Hawkwind – Somnia: Album Review

hawkwind somnia

Oh No! They’re coming to get me… They may have fifty years behind them but Hawkwind show no signs of slowing down.

Release date: 10th September 2021

Label: Cherry Red Records

Format: digital / CD / vinyl

We chatted to Dave Brock back in October last year (read here) when he teased us with news of the new album the band were working on. And just as promised, here it is! The Hawkwind core of Dave along with Magnus Martin and Richard Chadwick have done a sterling job with the remote recording necessitated by the global situation (one they acknowledged with tongues in cheek on the recent Carnivorous album from the Hawkwind Light Orchestra).

After celebrating a half century, they do what any decent cricketer would do and get focussed immediately on the next fifty and their Indian Summer/second wind really kicks in with Somnia.

The swirling ten minutes of Unsomnia throbs away with an insistent bassline like they’ve been doing since time immemorial, ending on a pastoral and dreamy (naturally…) acoustic passage with birdsong and distant voices and possibly the first time we’ve heard “heebeegeebees” in a rock lyric. A track instigated by Magnus Martin which surely confirms his presence in the band over the last four years has proved to be a nifty move. The intensity picks up in the Brock penned Strange Encounter – a nightmarish encounter bursting with Space Rock pleasures for any century.

It’s hard to know what to do, when everyone relies on you,” Brock sings in Only A Dream and while he might continue to carry the torch for Hawkwind along with a terrific supporting cast, one can’t imagine the band without him at he helm. He can rely on Magnus Martin for songwriting contributions and he offers a fair share of contributions on Somnia. His pieces include the ‘acoustic with embellishments’ on Alcyone and the closing Cave Of Phantom Dreams to complete the honour of having tow of his tunes bookend the record. The latter is a peaceful meditation where the sonic zips, zaps and spoken word all provide a fizzing coda.

Before that, we toss and turn through various states before we get the final resolution. Counting Sheep takes us through a lilting reggaefied episode which shifts to some Space funk and tribal beats in China Blues. Despite the range of genres that might be encountered, the Hawkwind groove remains at the core. Bouts of atmospherics, not surprising given the concept of the album or straightforward no frills heavy rock are all essential aspects in the exploration of the sleep state.

Regardless of the slimming down of the contributing musicians, with Hawkwind and Dave Brock at the helm, you have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to get. Decades in the business, they’re not going to suddenly change tack. The thought of Dave Brock having great fun coaxing and concocting from all manner of machinery and gadgets in the studio (probably surrounded by a pack of dogs) is a warming one. Ever onward.

A reminder of the Hawkwind 50th Anniversary tour at the Royal Albert Hall:

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