Photo by Gordon Johnstone
On their debut album, Kipple Arcadia, L-Space forged a futurist aesthetic, crafting spacey synth settings for songs about electric sheep and interstellar waste. With their latest project, the Scottish electro-pop band goes one step further and builds a fitting home for their sci-fi ambitions. Music for Megastructures is an instrumental score for an imagined utopian city, where stirring soundscapes built entirely of synths depict life with flying cars and cybernetic enhancements.
Divided into four sections–Travel, Work, Health, and Life–the album itself forms a megastructure of sorts, encapsulating all aspects of its future society. As an overall framework, it would benefit from stronger melodic through-lines and theming, but each track on its own is dazzlingly vivid and visually evocative. The pensive synth-harp arpeggios and mechanical rhythms of “Approaching a Megastructure IV” conjure Final Fantasy dialog boxes scrolling under pixelated cityscapes. “Approaching an Arcology” feels plucked from a brighter, shinier Blade Runner–one with a licensed soundtrack featuring Porter Robinson and CHVRCHES.
Like all great science fiction, it’s the microstructures of human drama that animate the high-concept setting. Many of Megastructures’ track titles are vignettes from just below the sparkling utopian surface; in one, “A Sleepy Robot Watches Over a Rarely Used Car Park,” and in another, “An Aspiring Actor Works As a Barista Under Halogen Lights.” The music illustrates these scenes with impressive feeling, from more literal touches, like a robotic bass buzz, to the more abstract, like a synth soliloquy that carries a deep sense of longing.
Through moments of melancholy and euphoria alike, the engineering marvel is how life-like L-Space’s synths and samples can sound. “Browsing the Latest Pharmaceuticals at the Hospital Drive-Thru” boasts a simulated string quartet, while “Getting Sick and Being Cured” pulses with what sounds like primal hand-drumming. In other words, there’s plenty of skin in the game; whether it’s 3D-printed, genetically engineered skin is immaterial.
In the band’s own words, the album presents “a used universe, beautiful in its imperfection,” and a tour of that universe that doesn’t dwell too long in its darker corners is refreshing in a science fiction concept album. It leaves more room for nuance and diversity of perspective. Viewpoints on the way of their fictional world vary from tongue-in-cheek (“Biology Is So 21st Century”) to genuinely poignant (“Waking Up Bathed in the Light of Things You Can’t Afford”).
But other kinds of light exist in this world, and some bring flashes of joy, however fleeting. “A Brief Moment of Triumph After an Extended Period of Alienation” shows L-Space can flirt with cyberpunk neo-noir and fire off a futuristic club banger in the same album. If the future turns out to be more complex than you thought, don’t say they didn’t warn you. Music for Megastructures may not be as instantly accessible as a typical album of songs, but adventure and imagination lurk in every corner of its architecture.