35 years ago Joy Division used the image of an emission from pulsar CP1919 on the cover of Unknown Pleasures. Using that image of stark, lonely, empty space that they set the environment of Manchester to music. in 2012 fellow Mancunian sound explorers Dead Sea Apes made the return visit, back to CP1919. This is what they found there…
‘Pharmakon’ is unremittingly bleak, fuelled with drones and shimmers. This isn’t space rock as it doesn’t rock. This isn’t komische as this makes Tangerine Dream sound like a bunch of happy-clappers at a harvest festival. This is a spaceship marooned, adrift, without even tides to provide it with a course. Onerous clanging reverberates around the hull, the machinery of the great craft slowly dying as the energy cells wane. One crew member is left alive, cocooned in his spacesuit, breathing the fetid air of recycled oxygen. With no means of escape he just lies prone, gazing at the once distant stars, symbols of exploration now reduced to a mocking mural of his death throes.
‘Knowledge and Conversation’. We leave the spaceman and head below decks. Unbeknownst to him he is not alone on board. A small life form scrambles through the engine room, its claws clacking on the metal gantries. Beady eyes glimmer in the dark. Sharp fangs nibble at the rivets on a drive plate. This monster’s progress is soundtracked by Nick Harris’ bass. It’s mood and temperament are characterised by Brett Savage’s guitar. As it scopes its way through the guts of the ship its momentum becomes hypnotic, each angry snort pumped through its reptilian nostrils a sign of danger.
‘Still’ takes us outside the ship. Bass occasionally threatens to kick into a motorik groove but it must just be the listless moanings of the hull. So this is permanence.
‘Something To Do With Death’. The spaceman finally rouses from his torpor. Meandering through the ship checking on the life support systems each footfall of the space suit is a concerted effort of will. Needles of guitar glimmers and subliminal bass must be the vestiges of the survival instinct of this former icon, this fallen star.
‘Blood Knot’ sees the monster sinking its blooded maw into the carcass of one of the crew mates. Stabbing incisor guitar wails and a sullen bass mews.
‘Wolf Of The Bees’ sees the ship lit up by some unexplained light phenomena. The spaceman shields his eyes yet thirsts to see. He is bathed in an iridescent, inexplicable power. What is this? Is this rescue? Is this death? Both? The ship is being analysed, investigated by rays of energy. Terror and adrenaline hold the spaceman in a vice. The gloom descends, matters have taken a downward course. Whatever this being is it does not have open arms. The spaceman shakes with fear. Even the monster below deck has sensed the vibrations and listens carefully. Light dowses the spaceman and the ship is enveloped…
‘Medicine Lodge’. Nothing. Ship, spaceman, creature, all gone to parts unknown. In its place is something new. Something ghastly that travelled in the opposite direction. Some unknowably evil. Something with rage and greed down to it’s core. Something that thrives in space. Something hungry and heading to Earth…
Over the course of 57 minutes Dead Sea Apes take the listener to where no space-rock band has ever gone before. To a place where the scream dies curdled in your throat. A symphony of silence. Do you have what it takes to take on Lupus? Do you dare glance into the heart of a black hole?
Using a guitar, a bass, percussion and electronics Dead Sea Apes have made a stark, bleak, huge, ambitious album. Something that touches many genres but transcends the ambitions of most. Anyone with an ear for ambient, experimental or soundtrack music could have the right stuff and would be advised to tackle Lupus. Needles to say this is not for everyone but for those who have the passion for exploring, the urge to look a snaggle toothed alien monster in the eye, then travel to CP1919. What will you find there?
One final observation: being as much a 21st century social pariah as everyone else, I am a compulsive headphones wearer. However, Lupus sounds better floating around your room as opposed to directly streamed into your head.