destination. One of the strongest tracks here.

Master Of The Universe ? my favourite space song, it is a defining landmark of the genre, produce of one of the moments when Dave Brock and Nik Turner were able to sat down and work together. It all starts on a languish guitar riff around which the band builds a fantastic environment with all the spacey sounds from the audio generator and the synth, hypnotic drums and a rich bass line. On top of all this Nik does his magic, either singing or improvising with the sax. The track is characterized by several stops after which the band takes off again, leaving the listener anxious for a new streak of distorted sax, some guitar work or more eerie vocals. The whole ambience owes much to some serious studio work with two rhythm guitar tracks (different distortions), two improvisational sax tracks (also both filtered) and backward vocals. At some point the band stops and doesn't take off again ? you feel like they could continue with that for hours. Some say Hawkwind invented a new music style, this track is possibly the most defining piece of the genre. Master Of The Universe is still an absolutely mandatory live number by the band as it was for Nik Turner and Robert Colvert during their solo careers. The main riff can morph to an heavy cavalcade (as it was during Hugh Lloyd Langton's time) or to dark, sluggish trip; many different versions exist in bootlegs and the numerous live releases by Hawkwind.

We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago ? beautiful track reminiscent of Brock's busker years. The folkish start is accompanied by seagulls (yes, seagulls) that are eventually replaced by the synth producing similar sounds. The rest of the band briefly joins midway, but eventually leaves the busker again alone with the synth. This track seems to reflect the Environmental concerns arising at the time.

Adjust Me ? another trippy track where the band makes the bridge from the pure psycho to space, with audio generator and the filtered sax featuring prominently. Also one of the first examples of the band's usage of manipulated voices, resulting in an interesting robotic rendition.

Children Of The Sun ? starting with Brock on the folk guitar and Turner on his eerie vocals it evolves nicely with a strange filtered flute and the electric guitar. Without the rhythmic session this sounds like folk from a distant future.

Somewhat after the release of the record the band changed drummer and bass player, taking on board Simon King (whom would remain for a decade) and Ian Kilminster, better known as Lemmy, whom had never played bass before. Robert Calvert slowly assumed a more prominent role as a singer just to have a depression that hospitalized him. From this period, the CD version includes three tracks that were never released in LP; they are a real plus.

Seven By Seven ? a creepy song with Calvert reciting poetry along the way, it could perfectly be the soundtrack of some 1950s horror picture with space invaders, immersed in alien sound effects. Brock explores the highest range of his voice hiking the creepy feeling. Without being outstanding musically it is another ground breaking track on format terms, that would last ages in live sets.

Silver Machine ? this is the most famous track by the band and what can be considered its one and only commercial success. It eventually led the band to an awkward playback "performance" at The Tops Of The Pops. Composed by Robert Calvert, it evolves pretty much along the lines of Master Of The Universe, but with a simpler riff, embryo of what would take Calvert close to Punk. This track was recorded live with Robert Calvert on vocals (after the release of the LP) and the band decided to release it as single ? including live material in studio recordings would become a common practice for Hawkwind. During pre-release production it was decided to re-record the vocals but Calvert was already hospitalized. After auditioning the other vocal-worthy band members the producer decided to go with Lemmy, which may have upset some egos but provided the final touch to another space rock landmark. In this track the audio generator produces sounds that makes the listener feel like inside some high speed sky travelling object. It is all so strange, the distorted guitar melting with the synthesized sounds, the filtered flute (or sax?), Lemmy's voice. Pretty much music from outer space.

Born to Go ? one of the band's classics that lasted in live sets for decades to come. It features the traditional Brock riff with Turner's vocals and plenty of space for the saxophone to lead a trip across the skies. Only listening.

The Veredict

I don't hesitate giving it 4 stars with the bonus tracks included. But even without those 3 classics it deserves such classification for 2 reasons: it's ground braking material and Master Of The Universe. This isn't yet a Masterpiece though, some moments are bit to rough for regular prog listeners and the band luckily proved able to produce even better music.

Luis de Sousa | 4/5 |


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