STS9: Ad Explorata Album Review
Sound Tribe Sector 9, otherwise referred to as Sound Tribe or STS9, released a new album in December called Ad Explorata, and it is beautiful. For those who have never heard this genre-bending band’s music, it has been described as “post-rock dance music” and has a sound that is only enhanced when heard at its full potential: when it’s live.
Ad Explorata is what I would describe as an exploration of the two most amazing parts of the earth: the ocean and outer space. The first track, “Phoneme,” begins with the happy sound of bubbles popping underwater harmoniously. Yet, it is reminiscent of sounds one might here when floating through outer space (think WALL E). It made me feel peaceful, yet motivated, thus I would describe it as a perfect song to put on your late afternoon homework playlist. It’ll keep you awake and help you think.
The eighth and title track of the album, “Ad Explorata,” is much in the same vein as “Phoneme,” and could also be included on a kick ass homework playlist. Though not as epic as I expected it to be (being the title track and all), it is pleasant and thought provoking.
The second track, “Heavy,” is indeed heavy compared to “Phoneme.” More rock than ethereal, it’s a track one definitely hopes to hear at a live show. Then comes the track “Looking Back on Earth.” This track has more of an electronic feel to it, with the beginning sounds fading from the left speaker to the right. It transitions to a more mellow rock sound and then to water drips, so in a way it’s like three types of musical experimentation in one track, but it all fits perfectly.
“Oil & Water’s” sound exemplifies its title. It has a steady drone (the water) with a bunch of other sounds on top of it (oil). They don’t mix, necessarily, but in the way that oil and water look cool when put together, the sounds in this song sound cool when put together.
The fifth track, “Crypto City,” is what it must sound like inside a light up bouncy ball filled with sparkles while being chased by a cat. This is, in fact, a situation that I have seen, and I couldn’t imagine it sounding any other way. That’s not to say the song sounds silly, it just sounds so intriguingly fun for being the shortest track on the album. Much like the cat and ball chase, it doesn’t last long enough.
The sixth track, “EHM,” finds STS9 once again exploring their drum and bass roots. It starts out pretty chill, but towards the middle the track develops more of a hip hop/electronic badass sound, finishing off with a fast-paced drum and bass finale. “ATLAS,” the seventh track on the album, continues with the intense drum and bass feel, but with a little bit of air mixed in, meaning the listener is given points in the track in which they can feel free to take a much-needed breath.
Now to my favorite track, “Re:Stereo.” This track is so peaceful that it makes me not peaceful. If this were the soundtrack to all of my dreams, they would never turn into nightmares. They’d be intelligent, new and happy. About a third of the way through, this track delves into a deeper vibe. The drumbeat is a perfect foundation for all of the changes that this song goes through. If this song were, in fact, a dream, the drums would be the part that held it all together, keeping you asleep and helping bring the dream back to the forefront of your mind as soon as you wake up.
“Central” is a track that samples a woman’s voice reading numbers, that are actually number stations, or coded messages used by governments to correspond with spies that were overseas. The song overall is quite creepy and very, in a way, extraterrestrial.
The second to last track, “Lion,” is reminiscent of a hip lion on the prowl, walking through lives that sound like wind chimes. It’s like a mini-adventure, leading the listener to the final track of the album, titled “Echoes,” which essentially echoes all of the songs you just listened to.
The album is a complete success and lives up to what you would expect from a band like STS9, who are known for their live shows. Luckily for us Southern Californians, the band is playing two shows in our area. The first is Thursday, here in San Diego, at the House of Blues at 7 p.m. (21+), and the second is Friday in Los Angeles at The Wiltern at 7:30 p.m. (all ages).
My three favorite tracks from the album: