Graham Richardson’s last album, The Safety of the North, was about a family tragedy and a move to colder climes. The theme of his latest work is open to a wider interpretation. Expressing “an affinity for satellites and stars”, the work calls to mind the hopes and dreams of the sixties generation. The title track includes a quaint broadcast sample involving good manners; the preview video displays images of the Apollo missions, along with footage of an boy preparing a bottle rocket. Walter Cronkite, the comfort of a generation, makes a brief appearance. Upon seeing these images, some may yearn for simpler times, while others may be thankful for the innovations of space: satellite transmissions, television, the internet. Of course, the yearning for simpler times is often just a yearning for a time when we were simpler: young, innocent, unjaded. All of the Last Days albums share a similar nostalgia: muted wishes tempered by bittersweet gratitude. Even the titles strike a balance. On the optimistic side, “Expecting Miracles”, “To the Sky” and “Escape Velocity”; on the melancholic side, “After the Flood” (which takes place during a downpour), “If” and “Ghosts of Winter”.
While Satellite may seem at first to be a simple album, it sneaks up on the listener. The mood matters more than the method. Chimes, keys and distant drones combine to weave an atmosphere akin to the clear night sky. With only occasional sound samples to mark one’s path, the listener is free to wander and to wonder. Have our lives turned out as we imagined? Is progress still achievable? Waves form a sonic connection to Sea, while traffic and transit form an emotional connection to These Places Are Now Ruins and The Safety of the North. Richardson is clearly working his way through an intensely personal climate, but his music makes his journey relatable. A rare vocal incursion (Beth Arzy on “New Transmission”) provides the album with a time (mid-autumn) a setting (indoors) and a source of dramatic tension (withdrawal versus re-entry), which has as much to do with people as it does with the heavens. Can people be comforted by the sun, moon and stars if they avoid them? Do blessings remain blessings even when unclaimed? The percussion of the 11-minute “To the Sky” takes half the track to emerge, but eventually sounds like a heartbeat: the first opening of the blinds, the first step outdoors, the first fresh breath. Recovery is available, if we steel ourselves and look to the sky; whatever may be happening below, the heavenly lights are still intact. (Richard Allen)
Release date: September 17