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

X IN SEARCH OF SPACE

Hawkwind

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.55 | 268 ratings

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Certif1ed
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3 stars The Final Frontier

It's only got a couple of chords - how can it be Prog Rock?

This is the question that Hawkwind answer with aplomb.

Like the rest of Prog, Hawkwind grew out of the psychedelic scene - but unlike the rest of Prog, Hawkwind didn't go for pretentious ideas of grandeur, such as borrowing from Classical music or high-brow literature, didn't stick with the Moogs, Mellotrons and Hammonds, didn't attempt dazzling displays of virtuosity and certainly didn't try to sell out stadiums - playing, as they often did, for free outside the gates of organised events.

Hawkwind's vision was completely different - they weren't trying to write Prog Rock, but the ideas of grandeur that they did have were heavyweight perceptions of Space Rock, founded in the early experimentations of Pink Floyd and such late 1960s luminaries as Twink. The music has more in common with Krautrock than "Symphonic" Prog, and as such is largely minimal and trance-like rather than expansive in terms of the musical parameters. On a casual listen, this will seem extremely repetitive - and more often than not, plain wierd.

Where Hawkwind's music IS expansive is in the explorations of germs of ideas - for despite the enormous amount of room left for improvisation, this is no simple jam session. When the music catches you in the correct receptive mood, it has a significant power that simply cannot be found anywhere else - except, maybe the genre of Krautrock.

Here, Hawkwind boldly go where no man has gone before - indeed, if you consider Stacia's contribution, then they also go where no woman has gone before... painting vast canvasses of remote corners of the universe, populated with strange and often destitute creatures of the future - presumably human - and their interactions with space and technology.

The Album:

"In Search of Space" serves up a barrage of insistent rhythms and powerful riffs, with lashings of spacey synth sounds, tempering these perfectly with dark ambience that you simply will not hear anywhere else. The band work constantly as a single unit, which is always the most amazing thing about almost any of Hawkwind's studio offerings - the way that the instrumentalists react to each other and colour the lyrics and vocals beyond perfection and into Hawkwind's sole domain where they rule absolutely. While much of their early material sounded somewhat rough and ready, discerning ears will "get" the sonic soundscapes that the space punks painted, with a vivacity and power that is sometimes frightening.

Unfortunately, the boxy production lets the whole thing down a bit, and Turner's infernal and incessant noodling spoils "You Shouldn't Do That" for me. Fortunately, the brilliant ambience of "You Know You're Only Dreaming" and the cosmic power of "Master of the Universe" more than make up for this. "We Took the Wrong Step Years Ago" is a kind of "Hurry On Sundown II", or some kind of freaked-out Roy Harper song, but provides a necessary respite before "Adjust Me" runs the cosmic gauntlet.

"Children of the Sun" is an essential for your Sun-God ritual - don't enter the temple without it. The raw and earthy primaeval nature of this song seems rooted in Jethro Tull at times, although Turner in no way tries to imitate Ian Anderson. The best is clearly saved until last.

The Bonus Material:

The bonus tracks fit naturally to the end of the album - which makes a very nice change indeed, as most albums feel like gaffer tape has been liberally applied, and the so-called bonuses end up detracting from the overall experience.

"Seven by Seven" is a haunting slice of dark matter, that was the flip-side to the hit single "Silver Machine" - which everybody knows as the greatest space-rock song of all time. Chronologically, of course, this is out of place here, as the driving bass and gravel voice of Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister testify. The production and remastering also give this song a gloss and escape from the boxy production of the album - but in context, returns the power where it belongs.

"Born To Go" is a reasonable choice to round off these bonus tracks, and flows on well from Silver Machine - however, I feel that it gives an air of saminess to the overall experience of this collection, and the choice of bonus tracks does not allow the breathing space and ebb and flow in dynamic that the album in its original form would have had.

To Summarise:

Darker and more powerful than - and a distinct progression from its predecessor, "In Search of Space" nevertheless feels more flawed - a band with a powerful vision that almost but not quite manages to give the necessary execution to that vision. One third of the album is almost ruined by directionless Sax playing, and your ears will probably need to do a lot of compensating for the production before your mind goes "ping!" and you get it - like looking at one of those cheap 3-dimensional pictures that looks like nothing but randomness until you see it with your eyes slightly squinted and stinging from the effort.

The original album had an intriguing cover, courtesy of the famous E.J.Day Group, that took the form of a pair of zig-zagged doors that fastened together with a tab in the middle, and a log book. If you have a turntable, and can actually track down a little-used copy, then get this, as it's part of the whole Hawkwind experience. This cheapo CD case just is not the same...

The award:

3 stars is a bit mean - if you're into Hawkwind's music, then this is an essential album - and as I would recommend 2/3 of this album to anyone else, 3.5 would be a better score.

However, your Prog Music collection will do just fine without it - but check out Hawkwind's later albums.

Certif1ed | 3/5 |

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