Space Rock

The term space rock was originally coined back in the '70s to describe the cosmic flights of
bands like Pink Floyd and Hawkwind. Today, however, space rock refers to a new generation of alternative/indie bands that draw from psychedelic rock, ambient music, and -- more often than not -- experimental and avant-garde influences. Space rock is nearly always slow, hypnotic, and otherworldly; it typically favors lengthy, mind-bending sonic explorations over conventional song structures, and vocals sometimes play second fiddle to the shimmering instrumental textures. Some space rock groups are explicitly drug-inspired, which makes sense given the typically narcotic effect of the style's foundation: washes of heavily reverbed guitar, minimal drumming, and gentle, languid vocals. Space rock's most obvious antecedent was, of course, prog-rock, but in its latter-day incarnation, it was also inspired by Krautrock, classical minimalism, and the noise-pop of the Jesus & Mary Chain. The first of the new space rock bands was Britain's drone-heavy, ultra-minimalist Spacemen 3, whose notorious "taking drugs to make music to take drugs to" credo subsequently influenced most of the like-minded bands in their wake. A few of the bands involved in Britain's shoegazer movement had ties to space rock, particularly the early work of the Verve, and the most experimental bands -- like My Bloody Valentine -- went on to influence the space rock revival. In 1991, Spacemen 3 split into two groups, Spectrum and Spiritualized; the latter took the opposite musical approach from its parent group, fleshing out the space rock sound into lush, caressing, orchestrated epics that made them arguably the style's most popular band. Most subsequent space rockers took either the minimalist or maximalist approach, occasionally mixing in elements of post-rock (Flying Saucer Attack, Godspeed You Black Emperor!) or indie pop (Quickspace).


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