Who says that kids today are just interested in iPads? Apparently Kenny Anderson (aka King Creosote)’s young daughter was presented with a toy man made from an apple, and was far more taken with that then she was with a new-fangled spaceman figure – and hence, an album title was born, and with it a concept of the battle between traditional and modern values, about whether life really was better when we weren’t seeing everything through a social media prism, and a look back to a time when people didn’t go to gigs simply to watch them through a mobile phone screen.
As Anderson is possibly the most quintessential DIY musician around right now (his famously prolific output of over 40 albums released in the last 20 years included many self-released efforts simply released on a CD-R), you’d probably expect him to fall firmly on the traditional side of the fence. Yet Astronaut Meets Appleman is a more complex beast than that – an album where everything but the kitchen sink (strings, beats, even bagpipes) seems to have been thrown in, and yet it maintains a fierce focus.
The seven minute long You Just Want is the perfect introduction to this clash between two approaches – recorded using analogue methods at first and then digitally looped. It’s long, languid and completely hypnotic, a song which seems to ebb and flow as it gently takes shape. It’s not the record’s most immediate moment, but it lulls the listener in beautifully.
From here, Anderson cleverly and unobtrusively displays his many talents: the sardonic troubadour on Love Life (where he utters one of the couplets of the year in “Her jealous accusations know no bounds, Scarlett Johansson was never in my house”), the pulsating, driving rocker on Surface, and even the abstract experimentalist on Peter Rabbit Tea (a rather soothing interlude in which Anderson’s daughter simply repeats the words Peter Rabbit Tea over and over again – after a while it sounds like Joanna Newsom if she’d overdosed on too many Beatrix Potter stories).
Anderson has wrapped all these songs up in a beautifully warm, enveloping sound. It takes some doing not to make the sound of bagpipes horribly clichéd, but when they provide the introduction for the beautiful Melin Wynt, it’s hard not to suppress the goosebumps. Similarly, the lilting cello on the brooding ballad Faux Call (a re-recording of one of Anderson’s many, many older songs) works beautifully against Anderson’s wavering falsetto, while the sadness of the closing Rules Of Engagement becomes almost crushing.
With a career stretching back over 20 years, Anderson is probably far from worried about commercial success – however, after the success of his From Scotland From Love soundtrack, and the Mercury nomination for Diamond Mine, his collaboration with Jon Hopkins, it seems like the public is finally falling for King Creosote’s view of the world. For anyone yet to fall under Anderson’s charms who may feel intimidated by the size of that back catalogue, Astronaut Meets Appleman is the perfect entry point.