You’d never pick it by listening to The Nebula Project, but Dennis Young is one quarter of seminal 80s post-punk group Liquid Liquid. There’ nary a driving bass line to be found on this release though, instead think Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream. The disc is replete with the type of eyes-glazed-over vintage psychedelica that makes the revered status of Schulze’ Moonlake slightly baffling to younger listeners and anyone who has listened closely to the music played in the background of science documentaries.
In other words, it doesn’ sound anywhere near as envelope-pushing as you might expect. The Nebula Project is firmly rooted in a very chilled kosmische canon where running ones finger over the upper-regions of a guitar neck atop smooth synth washes is inherently transportative. It’s an instantly identifiable aesthetic, one that clings stubbornly to the 70s and is uncannily accurate in its ability to conjure a period – even the cover art looks like a Tangerine Dream sleeve design. To their credit, Coffee and Young have been collaborating in this capacity since the early eighties: the duo used to compose as Spontaneous Combustion with an extra member in Mark Feinberg on bass guitar.
Taken for what it is The Nebula Project is as spacious and instantly beguiling as you might expect. “Remnants of a Star’ is one of the albums highlights: a glistening synth drone pans immaculately between speakers atop a melancholic, two chord guitar riff, increasing in power the longer the piece soldiers on. In contrast, tracks like “Epsilon-456′ and “Comet Collision’ summon an aura of menace through the application of rock sturdy beats and elastic, minor key melodies. The duo is at its best when the beats are stripped away though, leaving fantastical new age soundscapes to boil calmly beneath the dominant guitar lines that shyly accompany much of this material, as on the very pretty “Star Dust’. The Nebula Project isn’ as insistently explorative as its title might suggest, but it’s enjoyable as a fairly pleasant period piece.