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Sonic Boom
All Things Being Equal Julian Marszalek , July 3rd, 2020 07:48

Spaceman 3's Pete Kember returns with songs of revolution and a swirl of psychedelic synths

Pete Kember – aka Sonic Boom - has covered some considerable ground since calling for a ‘Revolution’ on Spacemen 3’s 1989 breakthrough album, Playing With Fire. Loosely based on the rabble-rousing call to arms by The MC5’s spiritual advisor Brother J.C. Crawford that opened the Kick Out The Jams album, Kember was unequivocal about his intent. To the sound of a single, distorted and repeated chord that rose in waves of intensity and then fell away before rising up again, Kember – as with his Detroit antecedents - suggested to us that it took “…just five seconds to realize that the time is right to start thinking about a little revolution.”

Fast forward to 2020 and while Kember’s calls for societal changes remain undiminished, what has altered is not only the proposed timescale, but also the musical methodology that carries his message. The guitars have gone, and in their place is a collection of vintage analogue and monophonic synthesizers being pushed this way and that to explore and create new psychedelic realms and opportunities. And instead of urging a massed revolt, All Things Being Equal proposes reflection, ecological recognition and, ultimately, change from within. Brothers and sisters, we have moved from revolution to evolution.

Kember’s musical growth and progression are at the very heart of All Things Being Equal, his first solo album since 1990’s Spectrum. Anyone who’s paid attention to Kember’s career is well aware of his move into synthesized sound, but his output under the Electronic Audio Research (E.A.R.) banner has been instrumental. And what could have been another E.A.R. result has been transformed into a Sonic Boom solo release thanks to a desire to turn these audio kaleidoscopes into songs.

As with all psychedelic experiences, All Things Being Equal is initially overwhelming, but strap yourself in for the ride and the results are deeply and profoundly rewarding. Opener ‘Just Imagine’ is both a manifesto and a startling revelation. Urging a return to the garden, the music is breathtaking as it simultaneously moves forward yet turns in on itself, for here are pulses, beeps, bleeps and a curious reversal of sound that comes from all directions to land in the centre of the mind.

As with Spacemen 3’s Playing With Fire, this is an album that grooves despite being mainly devoid of beats. The squelching and twisting ‘Just A Little Piece’ astonishes with both message and medium: “Bury me beneath a tree/Let its roots grow into me/Let it grow and you will see/Just a tiny piece of me.” And those Spacemen 3 origins are in full evidence on ‘The Way That You Live’, a glorious blast of multi-coloured joy that harks back to ‘Big City (Everybody I Know Can Be Found Here)’.

But when it comes to full on, brain-melting psychedelia, then album centerpiece and heavyweight highlight ‘Spinning Coins And Wishing On Clovers’ is hard to beat, not least when the third eye is wide open and at its most responsive. This isn’t music in the conventional sense of a melody that your postman is going to whistle, but a gurgling, growling soundscape that emerges from your speakers, opens your cranium, removes your brain and pops it into a lysergic washing machine for a slow wash as Sonic Boom intones on the nature of fate and luck. Initially unsettling, its rewards become increasingly apparent as you ride this particular trip out to its astounding conclusion.

But what’s particularly notable about All Things Being Equal is that, for an album so grounded in electronics, it sounds remarkably organic. Perhaps it’s the lyrical intent, or the fact that Kember’s been cultivating its growth over some time, but the record’s connection to the earth is unmistakable. In making his grand statement, Pete Kember has succeeded in creating his magnum opus and an album for the ages.

Tune in, turn on, sprout out.