I was minding my business(as usual) a couple of weeks ago when I get an email from across the pond. The pond being the Atlantic Ocean, in case you were confused. So this email was from a trusted confidant and fellow music-obsessive. We’ll call him Mr. 1537. He proceeds to tell me about a record he picked up during his lunch hour at Probe Records located in Liverpool. The band is called Night Flights and the album is titled Night Flights Vol.1. He said it had a spaceship on the cover and it was yellow translucent vinyl. These were the only qualifications needed for him to slap down his hard earned monies. Well, those and the fact that Night Flights is a couple guys from the band Carlton Melton and it was mastered by Monster Magnet’s John McBain.
But the spaceship is what really did it.
Mr. 1537 knew my penchant for purchasing spaced-out, synth-driven instrumental records, and according to the sticker on the vinyl Night Flights was “Acidic Ambient Spacegaze”. How the hell could I not go for this? I immediately got a hold of my vinyl guy and he immediately had a copy waiting for me within a day or two. Upon arriving home with said “spacegaze” record I threw it on the turntable and proceeded to have my psyche melted. Night Flights Vol.1 is the stuff fever dreams and psychedelic space explorations are made of.
Night Flights is in fact Rich Millman of the band Carlton Melton. I have to be honest prior to listening to this album I thought Carlton Melton was just a guy(much like I thought Def Leppard and Led Zeppelin were guys when I was a wee lad.) Come to find out Carlton Melton is a psych free rock jam band from Northern California. Rich Millman plays guitar and synths in the band. Apparently he has a deep appreciation for the analog flavors vintage synths offer as he gets deep and heavy on Night Flights Vol.1. He gets some help from Melton bandmate Andy Duvall on the track “Alpha Jerk” with some extra guitar, but other than that it’s just Millman getting lost in space, and it’s a beautiful thing.
Opening track “Night Flights” almost comes across as the score for the birth of the universe. It swells and flows like lava seeping from a planet’s core. It sounds like swaths of light breaking through darkened clouds. Don’t let all the new age-y talk scare you. If you’ve ever gotten lost in a Tangerine Dream or Brian Eno record then grab your beanbag and sit right down in front of the speakers. Welcome home. “Origins” is darker, with feeling of some lost, early 70s science fiction movie you come across on late night TV. Grainy shots of a sunrise in the desert, superimposed over a spoken prologue explaining that the earth was ravaged by nuclear war and now there are only mutated murderers and marauders, along with the innocent they chase left on the planet. There’s a lo fi hum to this track that gives the music more weight. More depth. It ages the sound coming from the speakers. “Alpha Jerk” is different in that there’s a electronic rhythm that pushes the song along, giving it this synthetic pulse. Square waves never sounded so menacing. It’s the sound of deep space menace. “Lure” is relatively short, but what seems to be signals arriving to our ears from somewhere far in the solar system from years past. Desolation and isolation from within a dead space station. Or maybe it’s just some cool, ambient synth stuff. Either way, it moves me man. “Corpse Strut” is just killer. Some more vintage electronic beats make their presence know here. And that synth. It sounds like classic John Carpenter. Menacing and growling, you get the vibe of ‘Assault On Precinct 13’. The synth is also reminiscent of “Sunday Afternoon In The Park”, the pretty stellar instrumental off of the only Van Halen album you need to own, Fair Warning. We can argue semantics another time, right now you need to put this song in your ears and leave it there to fester a bit.
I often ask myself what is it about this vintage synth music that gets to me. I think a lot of it is nostalgia. It takes me back to being a kid and watching late night horror and sci fi movies. Those were good memories and those years informed my tastes when I got older. But the other, and most important reason is that this music takes you out of your current headspace and puts you somewhere else. No words to lead you, the music just lets you float off somewhere else. It leads the way to, maybe not enlightenment, but to a temporary lull in the everyday slag. You can’t ask for more than that.
Rich Millman has made a synth classic with Night Flights Vol.1. It’s ambient, atmospheric, expansive, and at times even ominous. If you put on some headphones and maybe have a beer or two it could even be transcendent. If you let it.
9.2 out of 10
Many thanks to Mr. 1537 for turning me on to this great record.