London-based genre defying band Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate release Nostalgia For Infinity, their fifth album.
Track list –
Redemption Ark Suite
10) Nostalgia For Infinity
12) Sixth Extinction
With every choice made, the range of possible futures narrows. The future of the past is closer to infinity than it ever will be again. Sometimes the future paths closed are ones best confined to history, sometimes their optimism is endearing but ultimately unenduring.
One of the major themes of this album is the fragility of human civilisation. Many of the tracks explore this from a science-fiction perspective. Seven of the twelve tracks are inspired by novels by one of the great science fiction authors of our era, Alastair Reynolds. Reynolds’ background in astrophysics provides the science underpinning his world building, and world destruction.
The first two tracks are set in the world of Reynolds’ ‘Century Rain’, and sung from the perspective of Wendell Floyd, an unsuccessful musician living in Paris in an alternative 1950s, in which the Nazi invasion of France failed, but fascism continued to rise unchecked. He is hired by a landlord to investigate the death of Susan White, a tenant with an unusual record collection. During his investigation Floyd meets Verity Auger, an archaeologist from another Earth three hundred years in the future. In her world, life on Earth has been destroyed by weaponised nanotechnology – the nanocaust. As well as telling a story about saving mysterious copies of the world, the underlying theme is our ability to dehumanise each other despite second chances to avoid the mistakes of history.
The third track, Ark, follows the history of the Ark Royal, a British aircraft carrier that played an important part in the defeat of the Nazis in the Second World War.
Nanobotoma is a word that, as far as I am aware, I created to describe a tumour formed of autonomously self-replicating nanobots, for a story idea. The protagonist, a scientist working on medical self-replicating nanobots, has a slowly progressive but incurable leukaemia. They are supposed to identify and destroy cancer cells. Unfortunately, as they built to self-replicate, there is an inherent Darwinian selective pressure on them escape the regulatory controls with which they were created. In the story, the protagonist initially feels much better, but then starts to notice signs that the nanobots are proliferating out of control, becoming a mechanical cancer.
A nanobotoma that is restricted to one host is an evolutionary dead end. The protagonist is supposed to be in isolation during the medical trial of the device, but he notices that the nanobots are affecting his behaviour. They have evolved to be transmissible by respiratory secretions, and are making him feel uncontrollably lonely, making him want to be physically close to other people (which would help spread the nanobot tumour to other hosts).
We then shift to Chasing Neon, a retro-futuristic, largely electronic instrumental.
Tracks six to ten make up the Redemption Ark suite. These are all inspired by Reynolds’ Revelation Space novels. In this universe, humanity has fractured into competing factions defined by their relationship with technology, but all threatened by the Inhibitors, ancient machines aiming to preserve life in the long run, by destroying civilisations that become too intelligent. The suite begins with Glitterband, which follows the history of the decline of a ring of 10,000 diverse, semi-autonomous habitats following the spread of a nanotechnological plague.
This is followed by an instrumental portrait of the Conjoiners, a faction committed to the direct connection of human minds. This group is known by other factions, disturbed by the perceived loss of individuality by those enmeshed in a directly connected group minds, as the Spiders.
The following instrumental portrait is of Scorpio, one of the genetically engineered human/pig hybrids created by humans as slaves. Escaping from his role as prey in a sadistic hunt, he initially is full of hatred for humanity but rises above this to become a compassionate, but still irritable and unpredictable leader.
We then move into a soundscape portraying the Inhibitors. The only instrument used in this track is elecronically manipulated flute.
The suite ends with Nostalgia For Infinity, named after the spaceship which becomes fused with its captain through the effects of the Melding Plague. As ship and captain progressively merge, it becomes architecturally more unpredictable and organic. The ship/captain, equally plagued by guilt at his past actions, withdraws from contact from his crew. The song is sung from the perspective of a character persuading the elusive captain to re-engage with humanity, by acting as an ark to preserve the species from the Inhibitors.
The penultimate track is Voyager, a gentle instrumental inspired by the journey of the spacecraft Voyager 1. It was launched in 1977 to explore the outer solar system. Now approaching fourteen billion miles away, it is the most distant man-made object. It is expected to continue its mission, sending data back home until it runs out of energy in 2025.
The album ends with Sixth Extinction. This is the most aggressive song on the album. It is about the risk to civilisation of rapid anthropogenic climate change. We’ve had five previous mass extinctions in the fossil record. We are currently causing the extinction of species at an unprecedented rate.
Our predecessors survived five previous periods where most other species died. We may even have benefitted from the ecological niches subsequently left vacant. We are the first species to develop both the capacity to cause global catastrophe and the capacity to avert this.
Nostalgia for Infinity
Album produced by Malcolm Galloway, co-produced by Mark Gatland