skylab 3 - Monolith Cocktail

Skylab 3    ‘View From Above’ 
Released by Babygrande 10th June 2016

A cursory search engine check on the whens and whys of producer Ben Frascina reaches logical conclusions. Taking his name from the second manned mission to the American space station in the 1970s, ergo Skylab 3’s A View From Above is gonna get on some tin can business recounting the three cosmonauts looking down at God’s own marble. The fact that it’s released on Babygrande however – traditionally a hip-hop hotbed, so this is more Kasim Keto than Outer Space – and recorded in Sheffield and Cardiff, are variables enough that this particular mission isn’t as cut and dried as first thought.

When on the fringes of hip-hop instrumentalism without taking into the realm of cloud rap, many a space cadet would do well to practise their interstellar couplets for the right to take over the likes of ‘Everything Under the Sun’, the 8-bit gnarls bearing in mind Skylab’s recent remix of Cannibal Ox’s ‘Iron Rose’. While the prime objective of A View From Above is to comfort you for the long journey of re-entry (‘Dying Afternoon Light’ deals in beautiful vastness and dreams of golden sands), there’s a tiny bit of discomfort and mental debris niggling away in the back of Frascina’s locker. Without overdoing the space travel shtick, it’s akin to adjusting to life back on Earth. Flashbacks and gentle aftershocks come and go in its own, measured version of PTSD, extending into the occasionally abrupt conclusions to tracks that bolt upright from the verge of rest. ‘Forty Thousand Winks’  isn’t the most comfortable of naps as is advertised. ‘Rosetta’ conflicts with drifts of Bollywood entering the subconscious, and a simple piano line on ‘Swarm Intelligence’ is enough to enable an engagement of turbulence.

The passage between electronic comfort – big, arcing synths, wondrous atmospheres, ambling tempos – and causes of concern – stocky beats, blurred realities, undercuts of interference – has no particular chronology. Whatever Frascina’s coordinates, the environments he crosses are rarely vacant, ranging from glistening in high definition to grittily terrained, as much for background accompaniment as dedicated investment of the senses, falling into the parallel brand of chillout where it’s best listened to at loud volume with the windows open. In attempting two of electronica’s most well-worn themes in space and relaxation, and without diving headfirst into the stock library of NASA samples, A View From Above gets in and around the space traveller’s helmet to become a very accessible listen. The basics in chillout and after hours listening are there for all to hear; but with the Balearics never knowingly undersold on downtempo assistance, this’ll do the business below the stars.

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