Recording both under his own name and that of the disturbingly-named Rhubarb and G For Gnome, Scotland’s Richard Haswell has been making albums of a space/prog rock bent for over twenty years. Pleasingly, for a cult concern, the fact that his music still strikes a positive chord and yet also sounds rather “out there” after two decades is something he should be proud of.
‘Jarvik-13’ is an early indicator of Haswell’s penchant for space rock. It’s not unlike The Secret Machines in its execution but newcomers to his material may wonder what they’ve let themselves in for. Well, on the evidence of the next three tracks, some surprisingly infectious indie/prog rock, as it happens. Underscored by a nagging guitar line, ‘The Undreamed Of’ proves that there’s a tunesmith at the heart of this record. The good run of form is continued on ‘Routinely Armed’ whilst an insistent, rhythmic pulse lends a modern indie rock edge to the involving ‘One More House From Happiness’.
Haswell is less successful when he succumbs to the kind of indulgence one normally associates with the progressive rock moment and for that reason ‘The Distance Between You And I’ feels like an unnecessary loss of momentum. Better is ‘The Water Poet’, an instrumental track but one which finds a hypnotic middle ground between folky strumming and throbbing bass. Full marks too for the excellent ‘Surfacing’ where Haswell swings and distorts like a Madchester Baggy act whereas the closing, reflective ‘The Thinner The Ice’ is a solemn yet dignified way to end the album.
Overall, ‘Asteroids’ sounds like the sonic result of Peter Gabriel entering a 1990’s indie club. Moreover, it’s another fine showcase for a performer who is content to do his own thing but also knows that it’s important to make his prog tendencies accessible too.
Genesis, The Secret Machines