John Elliott is a prolific creator and curator of some of the most incredible drone and synthesiser music produced over the last decade. After founding the self confessed "bullshit boring drone band" Emeralds with Mark McGuire and Steve Hauschildt, he helped establish a back catalogue of over forty releases in just four years. He has also put out a variety of releases as Mist, Imaginary Softwoods and Lilypad (amongst others) as well as setting up the excellent Spectrum Spools label with Peter Rehberg in 2011.
Last month saw the release of not one, but two new albums under his Outer Space moniker which has been stated is a "laboratory for electronic investigation" which utilises supplementary contributions from a host of Midwestern musicians and associates. Due to Elliott's prolificacy in producing music outside of Emeralds, these shouldn't be classed as mere 'side project' releases and therefore dismissed as second rate. I can't help but assess each Outer Space album within a wider context and ultimately view it as being a logical extension of the Emeralds back catalogue.
The first album to be released was Akashic Record (Events: 1986-1990) which was issued by Elliott's own Spectrum Spools label and was described as an investigation into "synthesizer experimentation and it's esoteric relations". This statement of intent is fully realised from the first track onwards; 'Ellipse' begins with a series of metallic drones which are overtaken by sequencer and synth phasing before dissolving into an elongated coda of electronic abstraction. This approach is modified and expanded over the following two tracks before the album closes with a pair of incredible live recordings. Elliot's measured use of arpeggios throughout this album makes it, for me at least, his most explicit reference to the material that Tangerine Dream were releasing around the mid 1970s.
The Second album, fittingly titled II was issued by UK independent Blast First Petite just a few weeks after Akashic Record. Here we are presented with two ambient miniatures (I & II) and more of those beautiful arpeggios (vanishing Act) which reminded me of 'Marboubra Bay' from Edgar Froese's majestic 1975 solo LP Epsilon in Malaysian Pale. In addition to these, '3332' is seven minutes of thudding, proto-acid synthesiser dynamics whilst the final track, 'Liquid Systems Functions' manages to recall Cluster, Autechre and Tod Dockstader during it's running time.
It's been two years since Emeralds released their last album - Does It Look Like I'm Here? Hopefully there will be new material on the horizon at some point soon but until then, this pair of albums are every bit as satisfying as their creator's main band.