Starfield - "Return to Earth" (Self-released 1999, CDR)
From Aural Innovations #15 (April 2001)
Only Krel and Alan Davey himself have come this close to duplicating the '90s HAWKWIND sound. Okay, some people might say that Starfield and the above-named artists play classic '70s-style Hawkwind, but if that's the case, so does the '90s Hawkwind. The production techniques and modern electronic instrumentation used here give this a sound akin to Space Bandits, Electric Tepee or Love in Space. I'll try not to mince words here: these two musicians calling themselves Starfield have Dave Brock's guitar-tuning and style down to a tee, and Alan Davey's bass as well.
The album begins with two tracks that exemplify this approach perfectly, the above-mentioned qualities joined with the expected British vocal delivery. The space-rock synthesizer is all over the place, but doesn't seem to create any textures beyond what the 'Wind has already covered in recent years. Brief ambient synth passages are followed by driving stacatto drum attacks. Things get a bit more interesting with the following two tracks, which delve into electronic space-ambience combined with some modern electronica loop-effects, though even the tribal drums of "In the Trees" still resemble Hawkwind's "Space is Not Their Palestine" to some degree. Still, originality-factor aside, these tracks are pretty effective and continue to reprise a cool vocal-chant heard since the beginning of the disc.
The disc's peak is definitely hit with the next sequence, "Ruler of the Sun" being an intro to one of the most powerful space-rock tunes of the age, the title track. During the segue between the two, synthesist Captain Black comes up with one of the most beautiful space-age synth warbles ever created, which could have been used a bit more extensively (I had to try looping it on the radio). "Return to Earth" begins with the "Angels of Death" riff, but beyond that takes off deeply into space with a wonderfully driving drum-beat, a masterfully rising bass riff and a powerful vocal, while the inherent Hawk-synth keeps all afloat. From here things again lapse into fairly derivative territory, mixing more ambient space interludes with standard Space-Brock. For example, "Spiritualize" takes off with the mid-section riff of "Levitation". I really dislike giving a mostly-negative review to something which I should love for its recipe and spirit. After all, this is not much more derivative of Hawkwind than Krel. But overall there's something in the latter CD that just brings across Hawk-power more excitingly than most of the material on this disc. I think I'm more open to "derivative" music than many people I've corresponded with, so it's not just that; hence, what we're looking for here is much less tangible than the idea of "orginality" and requires the more elusive quality of "feel". Now it's up to you.
For more information you can email Starfield at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact via snail mail c/o Starfield Feedback; PO Box 44; Bude; EX 23 9Y D; England.
Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg