Hashtronaut - 'The Lambda Variant' CD Review

I don't know how to explain what Hashtronaut is, other than saying he / it / they make spacey synth
music, an album of which becomes available on Feb 6th 2006 and is reviewed below.  For more
information, go to
Hashtronaut's website
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This album consists of two tracks, one live and the other performed in the studio.  The opening title track is
the studio recording and kicks off with soft crystalline loops which gradually gain in angularity and boast
some classic 70's analogue synth sweeps.  Joined by a plaintive lead voice which explores the minor key in
which the piece is set, the music weaves a pattern in early Tangerine Dream territory, although some of the
synth voicings sound to be more influenced by Crystal Machine-era Tim Blake.  That might sound like a
recipe for a Jean Michel Jarre soundalike exercise, but it's far more 'psych' than anything JMJ has done.

The weaving motif works well too, with extra layers being cleverly threaded into the mix so that ten
minutes in, there is quite a degree of harmonic complexity.  And then at around 15:20 a drum machine
comes in, which really seals the groove into something pretty Hawkwindish. This slowly uncoils over the
course of the next six minutes or so before the drum machine fades out and some emergent psychotic
burbling synth ushers in a darkly paranoid mood, which turns through 90 degrees to enter an altogether
different place, deep in the chill of interstellar space.  This section is sublime, truly celestial music, which
fades out from the 26 minutes mark, providing a soundtrack to the end of the universe, should you want it!

The live track has a name betraying the Hawkwind influence - it has two sections, being Church of Lambda
and the Lambda Ritual respectively.  I gather the punters were initially somewhat bemused at the gig where
this was recorded (the Mush Room, Liverpool June 2005, it says here).  It is in some ways more accessible
than the preceding studio track, with some of the ethereal layering being sacrificed for a more direct vibe.  
The first movement lasts about 5 minutes (I don't know if that comprises the entirety of ‘Church of
Lambda') and is fairly ambient.  Then it's supplanted by something more upbeat, built around a skanking
shuffle beat, with bursts of portamento panning across the stereo image.  Hashtronaut takes three minutes
to embed this into the listener's consciousness before throwing in another lead voice which explores some
very Brock-synth melody lines in a voicing that might have found favour with Harvey Bainbridge in the mid-
80's.  Again, the description could be misleading in that it actually isn't derivative of Hawkwind at all -
individual influences are there, but the piece as a whole does something new and different with them.  And
most of Hawkwind's synth work has been done over a shorter timeslice and in the context of rock songs.  
The epic scale of this and the thematic development place Hashtronaut in the tradition of synthesists such as
Klaus Schulz and Tomita, rather than in more guitar-orientated rock styles.  (Not to mention the entirely
synth-based instrumentation!)

To round out the description of the music, at 22 minutes the percussion drops, and the music enters a zone
of foreboding and menace; itself a very Hawkwind sort of move, again doing a slow fade into deep space.  
The album, of course, ends there.  And while I am no expert as regards synth music, it is something I
enjoy, and this really hits the spot with its analogue tones, sombre mood and sweeping scale.   Check for
yourself over at the
Hashtronaut website where you can download some free samples and buy the album
(from Feb 6th onwards)...¦