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Love On Other Planets—A Mixtape for an Uninhabitable World

Isamu Noguchi. "Sculpture to be Seen from Mars," 1947. Model in sand (destroyed). Photo: Soichi Sunami. Courtesy The Noguchi Museum, NY.

Isamu Noguchi. Sculpture to be Seen from Mars, 1947. Model in sand (destroyed). Photo: Soichi Sunami. Courtesy The Noguchi Museum, NY.

The future is not only a point in time that has not yet occurred; it is also our present understanding of that point in time (which, by definition, is never here) and the hopes, fears, and assumptions we ascribe to it.

The songs on the following playlist evoke space (literal and figurative), longing, distance, and, in some cases, extraterrestrial themes. For these artists, “the future” includes grandiose visions of humans living on “islands in space,” (which according to Paul Marcano, the obscure Canadian balladeer who in the late 1970s recorded his basement musings on the cosmos under the pseudonym Lightdreams, is “the next big taste”) and interstellar love affairs (Paul St. John’s “Spaceship Lover”), as well as more earthly, personal pleas that a lover return (like Zen folk singer Robbie Basho’s impassioned cry for his beloved to “follow the Milky Way.”)

Other songs on this playlist conjure what music might sound like long after humans have been extinguished or exiled from this planet by a comet or our own shortsightedness. Aural space dust coalesces into a humble, hopeful trace of a melody midway through “Pahan Lintu” by Finnish psych-folk artist Kuupuu, like a pop song degraded as it travels millions of light years across space. Elsewhere, international 1960s avant-garde troupe Musica Elettronica Viva blends voices and field recorded sounds to elicit the feel of a commune figuring out how to start over, in deep space. The cuts from Nite Jewel and Mariah paint a vivid scene of some empty prom dance floor in the future, a disco ball silently spinning and glinting off the gaseous atmosphere; heartsick pop songs for harsh times. Primitive Motion weighs in with “Different Bird, Same Tree,” a hermetic, oxygen-deprived thing which presents a persuasive case for what might pass for a pop song in 3,000 years.

The playlist concludes with the surreal, lysergic imagery of The Monkees’ immortal “Porpoise Song” because, well, why not? No matter who we are, or what our conceptions of the future may hold, our stories end with “Goodbye, goodbye…”

1.  Kuupuu – “Pahan Lintu” (Finland, 2009)
2.  Lightdreams – “Islands in Space” (Canada, 1981)
3.  Ben Bogaardt – “UFO” (Canada, 1979)
4.  Paul St. John – “Spaceship Lover” (UK, 1972)
5.  MIJ – “Grok (Martian Love Call)” (US, 1969)
6.  George-Edwards Group – “You Without Me” (US, 1977)
7.  Tickley Feather – “Keyboards Is Drunk” (US, 2008)
8.  Peaking Lights – “Amazing and Wonderful” (US, 2011)
9.  Primitive Motion – “Different Bird, Same Tree” (Australia, 2011)
10.  Musica Elettronica Viva – “Cosmic Communion [excerpt]” (Italy, 1969)
11.  Nuno Canavarro – “? [4:21]” (Portugal, 1988)
12.  Luli e Lucina – “Ponto de Oxum” (Brazil, 1982)
13.  Woo – “Love on Other Planets” (UK, 1990)
14.  Sensations’ Fix – “Dark Side of Religion” (Italy, 1976)
15.  Robbie Basho – “Call on the Wind” (US, 1978)
16.  Lucrecia Dalt – “Mirage” (Colombia, 2013)
17.  Mariah – “Shinzo No Tobira” (Japan, 1983)
18.  Nite Jewel – “Lover” (US, 2009)
19.  Adelbert Von Deyen – “Stars of the Night” (Germany, 1985)
20.  Microphones – “Sweetheart Sleep Tight” (US, 1999)
21.  The Monkees – “Porpoise Song” (US, 1968)