The concept of place is a particularly amorphous one in relation to music, particularly in the age of the internet. In an age when the biggest Atlanta trap song was rapped by a teenager from New York, can a place really have its own sound? Throughout his extremely prolific career, Scottish singer/songwriter King Creosote has sought to make music evocative of his home country, in a particularly analogue, old-fashioned way. His breakout 2014 album From Scotland with Love was actually the score to a documentary of the same name, all about the communal Scottish identity. His 2011 collaborative album with electronic artist Jon Hopkins, Diamond Mine explored an intimate seaside town, through literally sampling the town. With Astronaut Meets Appleman, Creosote isn’t aiming for something as concrete as those albums, but the sound is distinctly of his homeland, all the same.
At its core, Astronaut Meets Appleman isn’t much different from the many other Creosote records available. However, the record innovates in small ways, and comes with a level of polish not usually heard from the artist. Even on his most major, successful records, Creosote is one to occasionally miss a note, or awkwardly phrase a line, but on Astronaut Meets Appleman his singing is en point for the entire tracklist. Furthermore, the production and arrangement feels much more purposeful. Compared to From Scotland With Love, the embellishments are pared back somewhat, with each instrument serving a more distinct purpose. Bagpipes have long been a staple of Creosote’s work, but he’s rarely explored their capacity for drone sounds as he does on the seminal Melin Wynt.
The entire album actually has somewhat of a droning, texture based feeling, largely forgoing instrumental melodies for swathes of circular guitar, organs and synths. It sounds lush and vibrant, but not overly glossy, and the purposeful repetition gives the music characteristics reminiscent of techno. His emotive vocal melodies carry his usual bevy of oddly charming lyrics, but almost every track hides some heartbreaking sentiment – “you just want someone to cry on the depths of despair / I’ll be elsewhere”. It feels like something of a road-trip record, but a road-trip that could have only taken place in Scotland. The pastoral instruments capture the green hills and gloomy skies, the drones evoke the endless landscapes, and his lyrics feel at one with the lively populace. Creosote doesn’t just pour himself into his work, he pours his home, and Astronaut Meets Appleman is one of his best.