In the search for alien life, our solar system perhaps has more secrets to reveal. The ocean below the iced surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa is regularly cited as the place most likely to harbour some evidence of further life. Even our neighbour Mars has recently revealed that water once ran over its now barren crust. But the answers to alien life’s existence as a proof of concept exist much closer to hand. If we understand alien life as some odd remix of the form and structure we take as humans, our very own planet Earth’s ocean life is surely evidence enough. Even on our tiny watery pebble, life has splintered into countless and jaw dropping alien variations.
Compare ourselves to aquatic marvels – everything from dolphins and octopus to crabs and plankton. Having water, and its physical quantities, as opposed to air, has led to all sorts of adaptions that show life’s underlining design to be about specialisation, to give the best chance of survival. It’s hard not to be blown away and ultimately aghast that ‘nature’ has an unceasing creative capacity.
It’s also true that the popularity of science fiction has tracked this playful human fascination over the centuries. Voltaire’s Micromégas, first published in 1752 is still every bit as alien as the day it was written. Films like Solaris, 2001 and countless others, attempt to flesh out alien contact as being’s way beyond the familiar.
Spencer Clarke, under his new banner as Star Searchers and with this newest recording Avatar Blue constructs a world that grows out of James Cameron’s Avatar. Avatar Blue is born out an alternative arc to the sequel currently being made for a release in late 2021. Except, in Clarke’s hands, like his out-there discography showcases, this story is guaranteed to have way more in common with actual alien life than what any lumbering Hollywood corporation would ever sanction.
By way of a trailer to the whole project, Clarke offered up a 9-minute-long audio track, Previsual Avatar Blue were a computer reads his explanation of the project. He offers a list of books he reads (in particular The Cambrian Explosion and Reefsong) to try and predict the way the film may go. He covers arguments in astro-biology and experiences he had whilst making his previous album The Life Of Shells, experiments with hypnotism and the art of alien abduction artist Budd Hopkins. The hugely esoteric path led Clarke to try and catalogue a new awareness he could feel in unique synaesthesia-like experiences. In his own way, Clarke is building a bank of musical gestures that attempts to document swimming motions and special effects that connect the listeners ears into this new world.
As wild, confusing and confounding as that may sound, Avatar Blue is an almost 2-and-a-half-hour wholehearted invitation into this wildly creative space. With a little preloaded knowledge, the experience is both bafflingly odd and joyfully imaginative. Whatever your thoughts may be on the lofty concepts and ambition on display here, the actual sonic results are uniformly spectacular. Everything here has an odd tumbling motion, strange rhythmic clutters and a synthetic new age sheen. It sits on the seam between a tropical ambience and a form of 80’s electronica developed on an isolated reef.
Light Spots On A Shark Body follows the rippling light bath in shades of blue. Reef Shower feels like the submersed tugging as the tide compresses and expands over marine plants. Thresher Shark Pods is a chase under the waves.
The looping beats of Oxygen Injections Seaspray Expressions is the soundtrack to decompression. Wet Fuxianha is the ceremonial greeting afforded to any visitors that have made it this far. Marine Snow Lines (Upworlds) is a weird fleeting breach into the realm above the surface…
Even an arbitrary scan through any of the 29 tracks grouped here, easily solidifies into glowing neon visualisations unlike much else I’ve heard. The work taken as an immersive quality, rewiring your head like nothing else that’s previously existed. On Bandcamp, his work is tagged as Alien Flesh and that perfectly sums it up.
The scale of the work throughout, serves to prove Clarke’s singular commitment and vision. Sitting somewhere between unbridled creativity, fringe science and a genuine thirst to create something new and hugely thought through. This is the manual to build this world and weirdness drips out of every droplet.
Avatar Blue started as a possible meditation on Avatar 2 but quickly veers into far more interesting waters. I suspect the ‘real thing’ when it hits our screens, and despite its planet sized budget and resources, will be far more earthbound than anything here…
Clarke’s body of work never fails to amaze. His early work alongside James Ferraro as The Skaters whips up huge textural clouds, chants and drones. As Monopoly Child Star Searchers, he created a superbly entertaining form of grooving exotica. His extraordinary multi part H.R. Giger’s Studioli is a vast study in pure terrifying ambition and clearly lays some foundation to this latest work. His work is stacked with curiosity, questions and rabbit holes. His musical canon is one of the most singular I know off.
Avatar Blue is a conceptual and sonic marvel from a wildly creative visionary.
Avatar Blue is out now of Pacific City Sound Visions.