What makes a good summer album? Is it music that sounds best in glorious sunshine or during balmy evenings? Or is it something that brings back memories of those times when gloomy winter arrives? Space Ghost’s Dance Planet does both. In the hazy stretch between May and August, these tunes can soundtrack carefree days, or at least give the illusion of such unbothered bliss. As days get shorter and temperatures (supposedly) drop, it can recall these days or create the hope of positive times to come. In addition, the way in which it borrows from earlier musical styles imbues it with a deeper layer of wistfulness, be it nostalgic or imagined.
James Murphy spoke of borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered ’80s. The sounds of Dance Planet channel that and take things further into the ’90s, with warm house chords that recall the best of Larry Heard and hip-hop tempo beats that could confuse even the best spotter in a blind test against a certain PM Dawn track.
Citing inspirations such as video games and the music of Soichi Terada, the album is warm and inviting, opening with the thick bass line of “Emotional Healer” before moving into syncopated, unresolved chords and timeless claps. There follow softly spoken words as Space Ghost (presumably) intones “touch, kiss, dance, be free” over these beautiful sounds.
“Be Yourself” is an unreserved highlight. It features a kind of synthetic birdsong, keyboard flutes and another heart-breaking bass line. This track’s mantra is “don’t be afraid to be yourself”, and it’s uttered as the tune motors forward like the soundtrack of a ’90s driving game.
“Deep (Vibes Mix)” is the one that sounds like PM Dawn, with its shuffling beats, but it incorporates more gorgeous chords as well as beautiful solos that dance around above. A muted vocal in “UFO” almost feels like it’s yelling “WHOSE WORLD IS THIS”, while what could be a saxophone sample recalls Photek’s “Into The 90s”. The interlude-like “Afterglow” forms centrepiece of sorts, before the house beats return with “Back To The Source” and its springy bass line that feels straight out of Tokyo. The hip-hop tempo Backroom Mix of “Emotional Healer” brings to mind tracks like Masters At Work’s “Justa “Lil” Dope”, and things could wrap-up in ethereal fashion with “Dream Weaver”. Instead, the final track is a motivational mix of “Be Yourself”, if the original wasn’t already motivational enough. The chords are straight-up dreamy ’90s – the only thing missing being a Boyz II Men chorus.
An accompanying 7” features an edit of “Deep”, alongside non-album track “Tuff World”. With Enigma-like flutes, it’s dreamy and atmospheric, keeping with the album’s tone and offering an additional curio.
Overall, the album offers gorgeous sounds and evocative ideas; music for driving and dancing, for lovers and the loveless, for summer and the memories and dreams once the season’s passed us by.
Space Ghost – Dance Planet is out now on Tartelet Records, available here.