Like many of the greatest endeavours in life, Larry Heard’s 1996 album Alien was unplanned and seems to have been conceived by accident. House music legend has it that another producer, ‘Melodious’ Myles Houston, left some equipment with Heard to try out and after some fiddling about, he used this new kit to craft Alien. This random incident resulted in one of the greatest electronic music albums of the 90s, one that inexplicably was only issued on CD and has now been remastered and made available on vinyl for the first time.
It also resulted in Heard’s (temporary) transformation from spiritual leader of deep Chicago house to a freeform cosmic genius. Alien is the only occasion when wearing the flowing white silk robes that he was photographed in around this time could be deemed to be acceptable. The album retains some links to his deeply musical house sound – one that he returned to the following year for 1997’s excellent Dance 2000 album – but it is also possessed of a mystical undercurrent and has moments that are so far off the chart that you have to pinch yourself to remember that this is by the same producer who wrote “Can You Feel It?”.
“Two Journeys” starts with a chilling ambient coda that consists of a tonne of nails being sucked through a metal tunnel, while “The Beauty of Celeste” features Che’s Daisy Age rapping. “Faint Object Detection” meanwhile is MOR meets ambient techno as Larry lets columns of ice-sculpted guitar squeal and wail over soft-focus pads. Heard is probably the world’s unlikeliest axe hero, but it’s also surprising to hear him veer into the kind of spaced out sounds that constitute “Flight of the Comet” and “DNA-RNA”. On the former, sublime piano keys dominate while the latter features serene synths and head-nodding drums.
Heard’s greatest triumph on Alien however is “Micro Gravity”; It puts Heard on the same astral trajectory as Mad Mike and Drexciya and its beautiful, shimmering melodies could be his slow-motion response to “Hi Tech Jazz”. If house music is a feeling, then Heard has embarked on a voyage to the farthest limits of his soul to deliver Alien.
1. Faint Object Detection
2. The Dance Of Planet X
4. Flight Of The Comet
6. Galactic Travels Suite
7. Cosmology Myth
8. Two Journeys
9. The Beauty Of Celeste