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Ian Walker 09/06/11 12:04 AM

Astronautalis - This is Our Science
Astronautalis - This is Our Science
Record Label: Fake Four Inc.
Release Date: September 12, 2011

Early on in his foray into music, Charles Andrew Bothwell realized he would need a much shorter, less complex name in order to maximize his own recognition. The mouthful he came up with was neither of these things, and yet slowly begins to roll off your tongue through the myriad of tongue-tied tries. The word Astronautalis conjures images of two very different types of frontiers, both black and mysterious in their own right, but the complete opposite can easily be said of the man's music. Down to earth and powerful, he's consistently produced his own unique sound through a rash of albums and EPs. They inhabit that odd musical black hole of both well-received and completely overlooked gems, hiding deep in the sands of a vast musical landscape.

Bothwell and, to a certain extent, his latest album run through the same vein as other indie hip-hop outfits like Doomtree or Rhymesayers, fitting nicely into relative discussion while still remaining somewhat secluded. But being set apart also gives him a rare opportunity to exist without too much heavy comparison, of which there's very little anyways. His music carries a deep, earthy resonance that few artists have tapped into in the modern music scene, a blending of rhythmic beats and soulful vocals that's uncommon and yet comfortable at the same time.

I've had the privilege of spending quite a bit of time with This is Our Science before even thinking of how I would write a review, and my opinion of the album has bounced along the spectrum of critical analysis rather ferociously. The musical compositions are almost too much upon first hearing. The thoroughly layered production mixes with Bothwell's raspy voice to create an assault of sound that is nothing short of jarring. Opener “The River, The Woods” is obviously the first offender, building from a basic drum beat and accompanying synthesizers to an explosive cacophony of backing vocals, cymbal crashes, and piano melodies. Bothwell's particular vocal delivery is somewhat parodic at first, as if he's channeling a century-old spirit instead of expressing his own emotions. This mixture of overly pronounced production and odd enunciation is grating, and my first experiences with this album were a definite exercise in perseverance.

But fortunately, my affair with This is Our Science began to sweeten through repeated listens. The rough qualities found in the opener continue in “Thomas Jefferson,” but both tracks carry enough emotion to fill a completely separate album. Bothwell's intonation, while still a bit over-the-top, is expressive and fluid when matched with the piano-driven melodies, allowing him a wide range of emotive possibilities that help to connect the listener to his lyrics and the intentions behind them. His love for overblown presentation is reaffirmed again later in “Secrets On Our Lips,” a track that showcases both the flow of his hip-hop influenced lyrics and the impressive voice he keeps in reserve behind the hoarse and husky soulful persona. The track itself is a sweetly delivered ode to new love, painting simple scenes about hotel rooms and vending machines in the rosy glow only a significant other can make us see.

It's these beautiful pieces that make up the majority of This is Our Science, and so it's these beautiful pieces that frame the album's overall musical arc. While it may be peppered with dramatic scenes of distracting compositions, This is Our Science is sweet and lovely at its core. “Midday Moon” is one of the more electronic sounding tracks the album has to offer, combining various vocal tracks with the lightness of synth arias and the occasional flute solo to produce a cascading rhythm reminiscent of Lazerbeak's own musical landscapes. “Measure the Globe” is carried by light acoustic guitar and foreground piano chords, a basis of basic musical sensibilities to hold up Bothwell's reserved crooning. “Contrails” picks up the pace thanks to the fantastic stylings of indie vocalist Tegan Quin, who lends her pipes to the track's chorus. Though her parts are repeated ad nauseum, she and Bothwell play off each other admirably. The track is haunting thanks in no small part to her contributions, as well as a light string section that forms the backbone of the latter half.

So while This is Our Science tries its damnedest to come off as an unlikeable mess, it's impossible not to fight through the shell of its production to the welcoming core. Like the titular character of James and the Giant Peach, I was drawn inward and inward until, to my surprise, I was greeted by an all-encompassing adventure to places unknown. Bothwell's vocal deliveries come off as fiery sermons through a mind afflicted with multiple personalities, but they work together as a fierce, tight-knit group that helps keep the album fresh and interesting. From the foreign measures of “Holy Water” to the cozy familiarity of “Lift the Curse,” This is Our Science is a multitude of outrageous pieces that form a solid whole.

Track Listing1. The River, The Woods
2. This Is Our Science
3. Thomas Jefferson
4. Measure the Globe
5. Dimitri Mendeleev
6. Midday Moon
7. Contrails (feat. Tegan Quin)
8. Holy Water
9. Secrets on Our Lips
10. Life the Curse
11. One for the Money

Lueda Alia 09/06/11 12:14 AM


Well . . .

Matthew Tsai 09/06/11 12:27 AM

Really, really dig the honest, level-headed approach in this review. Can't wait to hear this!

Someone'sCoat 09/06/11 12:37 AM

Im looking at more around high 80's for me. Love this cd. Love this man.

fna4 09/06/11 02:19 AM

A sign of a good review is being critical of an artist you admittedly enjoy, well done.

Mudblock 09/06/11 02:42 AM

Good review, I would give this an 85%+ for me at the moment though, Im liking it even more then Pomegranate and I love that album. Even though I have the leak, I am definitely buying this when I get a chance, hopefully it gets released in Australia, if not I will have to order it.

boere123 09/06/11 05:18 AM

MorningStar10 09/06/11 05:23 AM

I can't get into this, I've tried but it's just some songs seem like comedy songs to me the lyrics and the way he raps. Also can P.O.S actually be heard in 'This is our science'

blue_light_888 09/06/11 05:38 AM

Great review!

The River, The Woods is my jam right now :D

Mudblock 09/06/11 05:56 AM


Originally Posted by MorningStar10 (Post 94427982)
I can't get into this, I've tried but it's just some songs seem like comedy songs to me the lyrics and the way he raps. Also can P.O.S actually be heard in 'This is our science'

what?.....how do any of his lyrics or the emotion he conveys through his voice when rapping have any sort of comedic display to them?.....and yes, its brief but you here him ask Stef (POS) something and he says a line back.

Spencer Control 09/06/11 07:22 AM

I keep on putting off checking this dude out. I need to.

mycuban 09/06/11 07:59 AM

personally, i love his odd vocal deliveries. Thomas Jefferson has been playing incessantly in my car.

bandnamexmyname 09/06/11 08:04 AM

I've never been able to get into most of Doomtree, but I've always liked Astro.

coreysetfail 09/06/11 08:17 AM

i don't want to be that guy to complain about the score, because i always hate that guy. but this album is tied for me as album of the year with bon iver right now. i think it's flawless. if anything, the lyrics should at least definitely be a 10. but, to each his own i guess.

Someone'sCoat 09/06/11 09:23 AM

When is any Four Fists material coming out?