According to the wisdom of clichés, judging a book by its cover is a dangerous game and I guess the same goes for albums. But I disagree, often there is a valid reason why, at face value, one book cover or album design feels more appealing than another, outward packaging can speak to us before we have even delved into the treasures, or otherwise, within. In the case of In a Starry State it was the titles of the tracks that caught my attention, simple as that. With such intriguing names as Visiting On Davenports, A Dreamy Brochure For Elsewhere and Philip K Disco my mind is already conjuring such diversities as the title of a lost great American novel, an existentialist guide to happiness and the punning of one of the classic sci-fi writers. Intelligence isn’t that prevalent in popular music but if the titles of the songs are this intriguing, what will the music be like?
Thankfully the music is as clever as the titles suggest. Also like the titles it is impossible to pin down, constantly shifting from trippy, ambient electronica to poppy conventionalism and from soundtracks that seem to be describing the beauty of exploding stars and dying worlds to lush folkestral pieces. At the core of the album is a space opera narrative, a science fiction romance involving a telepathic girl from a parallel universe and the search for Gnostic wisdom, apparently. It looks like some of my initial thoughts were not that far off the mark.
Even if you don’t get all that straight away from the album, what you still have is a brilliant collection of fluid and ever shifting musical ideas. Like the subject matter it works with, the music spans great distances, trampling over generic boundaries, wilfully flaunting the rules and creating something truly beautiful along the way. In a way the album covers similar territory as Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, travelling the vastness of space to understand the human condition and relating it back to the listener as a beguiling metaphysical opera.