While enjoying a significant following internationally, especially in Eastern Europe and Russia, God Is An Astronaut are a band that have always operated somewhat under the radar in their native land, Ireland. Their brand of broodingly emotive, minor-key ‘post-rock’ has never sat easily alongside the ephemeral singer-songwriters and hipster electro-acts that have come and gone in this country over the past decade or so. Yet, God Is An Astronaut are the great survivors, armed with an unshakeable self-belief that has led to tonight’s show at Dublin’s Button Factory being a well-deserved sell-out.
In truth, it’s difficult to define what genre or sub-genre of music God Is An Astronaut exist within. Flirtations with electronica and ambient soundscapes would dissuade those who would describe them exclusively as a rock act while heavily treated, wordless vocals mean they are not truly an instrumental, ‘post-rock’ act either. So, they fall between many stools and it’s that pigeonhole-defying singularity that possibly adds to their mystique.
What is not in question is how forcefully compelling they are as a live act. Relentless touring has fine-tuned their skills and live the sound is flawless yet hefty, replete with a rich light show that deserves a larger stage. As tonight is an anniversary celebration of sorts, they lift tracks from across the seven albums they’ve released since Wicklow twin-brothers Niels and Torsten Kinsella formed the band in 2002. Those seven albums are notable for the consistent high-quality of the songwriting with each consecutive long-player over the years a filler-free, near-masterpiece of evocative mood music.
So to hardcore fans this feels like a greatest hits show: ‘Point Pleasant’, ‘Forever Lost’, ‘The End Of The Beginning’, ‘Suicide By Star’ and a blistering ‘Echoes’ are all present and correct. There is little banter from the stage from the self-effacing Kinsella brothers, additional guitarist/keyboardist Rob Murphy and drummer Lloyd Hanney. Instead, they let otherworldly, atonal ambience between songs link the setlist together, resulting in a satisfying flow from plaintive interludes to full-on, juddering walls of white noise, intertwined with nuanced electronics and the aforementioned, barely-there vocals. It’s a stylistic approach that would crumble in less talented hands but God Is An Astronaut are masters of the art at this stage. And yet, tonight feels like they are only getting started. Here’s to the next fifteen.