God is an Astronaut’s seventh full-length album, Origins, is their first as a five-piece and cements their place as one of the world’s most intense, musically- and visually-inventive post rock bands. Renowned for their searing live shows in which the music is married with provocative projected imagery, GIAA consider each of their albums to be a sonic ‘photograph or snapshot of who we are in that moment of time’ and Origins is perhaps their most saturated, striking snapshot to date.
Comprising a dozen tracks, Origins fluctuates from controlled ferment (‘Calistoga’) to plaintive, piano-led reverie (‘Autumn Song’) to rhapsodic, unapologetically melodic fever (‘Signal Rays’) while never losing its focus. A wide spectrum of emotions are conjured over the course of the album and, while half of the tracks feature vocals, the voices have been laden with resonant swathes of effects so as to retain a similar ambiguity to the instrumentals. It is this ambiguity that lends Origins its power. The song titles are evocative but never prescriptive: for instance, a southern Californian town is suggested in ‘Calistoga’ while the effect-fogged lyrics speak of finding light in a seemingly hopeless situation. Perseverance in times of emotional hardship appears to be the overriding theme of Origins, though it has always been the juxtaposition of seemingly disparate sounds, words and visuals that afford GIAA their singularity. The listener’s interpretation of the music is as valid as the emotions that inspired the band to make it.
Origins is notable also in GIAA’s return to Rocket Girl records, who licensed the band’s breakthrough album, All is Violent, All is Bright in 2005. In the eight years since then, GIAA have continued to release albums and an EP on their own Revive Records (A Moment of Stillness EP, 2006, Far From Refuge, 2007, God is an Astronaut, 2008 and Age of the Fifth Sun, 2010), amassing a vast following on social media sites (150,000 fans on Facebook, half a million listeners on lastfm.com)
and touring extensively, establishing themselves as Ireland’s most intense, incandescent live act.
The band was founded in 2002 in Glen of the Downs, Co. Wicklow by twins Niels and Torsten Kinsella, and since then has expanded to include Lloyd Hanney (drums), Jamie Dean (piano/synths) and Gazz Carr (guitar). During the recording of Origins, the band were additionally joined by Pat O’Donnell on vocals, guitar and keyboards, and the album’s more vocal-led, experimental guitar approach is due in no small part to The Fountainhead frontman, who co-wrote many of the songs alongside Torsten. The album also features brass players Donal McGuinness (trombone) and Kevin Foran (trumpet)
Experimenting with ‘a multitude of stompboxes’, the newly bolstered line-up gives the songs an added richness, apparent on Origins perhaps most obviously on the first single, ‘Spiral Code’. The guitars twist and tangle joyously over a backdrop of energetic beats and hi-hats, creating a sound that could just as easily bring feet to a dancefloor as it could bring solace to someone listening in solitude. All in all, Origins is a sublime, multifaceted album, parading a sound which has been painstakingly honed and is as forward-looking as it is faithful to the band’s own origins and influences eleven years back.