Finnish experimental bass player, keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Santtu Laakso, aka Astral Magic, and at times DJ Astro, has been around the underground Finnish music scene since the late ‘80s. Before he formed the psych space rock band Dark Sun (and the Rising Telephats) in 1991, with whom he recorded their first studio album Feed Your Mind, as well as various live and studio jam sessions. Santtu was also the vocalist in ’80s thrash metal band Oppression and then went on to form death doomers Exitus, so he’s well-travelled as a musician.
When the band went on hiatus in 2007, he took care to release some unheard material until he returned in 2019, joining local groups UFO-tutkimuksia and Octopus Syng. In 2020, the advent of covid 19 and its lockdown gave Santuu the chance to explore the deep space and the stars within it. He gets inside his space cabin and lets himself go ‘in orbit’, playing an ode to the stars without losing transmission with planet Earth. His is a tireless journey. He travels the galaxy manipulating every sound from outer space, playing all instruments himself, and occasionally with the help of well-known psych space rockers like the late Hawkwind saxophonist Nik Turner, Sendelica guitarist Pete Bingham (aka Pedro Kaldini), Californian multi-instrumentalist Jay Tausig, Doctors of Space guitarist Martin Weaver and Earthling Society’s Fred Laird, just to mention a few.
Up until now Astral Magic has released nearly forty records, if we consider singles and compilations. The music delivered on each album has that strong and sensational space rock power that magically is able to take over your mind. In each of his works, he always likes to get out of phase by taking sonic walks that bring out his love of kraut rock and experimental cinematic melodies. But due to the amount of records released (this year alone he has released nine records), the swaggering sound of eclecticism sometimes becomes a somewhat absurd musical monotony.
Fortunately, this doesn’t always happen. There is a variety of sounds coming out. Don’t be surprised if you are plunged back in time as if listening to synth rock music with reminiscences of Flock Of Seagull, Michelle Jarre, Vangelis, the kraut rock of Ashra Temple, Neu! and the inevitable space rock of Hawkwind. The magic of it is that all of his record titles have something to do with infinite space, its galaxies, alien visitations, deep space expeditions, and its magical kingdom. There is a lot of energy that flows out of each instrument; from spacey synths to swirling guitars that channel you into a vortex of eternal light.
It all sounds like a never-ending shamanic space adventure where you only encounter friendly and healing spirits…
In his latest space adventure, Astral Magic takes us through his Experiences In Hyperspace. This is the title of his umpteenth album which sees, in some tracks, the collaboration of high-level musicians, here seen as The Explorers, such as his old friend Jaire Pätäri of Octopus Syng on sitar, Michigan poet and spoken words artist Mark Paskvan, Camper Van Beethoven’s Jonathan Segel plays the violin and all the guitar parts on the album, while the astronaut from his space cabin takes care of the rest of the recording task.
Listening to all eleven tracks, you find yourself getting caught in a spiralling vortex of overwhelming desert space rock, starting with the catchy, experimental vibes of Light In The Sky. While Drone Of The Universe flows in with its raga stellar vibrations, Three Suns Rising brings to mind a calm relaxing vision of a faraway galaxy filled with the sound of the melodic synth. It all sounds like a never-ending shamanic space adventure where you only encounter friendly and healing spirits. As you come to track nine, Going Down, you can’t avoid the warm sensations that emanate from all around with Pink Floyd vibes.
The songs on the album are mostly filled with vocal parts sung by Santtu, with a couple of spoken word tracks, Transmission Mu and Transmission Labda, recited in a cosmological way by Mark Paskvan, while the sound gets moving and floating its way into the unknown. The concluding song The Valiant, with its sound of galloping lightning, assures us that we are in good hands after having safely re-accompanied us to planet Earth. The thrilling spiral of Experiences In Hyperspace, brought to us by the new lord of space Astral Magic, has left us ready to embark on another astro-space journey. Your dream hasn’t ended yet.
Scribed by: Domenico ‘Mimmo’ Caccamo