I Hear a New World: An Outer Space Music Fantasy

Joe Meek / Joe Meek & the Blue Men

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I Hear a New World: An Outer Space Music Fantasy Review

by Heather Phares

"Yes! This is a strange record, I meant it to be," Joe Meek wrote in his liner notes for I Hear a New World: An Outer Space Music Fantasy. As far as introductions to his 1960 cult classic album go, it's hard to top. Meek's musical trip to the moon was a singular album when he recorded it in his home studio with Rod Freeman and the Blue Men (aka the skiffle group Rod Freeman and the West Five); decades later, it's still a singular album. Its mix of exotica, surf, novelty pop, experimental electronics, and innovative production techniques -- which ranged from compression and reverb to sounds created from blowing bubbles with a straw -- doesn't sound like anything else, though it shaped music for years to come. Not long after, Meek's combination of pop melodies and pioneering sounds resulted in the soaring instrumental "Telstar," a chart-topping hit in the U.K. and the U.S. in 1962 (only 99 copies of a truncated version of I Hear a New World circulated during Meek's lifetime; a restored version of the full album didn't appear until 1991). In a larger context, the album foreshadowed the boundary-breaking sound design and experimental music of the '60s and beyond. "The Bublight," a flowing, glowing collage of ballooning bass, out-of-tune piano, and woozy Hawaiian guitars, presaged the psychedelic sounds that blossomed years later. "Glob Waterfall," a study in percolating ambience and startling crashes, is one of I Hear a New World's most adventurous tracks and akin to the work of the era's famed electronic composers. Even the album's quainter moments are inventive. The brisk tempo and bouncy melody of "Dribcots Space Boat" suggest it's being played in an atmosphere different from Earth's; the tight, tweaked guitars of "Orbit Around the Moon" make it "Pipeline" as played by little blue men. Like the exotica records of its time, I Hear a New World seeks to transport listeners to a far-off land. Meek goes a few light-years farther with his lunar travelogue, introducing his audience to the moon's different denizens with more characterization than some late-'60s concept albums. "Entry of the Globbots" and "March of the Dribcots" are zany alien fanfares that feature the helium-laced vocals popular in novelty rock from the Chipmunks to Sheb Wooley's "Purple People Eater." However, it's the songs of the Saroos, a melancholy race cut off from the rest of the moon's society, that give the album its poignant heart and soul. "Valley of the Saroos," which combines an atonal melody with a familiar '50s chord progression, could be a slow dance favorite at a lunar sock hop. This pensive mood also haunts the title track, a zero-gravity Buddy Holly ballad that foreshadows "Telstar"'s wonder and yearning. Though there were many more examples of Meek's studio wizardry to come, I Hear a New World remains remarkable as a product of its time and as a radical peek into music's future.

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