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Sleep Research Facility, "Nostromo"

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Kevin Doherty of Sleep Research Facility originally released this album in 2001, based on the first eight minutes of the film Alien and named after the freight ship of which Ripley was a crew member. At the end of 2007, it was reissued with new artwork and a bonus track on the original label.


Cold Spring

Going to see director Ridley Scott's groundbreaking sci-fi space epic was one of those markers of my teenage years that I will not easily forget; principally so for the fact that the claustrophobic atmosphere and edge-of-the-seat suspense was superbly drawn and masterfully handled but also secondarily because this was the first '18' certificate film I ever saw. The viewing was accompanied by a certain frisson of excitement because I had lied about my age in order to get into the cinema (I was barely 17 at the time). I was also (and still am) a fan of the work of HR Giger, he being one of the profoundest influences on my own artistic output both then and now. Needless to say it made a huge impression on me at the time and it appears that it made an equal impression on Kevin Doherty.

Alien is nearly three decades old now but is still a deeply affecting film, on both a straightforward action level and a deeper psychological one, and has passed into the canon of films that are essential viewing. The scenes on which this album is based are the ones in which the Nostromo (the interstellar ship in which all the action takes place and a reference to Joseph Conrad, the author of Heart of Darkness—a particularly apt metaphor for the ship and what happens on board) is slowly coursing through the deep black void of space. The film above all dwelt on the claustrophobia, tight confines, and isolation of the setting along with the helplessness of the characters confronting the unrelenting, unthinking, and instinctual face of evil—oppressively dark, dank, and dripping corridors, little hiding places where anything could be lurking and the heightened sense of dread and fear palpably stalking the ship. Doherty successfully translates all these qualities of the film into sound: low bass rumbles and gentle susurrations (some just barely discernible and some ebbing and flowing wave-like) get deep and firmly into the psyche and create a sense of unease, creating a feeling that something brooding and malevolent is stalking or lurking just around the corner.

Additionally present is the feeling of intense freezing coldness and vast isolation, of immeasurably incomprehensible distances and voyages lasting years, and that whatever happens you are far from the ken of man and safety; that whatever you face you face alone. Just like in the film, the evil was for the most part not necessarily an overt in-your-face species of evil, but implied; indeed for most of the film its face was not even revealed—nevertheless the tension subtly telegraphed imbued the film with a sense of impending soul-crushing doom. Reflecting that aspect the same is true of all the pieces on here. They are not overtly dread-inducing but the insistent quietness and subtle deep undertones impart a tense anticipation and expectation, a feeling that something unwelcome is just out of sight and hearing but whose presence is nonetheless felt.

Bearing in mind that this was Doherty's debut release, the album is a tour de force of atmosphere and tension building, pitched at just the right level and judicious in its use of sounds. Subtlety is the keyword here and the vein of implied dread running through the music on here is all the stronger for that subtlety.




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