Toronto quartet The Luvmenauts' In Space is a well-crafted assemblage of new millennial library-going-on-soundtrack music. It has echoes of the mid 1960s and early 1970s rock 'n' funk produced by library labels such as KPM and Music De Wolfe, and has intersections, too, with the work of BBC Radiophonic Workshop composer Delia Derbyshire, not least in the synthesized theremin used on one track. It is by no stretch of the imagination jazz or part jazz, as is being fancifully claimed, neither the mid 1960s library jazz of Basil Kirchin's acoustic masterpiece Abstractions Of The Industrial North (Music De Wolfe, 1966) nor the modern space-jazz of Shabaka Hutchings' amped up The Comet Is Coming, and even less to do with Sun Ra, cover art and track titles notwithstanding. In Space is avant-garde (in a retro sense), but that alone not does make something jazz.
Why then is it being reviewed here? In part because it is sonically imaginative, and so will appeal to many jazz fans, but more because it is a lot of fun, and we can always use a shot of that. In Space is in an adjacent bag to Whatitdo Archive Group's Black Stone Affair (Record Kicks, 2021). Released around April Fools Day, that album was an affectionate spoof of an Ennio Morricone-esque spaghetti-western soundtrack. Like Whatitdo Archive Group, The Luvmenauts appear to be on a mission to create soundtracks for films that never were.
Aside from Delia Derbyshire and mid-1960s library composers such as John Baker and Keith Mansfield, In Space has resonances as diverse as John Cage, exotica, twangtastic beat combo The Ventures, krautrock, calypso and film composers such as Nino Rota and Piero Umiliani (though not Umiliani's jazz-based score for 1962's Smog, which made effective use of trumpeter Chet Baker). It is, as stated, fun, and if you do not find it so, it has the advantage of being only 34 minutes long.
Extravehicular Activity; Asteroid Mines Of The Kuiper Belt; A Stroll Through The Arboretums Of Mars; Michael Dorn Suffers A Spatial Anomaly; ’71 Shuttle; Spice Always Flows; Indoor Replinishmenet Plaza; Follow Your IC 1805; Rasputin’s Mystic Frozen Appendage Pr. 1 & 2; Worf Son Of Mogh Suffers A Spatial Assembly; Solstice & Equinox; Cruiseship Enterprise.
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Chris May is a senior editor of All About Jazz. He was previously the editor of the pioneering magazine Black Music & Jazz Review, and more recently editor of the style / culture / history magazine Jocks & Nerds.