Peter Kember, here on his second album as Sonic Boom in thirty years, picks up where 1990’s Spectrum left off and continues his detailed exploration of the long-form, evolving-and-mutating song forms that made Spacemen 3 so fascinating, and which have informed every Kember project since. And while fellow Spaceman Jason Pierce would go on to no small amount of success with Spiritualized, Kember kept busy with a dazzling array of collaborations and parallel projects. As Experimental Audio Research, Kember and My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields plumb the same experimental terrain as early experimenters like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, with a focus on atmospheres and soundscapes. Other collaborations have included work with Stereolab and Yo La Tengo, and pieces with musical royalty Delia Derbyshire. Suffice it to say, through the post-Spacemen 3 years, Kember has continued to hone the rolling, lo-fi and psychedelia-tinged compositions that helped make his first band so fabulously unique.

Much of All Things Being Equal serves as a new and pleasingly familiar chapter in this continuing narrative of Kember’s practice. Here, as elsewhere, he combines the kinds of sonic territory familiar to Krautrock and modular synthesis aficionados with what are surprisingly positive themes throughout, so that when, on album opener “Just Imagine” Kember sings “Just imagine what you can do/ Just imagine let it all come thru/ Just imagine in the back of your mind/ Just imagine and you’ll be fine,” there’s a familiarity of tone and theme that is satisfying because of its familiarity. But this is not a criticism and Kember’s skill is that he’s able to take disparate elements and combine them flawlessly, the bleeping of early Kraftwerk with the loping guitar-led song structures of the Velvet Underground.

“On A Summer’s Day” adds to the picture of pastoral electronica, gentle descending scales and soft drones supporting Kember’s love-in lyrics “I first saw you through my window/ On a summer’s day/ You came drifting by eyes upon the sky/ On a summer’s day/ (I just don’t know what to say).”

The album’s latter half becomes more sonically pronounced with “The Way That You Live” offering a charming flanged drum beat and bluesy chord progression, gathering drones and organ chords as it progresses, while “Tawkin Tekno” is more kosmische than krautrock and “I Can See The Light Bend” utilises the same kinds of retro-futurist synthetic sounds that Belbury Poly and Komputer have so thoroughly made their own. But it might well be the album’s closer “I Feel A Change Coming On” that offers the closest we’ll get to a Kember manifesto as he sings “What you see is what you strive to be/ What I see is where we’ll need to be,” while reminding us that “What we see is what we strive to be/ What we need is more simplicity.”

However, it would be a mistake to consider All Things Being Equal as just a skilled collection of references or a retro-fabulous romp through someone else’s record collection. What Kember is doing is as vital as the work of those he references and whose traditions he continues: ultimately Kember is a folk musician in the same way that musicians like Daphne Oram or Peter Zinovieff are folk musicians, creating new vernaculars from existing practices, mixing disparate elements and showing that what’s come before is still able to speak to our present. If All Things Being Equal sounds like it’s already timeless, is because it fluently speaks exactly those kinds of vernaculars and manages, at the same time, to be a stunningly good album.

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