Post Coal Prom Queen get freaked out on new single ‘Free Radio Phobos’, an urgent, heart-racing highlight of Music for First Contact, their forthcoming album exploring contact with aliens and contemporary Scottish identity.
Introduced by chilling, horror movie arpeggios, ‘Free Radio Phobos’ is something of a departure for Lily Higham and Gordon Johnstone, the ambitious art-pop duo formerly known as L-space. Here Higham’s usually heavenly vocals sound eerie and vulnerable; a spooked, staring rabbit in the headlights surrounded by a consuming, endless dark. Pursued by sharp, scything fiddle licks from Laura Wilkie (Fat Suit, Kinnaris Quintet), our protagonist is then swirled into a maelstrom of confusion and skronking sax (Calum Cummins of Bombskare/Yoko Pwno).
‘Free Radio Phobos’ comes at a critical juncture in Music For First Contact, the band’s opera which made its sold out live debut at Edinburgh’s Hidden Door Festival in June 2022 to great acclaim. Together with a cast of accomplished collaborators, the show told the story of humanity’s first contact with alien intelligence through the lens of Scottish identity and the ‘dark forest theory’ popularised in Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem novels. Liu posits a cosmic sociology whereby life seeks to preserve itself by destroying other life – lest itself be first destroyed.
‘Free Radio Phobos’ is the argument against responding to the alien’s signal; of remaining hidden and fearful in the dark rather than facing the galactic visitors as agents of our own future. Like this most visionary band’s series of propaganda posters which urged the opera’s live audience to vote yes or no to alien contact, ‘Free Radio Phobos’ employs imagery satirising our emotive, absurdist political culture.