SETI ‘The Geometry Of Night ‘ (Loki Foundation)

Andrew Lagowski’s ambient techno classic from the mid-90s gets reissued with a brand-new companion recording

In a parallel universe out there somewhere, Ralf Hütter is a booking clerk for Rail Europe, Dave Gahan drives a forklift at the Homebase warehouse in Romford, and Hartnoll & Hartnoll are the best solicitors in Leamington Spa. Some say they’re the best in the whole of the West Midlands. Andrew Lagowski, meanwhile, is one of the most successful electronic music artists of all time.

By rights, Andrew Lagowski should be one of the most successful electronic music artists of all time in this universe too. He’s been doing his thing for more than 30 years, starting out as half of cult darkwave outfit Nagamatzu in the mid-80s and subsequently releasing solo albums as S.E.T.I., Legion and plain old Lagowski. He’s never made a pop record, his interest is largely in what you might term ambient techno, but his work has always been of the highest quality – rich, sophisticated, precise, detailed, expressive, evocative, experimental yet very listenable – and the fact that he remains unknown to the wider electronic community is beyond astonishing. It’s actually close on criminal.

Some of Lagowski’s most interesting output has been as S.E.T.I., a project named after a real organisation called Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life (yes, they do exactly what you’d imagine they do), and this reissue of ‘The Geometry Of Night’ is about as good as it gets. The album originally came out in 1996 (the second of what has now been more than a dozen S.E.T.I. releases), but you really wouldn’t know it from the impeccable, crystalline production. The way that the sounds here fill the room is a testament to Lagowski’s sonic design skills.

Three tracks sum up what you should expect from ‘The Geometry Of Night’. One is the deceptively dreamy and ultimately unsettling ‘Fire Night’, which features a lengthy sample of a team of CNN journalists reporting live from Baghdad as they witness the opening barrage of the US bombing campaign on the Iraqi capital during the First Gulf War. Strange to think that America and it’s allies are still conducting nightly bombing raids on Iraq almost 25 years later. The second track is the glitchy and dubby techno sound of ‘FL13’, which wouldn’t have seemed out of place on Warp’s ‘Artificial Intelligence’ compilation earlier in the decade, but also acts as a marker for where techno would be heading in the 21st century. The third is ‘Mare Crisium’, a track constructed from layers of vocal harmonies that spiral slowly round and round and round some more in a seemingly endless celestial swirl. It’s a startlingly beautiful piece.

There’s plenty more to recommend elsewhere and also on the bonus CD that comes as part of the reissue package. This additional disc is entitled ‘Companion’, but it’s not a compilation of out-takes or remixes or the like, instead it’s a collection of entirely new tracks recorded just a few months ago apparently using the Arpeggiated Stardust Method (no, haven’t the foggiest). It’s a lot darker, heavier and more obviously outer spacey than ‘The Geometry Of Night’ in its themes – in many ways it seems more of a sister album to S.E.T.I.’s ‘Final Trajectory’ from last year – but it’s fascinating stuff and will ensure that newcomers to Andrew Lagowski’s work get a good grasp on what he’s all about.

If you are one of those newcomers, you need to get on to this straight away. There really is no time to waste. You’ve got an awful lot of catching up to do.

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