The high-rise blocks that are rising all over the place, and their attendant perched cranes and machinery, set off memories of SF novels I read in the 70s and 80s, and more importantly, their covers. The block I’m in is a relatively new build. It was constructed in 1999 over a period of six weeks out of prefabricated parts. It’s the first time I’ve really felt like I’m living in the 21st Century. — Zali Krishna
Galactic Emperor Blues is a terrifying musical odyssey, climbing past paranoia to stratospheric levels of panic and ending in the mega low-low-low, down with the broken ambitions and the final puny electric sparks of old dreams crackling from frayed power chords in the dark subterranean gloom, far below the surface of a shattered planet.
A scary ride. With a snyth line dour enough to knock a hole through gravitational fields, “Panglobalist Strut” conjures a sinister and self-replicating mechanism the size of a city, then a continent, perhaps finally assimilating everything. (At least, that’s what it sounds like to me.) Ominous tonal daggers stab toward no good outcome in “Moog the Merciful is Skill.” Plateaus of hopelessness are evoked by shifting strains of moody filters which weave both subtle fascination and dread in “Flintlocks of Aldebaran” and “Heighliner Towers.” But it is in the epic titular “Galactic Emperor Blues” that the full weight of a planet-sized ego must reconcile the ruin of mighty ambitions. What powers the pacemaker of a Master of the Universe? What raw fuels must be consumed so that Galactus might live? How will memory persist when the last bit of matter disintegrates into non-existence? “GEB” begins with the fading electric pulse of a fading electric heart, a rhythm that warps by song’s end into a plaintive siren of alarm. Galactic Emperor Blues is one scary mindfuck of a musical odyssey.
I asked Krishna what compelled him to make such a record. In between constantly gigging and composing and releasing new records over the course of a single summer, the prolific musician said (via email):
“GEB was recorded very fast. Most of the main parts were recorded in a single day using Vangelis’s famous technique: try to play as many synths as possible at once. Edits and overdubs took another month or so, but the process was very rapid, and the title suggested itself from the squelchy sound of the Moog lowpass filter which had a “galactic emperor synth sound.” A season of frequent rainbows sorted out the cover. It mostly fell out of the air. Like a starship with a failing FTL drive.
“I [had just] moved to Hoxton, an embarrassingly fashionable area of London, a little over a year ago. The high-rise blocks that are rising all over the place, and their attendant perched cranes and machinery, set off memories of SF novels I read in the 70s and 80s, and more importantly, their covers. The block I’m in is a relatively new build. It was constructed in 1999 over a period of six weeks out of prefabricated parts. It’s the first time I’ve really felt like I’m living in the 21st Century.
“Another key element is the financial crashes and economic gloom of our era. The galactic emperor is also the captain of finance, the economist/adventurer. The expression that is sometimes used in the press is ‘masters of the universe.’”
And there is one particular “Master of the Universe” brooding behind the strains of Galactic Emperor Blues. The music is informed by the work of SF Illustrator Peter Elson, as well as haunted by his rise and fall. Elson’s wiki entry. And Kirshna expounds:
“Elson, along with Chris Foss, Jim Burns and others, defined for me an aesthetic of a hyperreal future. However, unlike Foss’s almost abstract primary coloured starships which were found on SF covers throughout the 70s and 80s, whether there was a spaceship in the book or not, Elson’s vision was more gadget obsessed. His slick streamlining and handheld devices are around us now. But it’s not the prophetic nature of SF that I am really interested in. It’s his apocalyptic skies, his machine-strewn landscape and most importantly those crashed technologies: heroes emerging from shattered vessels which seem to prefigure his own fall.”
“Elson was a 2D guy. Behind his cities and interceptors and spacesuits there is nothing. They are advertising hoardings and stage sets. As the 70s turned into the 80s he was increasingly a relic. His peers had moved onto mapping their visions with the emergent 3D computer graphics, which would become the CGI that has become the ubiquitous fare of contemporary SF art. Elson’s futures were intuitive, drawn on feel and painterly aesthetic. The new more autistic vision of a fully-mapped out technology of the future borrowed from his aesthetic but left him behind.”
“With contracts diminishing and Elson unable to make a leap into the future, he lapsed into alcoholism and ill health. Perhaps ironically he was more of an old fashioned romantic landscape artist at heart.”
Krishna paid further tribute to Elson in a fiction titled the same as his epic suite, “Galactic Emperor Blues,” available at archive.org, as is the music and sleeve art, all free for download.
Zali Krishna has recorded over 30 albums of self-released material since 1989 under various names: Entropy Circus, Benelux Circus, Vitreous Enamel Development Authority. The Benelux Circus, &c. He gigs regularly with Raagnagrok, Durga and solo, and was the founder member of The Stella Marid Drone Orchestra.
A Selective Discography:
The Goats & the Peacock – Entropy Circus 1998
Paddington Hard stare – Entropy Circus 1999
Fritware Painted with Lustre – The Benelux Circis 2001
Stella Maris – Stella Maris 2003
Nand Gate – Zali Krishna & the Entropy Circus 2008
Upon These Might We Brunch – Zali Krishna 2009
Galactic Emperor Blues - Zali Krishna 2011
Kingfisher Blue – Zali Krishna & the Entropy Circus 2012
Bremsstrahlung Sommerwind – Zali Krishna & the Benelux Circus 2012
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