Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Scientist - Scientist Meets the Space Invaders (1981)

To lay my cards on the table, I never fully understood reggae when I was growing up. Some of it sounded okay, but I never really got the appeal of - for one example - Bob Marley, whom I have since come to regard as the black Paul McCartney, give or take some small change. Also, hailing from a rural area, the people I knew who listened to reggae were all white, and there's something horribly self-important about those white reggae dudes, or at least there has been about the ones I've met. On the other hand, ska seemed to make a lot of sense, and there was a quality I enjoyed about those seemingly hour long dub tracks Peel would play from time to time. I think what held me back was a combination of funding - there only being so many records on which I could spunk away my pocket money every week, and not knowing where to start with this stuff, and fear of seeming like one of those self-important tea-cosy-wearing tossers forever referring to himself as I and I whilst banging on about de weed and mi woman and things being claat despite his being even whiter than me in all other respects.

I discovered this album because every single person I knew owned a copy at one stage, so it seemed, even white guys who weren't pretending to be Rastafarians and who just liked music. I couldn't escape from the thing and it wormed its way into my consciousness pretty quickly, slipping past all the weird conditioning and hang-ups detailed above - particularly De Materialise which arguably features the greatest bass-line ever committed to tape; and yet I never bought a copy because I didn't want to be the guy with just one reggae album; and it didn't even seem like I needed my own copy given that I could just go around someone's house and hear it; and I'd get around to buying it one day. Then suddenly it was no longer in every single record shop, and then there ceased to even be record shops, and old copies of Scientist Meets the Space Invaders cost a fortune on eBay, until just now...

It's been reissued. I saw it in the store and I bought it.

You all know what reggae sounds like. Here it's stripped down to just percussion and a deep, deep bass with a few other sounds drifting in and out of a mix - snatches of vocals bouncing off those twangy old springline reverb units, delay echoing against itself, forming new cross-rhythms from the decaying signal, sounds crunched through filters... Space Invaders is like a few moments of three in the morning drawn out into a blissful codeine haze of eternity. Possibly you may even know what this record sounds like - the purest form of a thousand other things you've heard which weren't as good - but whilst you're listening to it, whilst you're caught in the moment...

It's like a musical evocation of a single meandering train of thought and is as such absolutely hypnotic and enveloping, peculiarly duplicating the effect of listening whilst smoking one of those space fags even for those who aren't. Whilst this record is playing, you're in another place and you really have to wonder why anyone has bothered recording anything since. It's that powerful, and now that I'm older, fatter, and better financed, I really need to get me some more of this stuff.

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