Two guitar notes chime in the void, drums launch into a relentless beat, and the first track sets off down the autobahn. Dusseldorf, 1971? Liège, 2016. The Loved Drones’ new, instrumental album can be found on Belgian label Freaksville, home to a selection of musicians defined by their oddness and prone to the drone. The industrial heritage of one of Belgium’s less visited cities has found a particular musical expression, one foot planted over the border in Germany and the other in North East London where Good Luck Universe! was produced.
From its motorik beginnings the first track, ‘Nomad’, opens out to encompass a trippier, less rock-driven landscape of overdubbed, wordless choirs, wow and flutter, and jet plane feedback. The Loved Drones clearly love the drone of West Coast stoner heroes Wooden Shjips. As the album builds, their range of influences becomes clearer. The theremin wail that pervades ‘Escape From the Terror Drone’ has overtones of Jean-Jacques Perrey, while the off-kilter multi-instrumentalism recalls London underground fixtures, NOW, both of whom are Freaksville label mates. The Loved Drones themselves have invoked Can, Stereolab and Chrissie Hynde.
Good Luck Universe! wears its carefully assembled influences on its sleeve and, although they are very well chosen, this inevitably holds the music within expectations. The soundscape, developed over the course of six tracks, is familiar but expertly delivered. ‘Drone Alone (Crimson Skies)’ has an eastern flavour, courtesy of a lead sitar, and a clear geopolitical context in the skies of Afghanistan. ‘Pulse Radar Love’ and ‘Electric Blue Moon’ combine sitar, elegiac multi-layered synths, propulsive percussion and sound like themes to lost 1970s radio sci-fi serials. Closing track ‘Canyons’ is the pick of the bunch, with a rich arrangement embracing an alluring melody, instruments gleefully layered to create a satisfying, deep and crunchy analogue sound. This sort of thing was undoubtedly popular in the mid-’90s, when Stereolab ruled and Kosmiche re-emerged, but The Loved Drones do it particularly well. Freak music can be reassuring too.