“I hear those voices that will not be drowned” is a quote from Benjamin Britten’s opera, Peter Grimes. It is cut into the rim of this stunning sculpture of a scallop shell standing proudly on Aldeburgh beach on England’s east coast. The Scallop is a memorial to Britten who lived in the town and used to walk along that shingly shore.
The quotation on the fractured steel shell is a distillation of the opera’s tragic tale that culminates in a sailor’s drowning. It might also be the inspiration for my Track of the Week, The Voice of Beauty Drowned by Galasphere 347.
In case you were wondering, the image in this YouTube clip probably isn’t supposed to represent submarines in search of underwater shipwrecks or beauteous drowned maidens. It is the cover image of Galasphere 347‘s self-titled debut album and the name comes from a UK children’s TV series called Space Patrol. In the TV programme the puppet crew of the Galasphere 347 spaceship cruise the planets of the solar system (and sometimes beyond), meeting aliens and having all sorts of adventures. So, I think that album cover picture is a shot of shuttle craft flying past the moons of some yet to be explored planet.
So, is the music space rock, underwater a cappella or something even more alien to Earthling ears? Well, actually, it will sound very familiar to fans of the Canterbury scene that flourished in the UK in the late sixties. Sitting somewhere between Caravan and early Soft Machine, the three long tracks on the Galasphere 347 album could easily be from an old Hatfield and the North recording.
Alternatively, this album could have surfaced from a more recent Henry Fool session. And that’s not too surprising because Galasphere 347 and Henry Fool share the keyboard talents of Stephen Bennett (No-Man, The Opium Cartel). The other three members of Galasphere 347 have all contributed to the Norwegian art rock band White Willow; they are: Ketil Vestrum Einarsen (flute, keyboards), Jacob Holm-Lupo (guitar, bass) and Mattias Olsson (percussion). The band’s Facebook page describes them thus:
Angloscandinavian symphonic rock, healing social fractures post-Viking conquests.
Featuring current and ex-members of Henry Fool, Änglagård, White Willow and more. Just a little bit of Canterburianism makes the prog rock go down, we’ve found.
The Voice of Beauty Drowned fits that general description pretty well. The sounds take us into a spacious realm – inner space, outer space or Neptune’s aquatic space – it could be any of those. But, if you listen to the words, you will find the singer and his friends are on the Queen’s Road among the bars and nightclubs whose bright lights and thumping beats drew them in just a few hours earlier. Now, though, it’s 5 am, the clubs have closed, the streets are deserted and, as the dawn begins to break, the city is as silent as the grave.
What this has to do with “beauty drowned”, however, remains unexplained.
Perhaps The Voice of Beauty Drowned was inspired by the inscription on a sculpted scallop. Or the title might have come from a Robert Graves poem about the first sweet notes of a songbird whose beautiful tune was drowned out by the much less melodious din of the dawn chorus. That would, at least, connect the title with the lyrics of this Galasphere 347 song.