For the Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos

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It's an evocative enough title and the debut by one-man band Baikonour, aka Jean-Emmanuel Krieger, does its best to live up to it. The space race theme in band and album name, not to mention cover art, hits the ground running with the washes of feedback tone starting "Lick Lokoum," finding a midway point between proto-new age à la Ash Ra Tempel and Jean Michel Jarre, and more modern exponents of meditative drone. But right when you think this album is easily pegged, guest drummer Lee Adams brings in a combination soul/Krautrock stomp for "Coltan Anyone?." From there, For the Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos creates a collage of a '70s dreamscape that never quite was, mixing short fragments with longer compositions. Some of the huge guitar textures contributed by Etienne Rodes replicate the equally awe-inspiring work of Manuel Goettsching, but there's a careful, fluid variety in the core electronic arrangements by Krieger that keeps the album from being simple cloning. Song titles like "Rusk Plasmique" and "Oben Beg (Mk 2)" (easily one of the album highlights, as well) suggest a certain pan-European otherworldliness matched by the music, furthered by the hints of futuristic pastoral that crop up -- check out the simple but effective guitar melody at the heart of "Hoku to Shin Ken." Krieger's skill lies in part not only with his ear for good textures but in getting his guest performers to do their stuff -- thus, the familiar enough but still snarling guitar/drum jam at the heart of "Proto-Coeur" gives him a base to build on, and when a shimmering, heavenly drone cuts in and out of the mix, the effect is both beautiful and suddenly disorienting. "2/3/74" plies a similar path, with Krieger's keyboard parts and some buried, whisper-barked vocals finding a surprisingly effective halfway point between Stevie Wonder and Can.

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