Perpetual Journey is inspired by the heartbreaking story of Laika the space dog, sent to an unwitting death in the most frightening of circumstances. Looking outside the capsule, the creature had no sense of scale, or purpose, or the weight of expectations. Instead she saw only the unfamiliar, spinning abyss. Since then, she’s become a figure of tragic nobility, when all she really wanted was to come back home.
But as with all of Strië‘s productions, there’s an additional layer of meaning. This isn’t just about the space dog. On a personal level, the artist has twirled between pseudonyms before announcing that she and Olga Wojciechowska are the same artist, merging her personas, in essence returning home. The cover art implies a capsule, and is echoed in the artist’s latest press photo, intimating that the artist is herself within a capsule, under scrutiny beyond what she desires, sent into the outer reaches without a tether. Is Strië the space dog?
The story of Laika resonates on a deep level due to compassion, transference and pride. The dog is beautiful, yet appears helpless in the press photo. (Would one feel the same about a space rat?) We feel her pain. The Soviet biologist cried and asked for her forgiveness before sending her into space, where she overheated and died within hours. And yet we also view Laika as a hero; she is found on everything from patches to posters to lunch boxes.
Perpetual Journey seems to be an extension of the biologist’s tears. This is what I would do if you were here, Strië seems to be saying. This is the gentleness with which I would treat you, and how I would sing to you. As a love letter, it’s astonishingly beautiful. There’s great loneliness in the music, which includes early metallic resonances, the pinging in the opening piece like the clanks of the capsule. Symphonic rushes reflect the caverns of space. “Man With the Thick Glasses” is a long, slow drift, accompanied by a lullaby, a female voice attempting to pillow the harshness of the man.
And then for a stretch, there are no warm sounds at all, just the drones and clicks of an unfamiliar sea. One cannot imagine the turbulence in the dog’s heart. The deep dub bass of “To Never Return Home” mimics a pulse, but bears the burden of inevitability. There was never any idea of a round trip. The lulling, repeated vocal line is the canine’s last comfort, a memory of the scientist’s salt.
Thankfully, the EP doesn’t end in anything as maudlin as an explosion, but trails off on an even pace, implying the perpetual journey. One imagines a happier fate for Laika, traveling beyond our universe, escaping her bonds and learning how to operate the controls herself, discovering a place where people don’t pluck strays from the street and send them to their deaths. The bells of the final piece sound like those of a dog collar no longer attached to a leash: the sound of freedom, hard won and well deserved. Rest in peace, little dog. (Richard Allen)