Newly discovered star, KIC 8462852, popularly known as the subject of David Bowie’s new single “Blackstar“, has raised serious questions surrounding its unusual pattern of light emission and deep curiosity from the scientific community regarding the existence of extraterrestrial life on its surface. In this case, aliens are not being so easily shrugged off as mere conspiracy, yet the challenge remains (despite it being remarkably exciting) in proving anything alien at all. However, for someone who readily indulges themselves in the fringes of modern science it seems that there is finally a response, albeit cosmic-morse-code from the star itself, to the Voyager Golden Record sent out almost 40 years ago. The mouthpiece of this response; however, is not David Bowie’s Merlin-esque incantations, it’s Boston’s own post-punk outfit Lair.
The duo consists of John Moxley on vocals and drums, and Alek Glasrund on guitars, synths and vocals. They just released their stellar new album, Test, building even more confidently on the intergalactic sound they commanded in their debut S/T. The title “Test” sounds deceivingly haphazard for the strength with which the band blasts through space. Immediately, the opener “Sleeper Agent Man” is an explosive krautrock collision course: the adrenaline coursing through this track could easily be source material for The Prodigy. Similarly, “Johnny Boy” is an exhilarating track built on laser-like synths and bombastic drums, as all the while a hypnotically enticing voice casts a spell, shape-shifting between tones both conversational and demon-summoning.
The momentum continues through the rest of the album, but the energy is never tiresome. Instead it invites the listener to hover in between states of tension and release. The music strikes nerves both melancholically and euphorically, and it’s strange for that to happen within 30 minutes. Perhaps that is what makes the album so alien: its plain desire to be heard, and not passively. The album is like a long-awaited correspondence between the parts of ourselves we ignore; both the parts that long to be freed and those that act as cages. Especially on a track like “Altered States,” the strained lyrics grab the listener by the collar and shake the devil out of them. In fact, all of the tracks ask the listener to be activated, and what they do with each track’s refreshing new realm is what makes this experience so exciting.
With Test, Lair has masterfully constructed a full-bodied listen that becomes more intoxicating with each subsequent return. Somewhere up in the sky, KIC 8462852 is the source of endless cosmic mystery, while down here John Moxley and Alek Glasrud emit a similarly vast light with their music, and both are equally astonishing.
Test is out now and available via Bandcamp streaming below.