Desert Bloom: On Astronautica’s “Death Valley”

Chris Daly ventures out into the ambient expanse of Astronautica's new record.
By    September 10, 2018

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Chris Daly could have sworn he’d seen an oasis, but it was nothing more than a distant mirage.

Watch any impressively narrated BBC or Nat Geo documentary that covers deserts, and you’ll quickly learn that the arid wasteland is a fascinating study in contrast. While a cursory glance often turns up little more than sand, closer inspection reveals an admittedly alien looking landscape teeming with life. Look underneath the right rocks or wait until the freaks come out at night, and you’re bound to experience something you probably didn’t even know existed before you got your Les Stroud on. This is the milieu that Astronautica explores on Death Valley, her fourth release proper over the past five years on the venerable Alpha Pup label.

Over the course of a dozen meticulously crafted tracks, the young Ms. Edrina Martinez wends her way through sparse, yet melodic soundscapes of her own design. Utilizing hazy synths and crisply programmed percussion, Astronautica quickly transports the listener to a foreign land that just as suddenly grows familiar. On tracks like, “Sunrise Intro,” “Sand + Fog,” and “Sunset Outro,” the vibe is glaring, one of quiet self-discovery. “I’ve Never Been” and “Can’t Remember” point to the more introspective side of this musical equation, while “Reasons,” one of the few tracks containing vocals, might be the best musical equivalent to the start of a desert squall that I’ve ever heard. This is music to sway to.

In her own words, “The desert is a recurring theme in a lot of my music and art. Something about it–the contrast of what looks like desolation to the naked eye to the vibrancy that one sees upon looking closer, the silence that allows you to hear the faint sounds in the air, the formations that are colors you’ve never even heard of before, and night sky that serves as a backdrop for every star in our galaxy – are all elements that I wanted to echo in Death Valley. I wanted to create an album that people could listen to while they cruise through their desert, wherever or whatever that may be for them.”

To summarize, Death Valley is the perfect album for those who want and/or need to shake their buttes. Act accordingly. 

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