What a joy this is – a concept album based on an episode of The Twilight Zone, constructed entirely by one guy using loops, samples and eerie bloops. The chap in question is Dominic Francisco, a prolific producer of eulogies to places and times past, with the kind of skill and reverence seen in collectives like Giallo’s Flame – you simply can’t make music like this without having a lingering fondness and knowledge of your subject.
The subject, as hinted at in the title, is the Twilight Zone episode, People Are Alike All Over, a better than average, rather than stellar, episode from the first season, in which Roddy McDowell finds himself as the sole survivor of a journey to Mars, one which he already has moral misgivings about (insert spoiler here). It’s one of the particularly straightforward yarns which signposts its ending a little too obviously, something of a dry run for the third season’s titanically alarming, To Serve Man.
However, having viewed the episode as a half-awake 12-year old, Francisco was haunted by what he had seen through the semi-languorous viewing – the tone, the matter-of-factness and the parallels to his own life. Even though a re-visit to the episode a decade later revealed it to do closer to my own perception of it, he couldn’t let go of it. It was a televisual comfort blanket, as much a time capsule of a childhood memory as of a jewel of drama. His feelings for the episode remained strong enough that he felt obliged to document them in musical form.
Sensibly, a direct retelling isn’t on the menu, Francisco following the narrative logically, with nuggets of dialogue from the episode nested within atmospheric sampled electronic textures, which hint at the unease in a rather subtler way than the programme itself. The tracks are numerous, an alarming 14 but they are sparse and only serve as required interludes for your ease of listening, the whole experience can only be savoured fully through one sitting in a darkened room through headphones. The sound collage works rather like a more laid-back cousin of Steve Fisk’s old tape loops, it doesn’t really matter if you ‘get’ the references, the immersion in an odd world which neither exists in the past nor the future being a journey you are led along to draw your own conclusions.
The album is only fun in the sense that you emerge from the other side affected quite considerably, really all you can ever ask from an album. There is little to hum along to and the use of silence and minimalist thrums of old robots is counterpointed by more aggressive percussive beats and the deeply exhaling lungs of a long-rusted metal God. It’s a brave concept, one which cries out self-indulgence but succeeds by projecting feelings instead of re-telling. A brilliantly executed project which is to be applauded.