Watch the Skies! Lilies on Mars’ fourth encounter sounds more like it was born in a galaxy far, far away than a breezy beach house in sweltering Sardinia. Although let’s be honest, in ‘Popworld’ terms, Sardinia is pretty bloody far, far away. Mars stars Lisa Masia and Marina Cristofalo have peeked behind the sun to channel their interstellar inspirations through “Matter, waves and radiation” and create brave new world music that is “Looking UP”. Holy Corona! Thus, ∆GO is cosmic, crystalline, cool, cosmic (again) and sometimes just plain cryptic. Now hold on to the guide rope, ‘cos ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space…
At first contact, ∆GO speaks in a language we puny earthlings might understand. The sound of pop’s future as seen from its past. “Stealing” echoes the swish electronica of the early ’90s – St Etienne, One Dove, Sunscreem – with sweet Lemonade vocals, glamour splash percussion and spiralling, glass elevator synths. But under the sleek synthetic sheen though there’s a bad seed for darker days ahead: “You have fun but there’s someone else stealing all your rights.” Fellow space cadet and full-time Horror Tom Furse adds some widescreen glacial grandeur to recent single “Dancing Star”. It glides the star line between Depeche Mode and Ladytron possibly whilst sporting a swanky silver spacesuit, big hair and bigger sunglasses, “Dancing st-arrr, sexy moves / No space, no time!”. It’s all slightly silly in a Buck Rogers versus Twiki ‘Dance Off’ sorta way but scrumptiously so. The booty shakin’ “It Might Be” is funkier still with otherworldly vocals (“I might be blind in fact I won’t hide”??) and a groovy, boogie-down bass riff worthy of Glass Candy. The track that’s most likely to rock your world though is “From the Earth to Above” which arrives like some celestial Grimes/Kraftwerk mutation. It’s propulsive, locomotive heart dreams of infinity and beyond. “I wish I had a lemon tree / The roots around my knees”, it revels in rapturous bliss, clearly high on candy-perfumed moondust. Oh, what an atmosphere.
∆GO doesn’t waste much time in Earth’s orbit though and soon drifts away, touching from a distance. The optimistic, starry-eyed pop of its youth fades to be replaced by aged, ‘dark matter’. “It Was Only Smoke” is the sound of alien tears in the abyss. Warped weeping strings, dragged percussion, glitchy shadows and apparitions. Its isolated narrator slowly surrendering to a miasma of dissipating dreams, “The idea of you has gone, it was only smoke… I want to smoke.” The ghosts in the machine of “Midnight Fall” could be Crystal Castles at their most obscure. Suffocated, reptilian rattle. Diseased heartbeats. Contorted speech. Not something you’ll be whistling in the rocket home. Elsewhere “Sympathize” claws like mutinous replicants flipping the script on their masters, “You owe me more / Bye bye.” But the rugrat vocals and repetitive rhythms grate to the point where you’ll be desperate to pull the plug and just, well, enjoy the silence. Luckily “Rachel Walks By The Sea” proves more inviting particularly during its pogo-friendly, ‘sugar rush’ outro. Its menacing mantra is hissed with devilish, teeth-clenched relish, “Rachel wants some sleeeeep.” Quick! To the escape pod!
Despite ∆GO‘s second-half not always being ‘out-of-this-world’, its last transmission home is certainly worth intercepting. The seven-minute, final frontier “I’ve Got You” is part valentine, part funeral. It’s the haunted, sad robot powering down for the last time, throwing its tin limbs around a cherished digital memory as the light fades from its eyes, “Inside my head I’ve got you.” A death star as oddly moving as Crystal Castles’ “I Am Made of Chalk”. Its mournful, musicbox melody is slowly swallowed into a black hole of random, headless bleeps and the howl of infinite space. It’s a genuine Roy Batty ‘sat-in-his-pants’, “All these moments will be lost like tears in rain” moment and, yes, almost more human than human.
∆GO is a strange, mysterious visitor. It’s an intriguing intergalactic curio, both odd and familiar, part pop, part science experiment. Lilies’ retro futurism may occasionally move too mechanically or slip into Machina repetition but there are many sparkling glimmers of genuine warmth, spirit and wonder too. There’s certainly enough life on Mars’ flying saucer to at least venture up the ramp and have a good gander around the Mothership, though perhaps not quite enough to kiss your life goodbye and fly ‘up, up and away’ forever.