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Forever Alien

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Album Review

The last Spectrum album proper for a number of years, and one of Sonic's last open dips into pop structure for the rest of the 1990s, Forever Alien continues what Songs for Owsley had already indicated — a keyboard-dominant set of songs, with Sonic merrily using and abusing the heck out of a series of old synths. Theremins and vocoders crop up as well, and the result feels and sounds like a head-on collision between 1957-era sci-fi movies, 1968 psych, and whatever else is floating through Sonic's brain. One definite nod to a past influence comes with the song title "Delia Derbyshire" — one of the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop regulars, commissioned to come up with appropriate themes and noises for the likes of Doctor Who. Assisted by Pete Bain and Alf Hardy, he comes up with some crackers, three of the best being reappearances from Songs for Owsley. Besides "Owsley" itself, there's "Feels Like I'm Slipping Away," the amazing opening song — a slow slide downward with Sonic's singing treated to give an air of desperation among all the unworldly burbles and noises, it's a pretty melody making a wonderful contrast. Then there's "The New Atlantis," with lyrics from Francis Bacon's book of that title about "sound-houses" — a very Sonic subject — mixed with both a recurring melody and utterly random blurbs and burbles. A slightly surprising but quite successful trip into the past comes with a remake of Spacemen 3's "How Does It Feel?," here titled "The Stars Are So Far." The lyric and its seemingly diffident delivery remain the same, but the tripped-out, rhythmic backing comes from synths this time around, an organic but still unfamiliar combination. The "Space Age" version of the album includes the remaining two tracks from Songs for Owsley in slightly different form, along with "Sounds for a Thunderstorm (For Peter Zinovieff)," unsurprisingly an homage to said composer.


Formed: 1990

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Spectrum was the most high-profile and straightforward of the projects undertaken by Pete "Sonic Boom" Kember after the demise of the trance-rock avatars Spacemen 3. Because his work as a member of the Experimental Audio Research coterie allowed Kember the opportunity to explore ambient textures and tonal constructs, Spectrum satisfied the singer/guitarist's more conventional pop leanings, while never losing sight of the hypnotic otherworldliness which became his music's trademark and legacy. The...
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Forever Alien, Spectrum
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