Hakobune – Betelgeuse (Hidden Vibes, 2018)

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“The light that burns twice as bright lasts half as long”, although in Betelgeuse’s case far less than that even. One of the brightest stars in the sky, Betelgeuse is only a stellar baby: 10 million years old (give or take a few hundred thousand). Our own homely Sun probably has something like 5 billion years left of its already 4.5 billion year life before swelling into its funereal Red Giant phase, whereas big bright Betelgeuse has maybe a meagre million years to go before its core collapses into a spectacular supernova.

In human terms though, Betelgeuse is a trooper, a consistent and continuing presence in the night’s sky in one of the most recognisable constellations: Orion. Its red-orange glow has spawned myths over countless generations and cultures, from the ancient Aborigines to North American tribespeople. Even in the comparative brevity of its cosmic life it predates the human race, appearing to us as a seemingly eternal companion whose real nature is one of fleeting energy and chaos as it flings itself violently through space, ejecting gas over the light years from its birthplace.

Hakobune’s ode to one of the night’s more obvious entities encapsulates a portion of this dramatic youthfulness, the elongate drones contained within singing with harmoniously paradoxical lightness. Variations in its strength, subtly waning facets of its textural character, reflect the star’s erratic and variable brightness as it spins rapidly; the juxtaposing crystallinity of the frozen guitar imbibing an ageless and stoic appearance to the casual viewer smoothed out across thousands of generations.

The distance, the size, the brilliance are not lost: for something to be so potent in the dizzying myriad of the entire heavens it must exist on a grand scale. Turn up the music and it doesn’t just twinkle quiescently in the distance, but in fact thrums and heaves and folds and churns, unveiling a complex and evolving character that bends as humans come to scientific realisation. Its true character revealed, the tenuous feeling of the sound becomes almost like a premature obituary, a shining record of a beloved favourite who was lost too soon. See all the lives it touched as it burns up from 600 light years away.

This is a delightfully layered drone album, its long form night-sky musing picking up from 2016’s gorgeous Apsidal Motion in fine Hakobune form. To lose yourself in it is to be immersed in the star itself, from its fiery core to swirling gaseous ejecta, from pre-historic myth to modern phenomenon. For a short and suspenseful while, we return to our ethereal, cosmic origins.

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