Star Tours Agencies
by: S P O R T 3 0 0 0 & waterfront dining
Written By: Stuad^Dib
One of the many implicit promises made about the imminent consumerist utopia sold to us in the heyday of the 80s and 90s was that of readily accessible space flight. In the past decade, technological developments have finally brought the prospect of commercial space tourism into the realm of plausibility, but the vast majority of humans alive today will certainly never be able to afford it. Thankfully, S P O R T 3 0 0 0 and waterfront dining have brought their styles together in Star Tour Agencies to explore this dream. Like many split albums, it ends up feeling more like a pair of semi-related EPs played back-to-back than a cohesive album, but there’s no denying that their choice of samples will get the listener grooving.
The S P O R T 3 0 0 0 side begins with a quietly inquisitive air, slowly building layers and culminating in an infectious drum beat and bass line. Accented by a lonely, twangy guitar and truncated vocals, it evokes similar feelings as staring up at the night sky with wonder to “c o u n t t h e s t a r s.”
Eventually the reverie is cut short, as the twinkling romanticism of “u p a n d d o w n” brings us back down to Earth. As the lyrics clearly indicate, we’ve made complex interpersonal commitments that demand our attention away from the cosmos. Before long, however, our thoughts again return upwards. The rhythm and vibe-y synths in “o r b i t a l u n a e” lend a sense of playfulness as we dream of soaring alongside the Moon in her ever watchful trek high above the world.
Not satisfied merely to dream any longer, the serious and methodical tone of “s t a r l i g h t h e a d l i n i n g” suggests we’ve dedicated ourselves to making it a reality. Fittingly, it’s also the longest track on the album, and the repeated vocal refrain brings to mind a laborer’s chant to help while away the hours. And it’s during those long hours that our anticipation gives way yet again to fantasies of an “i n t e r s t e l l a r j o u r n e y.” There’s no telling if the sights will match the fantastic visions flitting before our mind’s eye, but the eager, cinematic sound reveals our intense desire to find out.
Almost before we realize, the work comes to an end and we’re ready to begin the final preparations.The next track reflects a bittersweet nostalgic mood over everything and everyone that we’re about to leave behind for roughly a third of its duration before deep bass synths mark the start of our dramatic “a s c e n s i o n.” Slowly, the bass recedes as the atmosphere rarefies and finally disappears completely, leaving us in a stable orbit. Pausing, we take one last look at our home before launching into the void.
Next, the waterfront dining side opens with what sounds like an advertisement for the eponymous “star tour agencies.” The fiddle-and-banjo-like synths seem to signal that, unlike the mega-rich elite, this modern travel agency understands how hard the humble middle-class consumer works for their money. That’s why they’ve negotiated deals with star lines across the world so they can pass on the savings and bring the wonder of space flight to everyone!
Following this, we’re presented with “looking for magic,” the most incongruous track of the album. Despite not fitting into the prevailing theme, however, it’s also one of the most memorable and enjoyable tracks due to its bubbly 80s teen pop sound. Then at the “okayama astrophysical observatory,” we briefly discover said magic in the form of a cosmic broadcast, sending a message of peace and beauty to the universe with its hopeful, chime-y synths before fading back into the seething background radiation.
Perhaps hoping to find the source of this strange signal, we board the agency’s latest rocket – er, “rocket.wav”, that is. As the countdown commences, we nervously endure a ticking hi-hat and frenetic bass line before reaching lift-off, as signified by powerful drums and a subtly underscoring guitar. Midway through the track, the drums and guitar are temporarily silenced, as if discarding the initial booster stage, before igniting the second stage and blasting into the void.
Reaching the last known coordinates of the mysterious broadcast, we land on the night side of a nearby planet. At first, our search yields nothing but stones and silence. But as a pale blue sun slowly crests the horizon, we spot a “creature” in the distance and the final track begins to swell. Certain that this is the one who called out to us, we approach reverently, ready to receive their serene wisdom.
Star Tour Agencies presents a varied collection of highly engaging samples which manage to fit fairly consistently together. But with two noticeable thematic outliers taking away from the overall momentum, there’s a definite feeling of missed potential. One can’t help but think that -had the sample selection been slightly more collaborative- some of the ideas present might have crystallized into something more cohesive. Or it could just as easily have become a muddled mess. Whatever might have been, though, the curation skills of such an accomplished pair of artists haven’t failed to cast the listeners’ hearts and minds into the stars.
Favorite Track: c o u n t t h e s t a r s