Paul K – The Space Between

Posted: 23 September 2022 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

21st October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been almost three years since Paul K delivered Reconstructed Memories. Listening to The Space Between, it becomes apparent why. Pandemic or nay, this is an ambitious and complex album which sees Paul return to the territory explored on 2018’s The Fermi Paradox and go the whole hog on devising and scoring a vast conceptual progressive work that’s heavily invested in narrative as it traces what he outlines as being a story ‘about an astronaut who has volunteered for a one way journey through space to pass through the Heliopause and is set maybe 30/50 years in the future.’

Space is both the backdrop and the story, in many ways, and the fascination it holds is something that transcends words or even rational explanation. Perhaps the fact that the sheer enormity and infiniteness of space is beyond our comprehension is a major factor in our space obsession. And however far and deep we probe, I suspect we will never truly be capable of assimilating the universe, especially as we, as a species, struggle to comprehend that we do not exist at its centre.

In classic sci-fi form and echoing 2001: A Space Odyssey, the concept behind the story is that the astronaut’s sole companion is an AI robot that becomes sentient during the journey, before the astronaut eventually dies and the robot continues the journey alone.

As Paul explains, ‘Each track plots the journey from liftoff looking back at the Earth (True Splendour) to the debilitating effect of years alone in space (Pareidolia) and is also related to the love and loss the astronaut has felt in his life’.

Understatement is the album’s defining feature. While it is unquestionably ambitious and incorporates cinematic arrangements, and notably choral-sounding vocals, the instrumentation is subtle and layered.

‘True Splendour’ makes for a gentle introduction and very much sets the tone. The Space Between keeps the drama and pomp to a minimum, and instead, the mood is contemplative, almost subdued, as strolling basslines wander sedately through soft washes of sound. Percussion is minimal, and low in the mix.

‘Sleep Within’ is perhaps the album’s most conventional ‘rock’ composition, but there’s a subdued, soporific overlay to its mid-pace melodic drift, although the reflective, wistful ‘Spektr’ has a certain solidity to it. In contrast, ‘Artifact’, the point at which the AI assumes autonomy, is almost vaporous, a soft piano reverberating among wispy sonic contrails.

The Space Between is an album that functions on numerous levels simultaneously, although they’re not all necessarily obvious. But it’s not imperative to follow the narrative to appreciate the detail; the album works in a way that not only creates space, but conveys space, the eternal distance, the vast emptiness… we are all lost and floating. But some are more lost than others. Welcome to The Space Between.

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