NOTE – Hawkwind are far from my favourite band, this weekly collection of margin doodles begins as it means to go on, with random-ass writing about random-ass bands. We like it that way, maybe one day we’ll cover the bands we really love. Maybe as a Christmas present to ourselves. This album goes first because it also lends its name to the series (It’s also the first one I wrote and I’m damned if I’ll do more work than is strictly necessary). My partially informed, alcohol soaked, incense scented voyage through the best psychedelia, rock and roll and drone music has to offer will hitherto be named In Search of Space.
1027 hrs. 5 May 1971.
Space/time supply indicators near to zero.
Our thoughts are losing depth; soon they will fold into each other, into flatness, into nothing but surface.
Our ship will fold like a cardboard file and the noises of our mind compress into a disc of shining black, spinning in eternity...
These were the last earthly words of the spaceship Hawkwind before launch, ready to dive into a cosmic, beautiful, tragic, heart-wrenching mess of an album. Each and every one of you can join them, keeping our feet firmly on the ground, and gesturing towards the stars, in order to take us to musical heaven. Striking the perfect balance between skill, concept and production that Hawkwind had never hit before and would never hit again. Dense electric soundscapes wash over like breakers on a beach on a stoned winters night, as if the entire world has been condensed to just what you can experience now, the lights of the city around, the stars above like another city distant in the sky, the moon bright but not imposing, the sea, a gentle but insistent friend; this is all that is real, outside of your perception, nothing exists. Moments of sense that seem almost illusory in their vivid quality but are fundamentally rooted in experience, like a scientist glimpsing the face of God at the bottom of a test tube. It isn’t the music of Hawkwind that allows these wild flights into waking dreamlike fantasy, it is you. As if only from your own perspective can you glimpse the multitude of moments in this album where, like holes in several layers of shifting pieces of paper lining up to give a brief glimpse of the universe beyond.
The beginning of this voyage, an astounding fifteen minute masterpiece that begins like a shuttle upended with its nose towards the heavens in silence. A rising opening that takes nearly four minutes to peak leads into a spectral rollercoaster with soaring wind instruments mingling with sci-fi sounds, the antithesis of a very tactile and fallible human craft meeting the infinite mathematical conundrum of the cosmos. A calm voice counts off vocals like a mission commander counting down to the next part of the launch sequence. You Shouldn’t Do That fades seamlessly into You Know You’re Only Dreaming. Adrift in space, unable to effectively confront the horrifying truth that you are a minuscule atom of being in a universe as vast as it is ambivalent, not even being tethered to a planet any longer. The giant leap you have made beyond your own beginnings quickly rendered moot by the enormity of understanding still laid before you, looking back at the earth and realising just how little you really understand of the blue marble rotating beneath you; facing all of that reflected in your own eyes, the only thing you can do is pinch yourself. You’re only dreaming.
That ends side one. Of course my record doesn’t have sides because it doesn’t, in any corporeal sense, exist. It is of course a firestorm of ones and zeroes. But I note the side change because it of course brings a tonal change with it.
Side two begins as it means to continue, switching up from celestial stargazing to humanist, anthropocentrist ideals. The first lyric is “I am the centre of this universe/the wind of time is blowing through me/and everything’s moving relative to me”. The capsule containing us few who dare to brave the bracing edge of space overcome our crippling fears from the last side and begin to understand that we are not passing across the earth’s surface many miles above, the earth is in fact moving around us, as is the sun and the entire fulsomeness of creation in our tiny soundproof capsule of experience. Whether this is a valid viewpoint or the vanity of genetic youth is left as an exercise for the listener. After our gaze outward, the next track completes the circle by turning the gaze inward. We Took the Wrong Step Years Ago weaves simple, beautiful imagery of “morning sun is rising, casting waves across the land”, while these images play out for our intrepid flyers, they reflect on taking the ‘wrong step’ years ago. Hawkwind take the subject of regret, and while stipulating it, also make it clearly ambiguous. If you’re listening in your own pod of celestial voyagers, Hawkwind will take the group and shatter it like a mirror falling to the ground. By turning the gaze inward, they also make each person feel alone. Thinking about missed chances, wrong turns, and meditating that if the future could be seen, attained and understood, would the ‘warnings close at hand’ be heeded? Would you heed them? Questions rise of the nature of fate and inevitability, preordination and precognition, Hawkwind make plain how the two concepts may not be mutually exclusive as while they reflect on making the wrong turn years ago, either in coming out of the sea, beginning our intrepid mind-voyaging spacecraft, or in a much more intimate, personal and heartbreaking mistake. Events leading up to the moment of listening to this record may not have been an accident.
Having fully explored the imprint man can make on his experiences, it is time to explore the impression left by experiences on the man. Adjust Me comes as the violent, fast-paced electronic re-entry, fading away and returning as the thought-vessel passes through different layers of consciousness in its downward plummet. The comparatively vicious and aggressive music scraping away at the heat reflectors on our craft. With a rising electronic crescendo that feeds almost inconceivably well into the mellow Children of the Sun. Returning from our odyssey, the psychonauts not only feel changed by their various spiritual ordeals, but feel the bond their experiences lent them, being somehow reborn into a more peaceful life by their ability to prespectivise their own existence by gaining a greater understanding of the frameworks in which they exist.
These are just the thoughts of one such proud psychonaut who was honoured to take part in Hawkwind’s test flight into the possibilities of a musical dreamlike experience. Many musical journeys are worse than this one, some are better, but none of them is In Search of Space.
Words - Steven