The Irish instrumental group, GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT, is reaching a kind of career benchmark upon the release of their tenth studio album, ”Ghost Tapes #10,” to be released via Napalm Records on February 12th, 2021. The album rekindles the band’s classic line-up with Jamie Dean on piano and guitar duties, picking up where the quartet left off in 2018. ”Ghost Tapes #10” rekindles an old flame on a highly more personal level too; I had the privilege of witnessing the band live in 2009 and for a moment, GIAA albums such as ”Far From Refuge” (2007) and ”All Is Violent, All Is Bright” (2005), were providing the soundtrack for my everyday endeavors. Then I sidetracked onto other stuff, not entirely cutting ties with the band but not obsessing about it anymore. That’s how it always goes, right? This new GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT outing is something to obsess about for a while, once again.
The album sets things into motion with the opener, ”Adrift,” which kicks off with a somewhat typical GIAA guitarwork. At first, I must admit I was tempted to write the song off as yet another stereotypical instrumental doodling. However, at the 2-minute mark, things start to get really interesting, though. First, the drums take off on a wild, breakbeat tangent and the dissonant riff makes you ante up. A little bit later, synths step in more prominently, while the hook of the song, for all the post-rock loving individuals out there at least, is the soothing coda of ethereal synths and piano. Yes, this is exactly the forte of the band for which it is loved.
After the 2010 album, ”Age of the Fifth Sun,” I have checked on the band merely on a random basis. The last two studio albums, ”Helios I Erebus” (2015) and ”Epitaph” (2018), are pretty decent – no complaints there! They didn’t exactly deliver a technical knock-out, however – not like those few older outings. Some awesome individual tracks have come and gone of late, yes, but I feel inclined to claim that none of them could match the impact of the haunting track, ”Burial,” on this new album. The song starts almost like a stereotypical, leftfield-electronica instrumental by BOARDS OF CANADA. Soon, the electronics give way to the band’s trademark, guitar-driven luminescence that alternates with the highly evocative, delayed piano and the off-kilter synth arpeggios – and POW! Before I could even notice, I was down for the count.
The third track on the album, ”In Flux,” nicely builds up momentum, galloping in 7/8 rhythm, until the song explodes into a riff maelstrom of emotion. Maybe it’s the odd time signature or a passing sting of nostalgia, but for me, the song resonates with the strong aura of the opening track, ”Radau,” on the band’s album ”Far From Refuge.” I would guess that I don’t need to express especially how thrilled I am! Instrumental music has the potential to conjure up mental ”illustrations” by default – and GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT is nothing short of prominent in the fine art of painting pictures with music.
”Spectres” and ”Fade” are both nice, uptempo post-rock tracks with maybe substantially more driving feel than is usually encountered in a stereotypical post-rock track. Well, I know that some post-rock puritans would highly condemn me for labeling GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT as a post-rock outfit. This Irish quartet is post-rock in the same spirit as the German outfit LONG DISTANCE CALLING. They both operate with the post-rockish sonic elements but lack the inherent, trademark quality of so many ”true” post-rock outfits – that boredom-inducing sense of going nowhere, in slow-motion.
”Ghost Tapes #10” has a sense of an overarching narrative with the plot thickening towards the end. The penultimate track, ”Barren Trees,” ascends to soaring emotional peaks with the help of the band’s custom-house sonic goods – just like in the good old times! The song feels like a reckless nose-dive into an infinite space or like a droning voice from the wilderness of dreams – weightless and highly immersive.
The album brings the story to a close with the meditative closing track, ”Luminous Waves,” featuring quest cello virtuoso Jo Quail. The song is basically a beautiful dialogue between an arpeggiating guitar and cello legatos. When the last note dissolves into the thin air I cannot help but burst out into a goofy grin that definitely doesn’t fail to give every appearance of enjoyment. On their new album, ”Ghost Tapes #10,” GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT demonstrates that they have not lost the old magic that so prominently endeared their early albums to me. In fact, this new outing sounds so convincing that I might actually have to give another chance to those albums in between.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- In Flux
- Barren Trees
- Luminous Waves
Torsten Kinsella – guitar, piano, synths
Niels Kinsella – bass
Lloyd Hanney – drums
Jamie Dean – guitar, piano