For Music Monday this week, I thought I would celebrate the paperback release of Adrian J. Walker’s The Human Son by reminding you all how great it is, as well as picking an album to go with it. Music Monday is a weekly meme created by Drew at The Tattooed Book Geek, and this is my slightly adapted take on it.
In The Human Son, humanity is no more. Having thoroughly polluted the world, our last throw of the dice was to create the Erta, a race of genetically engineered beings designed to undo the harm that we had caused. Having successfully reversed climate change and generally got everything ticking over quite nicely on Earth, they’re now faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to reintroduce humanity to it and potentially foul it all up again. As an experiment they create one human child, a boy, entrusting his upbringing to the most clinical of their number – Ima. She has spent hundreds of years adjusting the atmosphere from her balloon, but soon finds out that this particular experiment requires new ways of thinking. By turns hilarious, heart-breaking and thought-provoking, The Human Son is a must-read tale of love, sacrifice and family.
If you’ve read any of these posts previously, or noticed the sort of music I feature at the bottom of each review in my “Currently listening” section, you will be unsurprised to learn that I don’t exactly have a huge number which focus on love and family, and those that do just don’t feel like they really fit. Sacrifice does show up from time to time, but it tends to be more in the, well, ritualistic sense. As a result, I’ve gone for something which is sort of a soundscape/mood type thing for this week.
Air is the debut album from Astronoid, which I discovered when I was reading every “Best of the year” list I could find in 2016. This one was featured on Stereogum’s and was pretty much the only album I liked off it, everything else on there being too aggressive even for me (at least at the time). Astronoid are a very different affair, one which I’ve seen described as all kinds of things: progressive metal, shoegaze, post-metal, black metal, dream thrash… To me, it sounds a bit like the guy from Jimmy Eat World singing over Devin Townsend’s music, but I guess that’s difficult to slap on a CD case.
There’s technicality there in spades, but unlike so many of their contemporaries, it’s not married with aggression. There’s a joyful, uplifting feeling to listening to much of Air, particularly the track featured here, Up and Atom, which manages to conjure feelings of drifting aimlessly without a care in the world whilst simultaneously firing you up. It’s the combination of airy vocals and catchy riffs and leads that can’t help but a grin on my face whenever I listen to it. It’s something that carries on throughout the rest of the album too, as an epic, layered wall of sound gives way to joyful flight time and time again.
Being named Air, the album does of course also have very literal parallels with Ima’s role within the Erta, as she drifts on thermal updrafts monitoring her work in the atmosphere. There’s a strong feeling of tranquillity whenever Ima is working in the balloon, and there’s a tranquillity to much of the album too. The purity of those soaring vocals also can’t help but put me in mind of nature, with our relationship to it being one of the major themes of the book. Close your eyes listening to anything off this album, and be transported to a deserted and unspoiled beach at dawn, a still forest as the sun sets, or a snowy mountaintop.
Just float away for a while.