Artists usually see the LP format as the natural progression they undertake when they have outgrown the constraints of a 12” EP. The longer running time means the artist has more space to be experimental, and not be pressured into making something that has dancefloor functionality as a primary concern. However, often these efforts come across as laboured; four or five good songs are supplemented by four or five more not so good ones – often taking the form of superfluous ambient interludes. This experimental approach can be done right, but without a solid artistic vision for the record there is always the nagging feeling that producers who excel in making music for clubs get lost when they change their focus.
‘Memory’ swerves these pitfalls by going for a no-filler approach. Each track has real dancefloor potential, and only two of them – ‘Mission Hills’ and ‘Starman’ – actually deviate from the house sound. This is, somewhat paradoxically, both the album’s main strength and key shortcoming.
It’s strong because – as you’d expect from a duo who have sixteen previous releases to their name – they really know how to make this type of music. There is a playfully inventive streak that runs throughout the release, and Deep Space Orchestra are technically proficient enough to bring their ideas to fruition. In an era of fetishization of lofi anti-production techniques, hearing excellent mastering and mixing down is refreshing. Their tunes are also impeccably sequenced; they shift and evolve over the course of their runtime. This is especially evident in ‘All Systems Down’, a 9 minute epic of a track that starts off sounding like euphoric piano-house being transmitted from a space station, before throwing off the shackles 5 minutes in and getting progressively deconstructed towards the end.
Understandably considering their moniker, a lot of Deep Space Orchestra’s music has a cosmic feel to it. The spacey feel is conjured not only in song titles such as ‘Starman’, but also in the duo’s wriggling synthwork, making their music fit seamlessly into a DJ set by the likes of Gerd Janson or Lauer. However, despite having this defined aesthetic, they also show their versatility in the record; they are as comfortable applying their style to danceable 303 tracks (‘Selassie’, ‘The Hees’), new wave-influenced house (‘Feel No Pain’, ‘Let’s Save’) and synthesized soundscapes (‘Elliptical Orbit’, ‘Starman’).
But, there is a drawback to the duo’s approach to ‘Memory’. It gives rise to a salient question: why has this music been compiled as an LP? This is not to question its quality, but it does feel like it could have easily been released as a double 12” EP with a couple of the less-interesting songs omitted. Indeed, the experimental moments are wonderful – the 100bpm chugger ‘Mission Hills’, the paranoid, racing intro to ‘All Systems Down’, or the distorted samples on ‘Dream States’ for example. But these moments are sparse glimpses into an inventive new sound for the pair, making you wish they had let the shackles off a bit more when writing ‘Memory’ and created something that really stands apart from the previous work.
It is an impressive effort nonetheless, and a trawl through the artists’ discography shows how substantially they have matured in that time. And the best bit about ‘Memory’: if you were to hear any one of these tracks in a club, you would be not only obliged, but completely compelled to dance.