Maybe it’s only because we went to the moon in the 1960s, but the cosmic void of space seems to pair perfectly with lounge music. Don’t just take it from me—the idea was explored on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which depicted a distant future in which every species in the Alpha Quadrant absolutely loves lounge singers.
“Fly Me to the Moon” is of course the origin point of this pairing, the melding of Sinatra’s smooth bravado with the wonders of Jupiter and Mars. NASA, never one to miss a branding opportunity, made sure copies went up with Apollo 10 and Apollo 11. More recently, in 2017, the Arctic Monkeys took the idea to some far-out places on their gorgeous departure from reality, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, which imagined the band taking their act to a seedy hotel on the moon.
Now, Prairiewolf is reviving this combination with a delightfully calm self-titled album, Prarirewolf. The trio creates the musical equivalent of looking out onto the stars in the middle of the desert, a sound they call “Rocky Mountain kosmische.”
“Kosmische” is German for “cosmic rock,” or as it became better known outside of Germany, krautrock. While associated now with Kraftwerk, Station to Station-era David Bowie, and cocaine, krautrock was initially based in social rebellion. Young West Germans in the ’60s had a lot to rebel against. Finding it hard to find much value in recent German history, kosmische sought to abandon what had become the default in music—the influence of American and British rock—by exploring the sounds of the future.
That impulse led to a sonic explosion, the results of which eventually found their way into cult classics like Spaceman 3 and The Beta Band. This is the sonic terrain in which Prairiewolf is operating, exploring different sounds that, together, make up a whole.
This is music to get lost in, or maybe to play in the background while you work—”Lunar Deluxe” has stretched-out Western guitar riffs playing against slow and steady beats that feel like rain falling on a rooftop somewhere. “Sage Thrasher,” right afterward, starts with the tiniest bit of noise before creating an equally soothing rhythm. And that blends right into the spacey “Cogs.” Will it sound a little like elevator music to some? Sure. But this is an elevator you could live inside.
The thing I’m always looking for in music is how it changes my mood. It’s the eternally cool thing about music—that it’s just moving air around, but it can alter everything in your day. Putting on Prairiewolf, I started to recover from a tough couple days. Writing started to flow easier. I began to look forward to losing myself in the music, looking forward to each synth blast and repeated pattern joining together to form a harmony that never gets out of control but does gain some momentum, especially on tracks like “Labwerk.”
On first listen, you may barely even notice the music. But the further you go, the more you’ll find yourself sucked in, especially with the gorgeous guitar on “Return to the Lonesome Prairie.” Prairiewolf is a calm and confident album, one better explained by the feeling it brings forth than the exact way it sounds.
David Meir Grossman is a writer living in Brooklyn. His Twitter feed is @davidgross_man.