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"Galaxy of light
I float through this endless night
Looking for your star
In the velvet darkness."
A Science Fiction fan ever since his mother took him to see 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1976, Australian musician/multi-instrumentalist/All India Radio mastermind Martin Kennedy has been exploring his fascination with outer space, not least through the cinematic ambient soundscapes (primarily synths, keyboards, electronic drums, and reverb-drenched guitars) of his long-standing, prolific band and its evocative song titles such as, for instance, Solstice, Tomorrowland, Saucer, Evening Star, Open Sky Experiment, The Final Frontier, Red Shadow Landing, etc.
Recorded in Martin Kennedy’s home studio, The Slow Light was conceived in-between All India Radio’s Red Shadow Landing (2012) and Kilbey/Kennedy’s third album You are Everything (2013) — and then completed at a later stage. Martin Kennedy: “The inspiration for The Slow Light was “space” — as in stars, galaxies, and the universe. I also like exploring ambience and the “space” between the notes. I wanted to do something very different from the previous album Red Shadow Landing, which was a band effort that got a bit out of control with too much instrumentation.”
Even the album artwork (executed by Victor Atkins, who did the award-winning cover for Miles Davis’ Miles In The Sky) is inspired by the vastness of space: Several song titles on The Slow Light refer to various aspects of interstellar light, and the fading shades of blue create the optical illusion of being transported further and further, deeper and deeper, into the unknown, into outer space, as stars and galaxies move towards us. This phenomenon is called Blueshift and that is the title of the Pink Floyd-ish track that starts off this celestial musical journey; floating along on sound waves of spacey synth layers and reverb-laden guitar, the almost meditative pace slowly but surely takes us to Dark Star (Martin Kennedy’s third favourite All India Radio song), a composition consisting of soaring, sparkling electric guitar, an undertow of sweeping synth, static vinyl sound effects, and a sparse, echoing drumbeat, which, sporadically (and surprisingly), is interrupted by skittish, syncopated drum fills. It’s a beauty alright.
At first listen, Can You Hear The Sound may come off as sort of a New Age-esque Pop song in a similar vein to Theodora (from Kilbey/Kennedy’s Inside We Are The Same), but it soon reveals itself to be of greater interest. According to Martin Kennedy, it was meant to be Four Three, Part 2 (that’s to say, a sequel to All India Radio’s Four Three from 2006’s Echo Other). Selena Cross, who also sang on Four Three, adds her whispery vocals to Can You Hear The Sound, while the ambient atmosphere is, more or less, Tijuana Dream (from All India Radio’s self-titled 2003 album) played backwards.
Martin Kennedy’s 14-year-old daughter Hollie sings lead vocal in an airy, sweet tone of voice on the wondrous Galaxy Of Light, an absolute album highlight that echoes the gorgeous Evening Star (also off 2003’s self-titled All India Radio album). Martin Kennedy: “Can you see a pattern here? It's just the way I operate. One song leads to another, transforming over time but retaining something of the “original”, a big family tree with numerous branches of cousins.” The warm, wobbly sounds of a Rhodes keyboard introduce the tranquil Sunburst, followed by shimmering percussion (both programmed and analog), crystal-clear acoustic guitar, and ethereal backing vocals by Selena Cross (who is also singing a lot of vocals on the next Kilbey/Kennedy album). This track is a Martin Kennedy masterclass in creating magical and memorable atmospherics.
Redshift gradually approaches by way of woozy synth washes before arriving on samples of assertive, driving drums/cymbals, as well as slightly ominous bass, swirling guitar, and percolating piano. And then there’s the sequenzer-driven Time, a hypnotizing track propelled by a rhythmic ostinato/a relentless, repetitive synthesizer motorik beat reminiscent of late 1970s/early 1980s electro music (think Giorgio Moroder's Donna Summer albums and his Midnight Express soundtrack, with a bit of Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Kraftwerk added for good measure).
All India Radio have been labeled anything from “Chillgaze”, “Chilltronic”, and “Chillwave", to “Ambient Electronica”, but regardless of labels, the otherworldly music that Martin Kennedy records — with other musicians or entirely by himself — is in a league of its own. As good as any album he’s ever done as part of Kilbey/Kennedy is (and they’re all damn fine), he’s very much created a universe all his own (a precious musical paradise) under the moniker of All India Radio. Martin Kennedy fully deserves to be inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame.