Baïkonour: For the Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos

Given the celestial character of his electronic groove music, it's more than a little fitting that Brighton, UK-based Jean-Emmanuel Krieger chose Baïkonour as his moniker, considering its origin as the name of a Soviet missile launch base in Khazakstan. And, while For The Lonely Hearts Of The Cosmos, his Melodic full-length debut, might suggest kinship with Air who shares Krieger's Versailles roots, there's a strong ‘60s flavour to his music which likens it more to some instrumental fusion of Booker T. and Iron Butterfly. During the album's often hallucinatory 40 minutes, there's no shortage of psychedelic flourishes, though Krieger sometimes grounds his songs in classic Motown grooves and occasionally Krautrock; in short, no one should be too surprised to learn Krieger grew up with “Pink Floyd from Dad and Marvin Gaye from Mum” and later absorbed the sounds of The Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine during the ‘80s.

While Baïkonour's Mac-generated and potently melodic tracks may be tangentially rooted in prog, they're hardly ponderous or overblown. Rather, the exuberant tunes rock out with dispatch, abetted by pumping beats from Lee Adams (Imitation Electric Piano) and, on “Hoku To Shin Ken,” Eiji F. Morotomi. Bright dulcimer-like swirls in the opener “Lick Lokoum” establish an ethereal ambiance before “Coltan Anyone?” barrels forth with spacey organ embellishments, a nice parallel bass-guitar figure, and a tasty Motown-by-way-of-Saturn groove. A similar rocking feel dominates “Proto-Coeur,” which pairs biting guitar riffery with the bass-heavy rumble of pounding beats, and the soul-lounge outing “2/3/74.” Conversely, for every old-school romp like “Ultra Lazuli,” there are atmospheric interludes (the tremulous “Rusk Plasmique” and meditative “Statica”) and shoegaze head-nodders (the entrancing “Hoku to Shin Ken,” featuring Etienne Rodes' chiming guitars, and the querulous “60 to 0”). Though the recording vanishes in a bright blast of kaleidoscopic blur, what you'll remember most is its punchy collection of robust, electro-soul songs.

September 2005