Starlight’s Castaways by What Strange BeastsRelease date: February 3, 2023
If What Strange Beasts, the name of this Washington state band vaguely indicates a certain Grateful Dead connection, it might lie there somewhere, but that is only the part of the story.
Looking at the cover of Starlight’s Gateways, their latest album, and then diving into its sprawling 26 tracks, just might complete the picture, as there is that spaced-out improvising Grateful Dead line in there somewhere, which is completed by obvious space prog connection that runs the lime from Hawkwind, across Boston, touching on Yes instrumental and vocal harmony touches along the line.
Definitely, a truly wide ground to cover, particularly since it requires some very strong instrumental and vocal prowess required to do such a task, but the quartet (Jonathan Maxwell: drums/vocals, Benjamin Ruby: synthesiser/vocals, Aaron Kremer: bass/synthesisers/vocals, Alley C: guitars) manage to do it quite admirably here.
As Maxwell puts it, “We built this album around a space theme to reflect on feelings of distance, isolation, loss, introspection, and ultimately the relief of interpersonal connection. We wrote that which we felt while hunkered down in our own ‘spaceships’ through the harrowing trials, and the few stolen moments of joy, of a global pandemic. As a lyric notes: “Every hour’s a gift: The signals, the noise, the sorrows, and joys.”
While many such ‘space’ projects often fall flat on their faces, What Strange Beasts manage to navigate through this psych/prog ‘beast’ with such poise and ease that makes Starlight’s Castaways a must for all the fans of the genre(s).