Liner Note Author: Jack D. Fleischer.
Released in 1981, LightDreams' only album, Islands in Space, is a Beatlesque collection of melodic, psychedelic pop tunes inspired by lead singer/songwriter Paul Marcano's interest in space colonization. Imagine a group of nerdy hippies making a rock opera version of Star Trek, conceptualized around the "prime directive" and fueled by a steady diet of prog rock LPs and shrooms, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what Islands in Space sounds like. Kooky for sure, but utterly endearing if you have any kind of love for melodic '60s rock, hippie psychedelia, and forward-thinking philosophy that straddles the border between science fiction and science future. A Canadian visual artist and musician, Marcano had already spent eight years making music influenced by his childhood love of the Beatles, as well as the progressive work of artists like Pink Floyd and the Alan Parsons Project, when he formed LightDreams. Inspired after reading physicist Gerard K. O'Neill's 1977 book about humans living in space, The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space, Marcano gathered a small cadre of musicians to help record his songs based on ideas from the book. Joining him were guitarists John Walker and Cory Rhyon, bassist Art Lowe, keyboardist/saxophonist Tim Moore, and keyboardist Andre Martin. Collaborating on musical and philosophical ideas, the LightDreams members eventually recorded their songs using the cutting-edge (at the time) tape-based TEAC four-track Portastudio. Surprisingly, the resulting tracks are deeply layered, evocative recordings, with a lo-fi affability that nonetheless remains impressive decades later. Primarily this is due to the sheer craftsmanship of Marcano and his bandmates, who wrote hypnotic, lyrical songs accented by echoey guitars, dimly lit synths, and the occasional moan of a sax. It also didn't hurt that Marcano had a soft, slightly nasal voice that pleasantly brings to mind a mix of ELO's Jeff Lynne and Big Star's Chris Bell. To these ends, cuts like the airy, sparkling title track and the laid-back "Atmospheric Dreams" definitely bring to mind the soaring, open-chorded style of bands like Pink Floyd, just as they prefigure later psych-influenced recordings by artists like Robyn Hitchcock and even the Smashing Pumpkins. Ultimately, while Islands in Space failed to find an audience upon its initial release, it benefited from an enthusiastic cult fan base of Canadian record collectors and lovers of quirky vintage pop. Decades later, it's even easier to get a handle on the album's charms: an independently produced, minor psych-pop masterpiece and uplifting love letter to space. As Marcano sings on "Islands in Space," "Out of the stardust/We were born to return/Is it any wonder?/This primordial yearn." ~ Matt Collar