Musician James McKeown, better known in the heady electronic music world as Hawksmoor, has put out some of the most forward thinking and far out heavy synth albums in the last couple years. Albums like Methods Of Dreaming, On Prescription, as well as his collaboration with The Heartwood Institute Concrete Island have demonstrated McKeown’s knack for building these crystalline, retro-futuristic sonic palaces. Whole worlds with vintage synths, electric bass, and an overall feeling of finding some long lost album from the mid-70s that combines Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd, and a Jodorowsky film score.
On Hawksmoor’s newest album Head Coach, out June 30th once again with the always exciting Spun Out Of Control, McKeown deep dives into dream-like sonic tomes that elevate the idea of where you live means something. A psychic connection to a town, village, or idyllic neighborhood in the middle of nowhere special runs deeper than we think, and Head Coach demonstrates that invisible pull through warm analog synths, bass lines, and an overwhelming sense of hallucinogenic peace.
‘Psychogeography’ is a term used for the exploration of urban environments that emphasizes personal connections to place. Head Coach is inspired by the druidic, Solstice referencing layout of Milton Keynes…and according to Spun Out Of Control and Hawksmoor, “It’s a lesser known fact that the layout of English new town Milton Keynes was shifted by a few degrees when its planners realised that, in doing so, its grid-like layout would come into alignment with the sunrise on the summer solstice.” Head Coach paints idyllic English countrysides with wide sonic brush strokes; ethereal synth with electric guitar and bass filling our heads with dreamy wisps of 70s prog that is reminiscent of Pink Floyd, Popol Vuh, and Ash Ra Temple.
Head Coach flows perfectly together, song after song, as if daydreaming half-stoned in a field of green staring up at the monolithic cloud formations. “Solstice Alignment” opens the album as if we’re entering some dream world of wonder, and maybe even underlying menace. “On Netherfield Estate” puts me in mind of Wish You Were Here-era Floyd at first, but quickly jumps into Krautrock territory with its robotic rhythm and propulsive bass line. “The Light Pyramid” drops us right into mid-70s analog heaven with its dreamy synth and slow build up. A mix of peace that hints at something darker just around the corner.
On “Pagan Sun Temple” we drop into Bobby Beausoleil and Lucifer Rising territory with spaced-out electronics, while “Gridsquares and Redways” has a sort of haunted beauty to it. “Midsummer Boulevard” closes out the journey of Head Coach on an almost Gothic note. The journey complete, and our connection to Milton Keynes intact.
Head Coach is another fantastic and forward-thinking album from Hawksmoor. An album inspired, put in simpler terms, by the old adage that “home is where the heart is”. But as James McKeown explored throughout sonically that there may be more to that. That we’re drawn to places psychically and maybe even cosmically.
We may be done with home, but home ain’t done with us.
‘Head Coach’ drops 6/30 on Spun Out Of Control.