Brooklyn-based soul collective Space Captain first appeared in 2013 with their self-released single “Easier,” a smooth blend of jazz and soul with a hint of hip-hop laced into the laid-back beat. Three years later, the band have found a home with Tru Thoughts Recordings, nestling right into a roster that features the likes of Bonobo and the Hot 8 Brass Band, and are finally releasing an official EP: In Memory.
Though five songs isn’t normally enough to suss out how far a band have come and where they may be headed, In Memory makes a strong case for the immense development Space Captain have undergone since their debut. Led by the honeyed but formidable vocal prowess of Maralisa Simmons-Cook and featuring co-founder Alex Pyle on bass, as well as a number of other contributors, the “soul collective” now find themselves experimenting with electronic production and psychedelic sounds that have taken their music into exciting new territory.
The first two tracks on the EP are the headiest of the bunch—the opening song, “Screams,” is a dreamy, subdued instrumental that makes way for the wildly electronic “Landing/Up In The Hills.” The latter is, for its first two minutes, a fast-paced and action-packed number that throws a scuttering beat under a thick nest of blips, sparkles, and ethereal “ooh”s. It then transforms into a quiet, hypnotizing lullaby, with Simmons-Cook’s vocals breathing right into your ear. These first moments of the EP act as both an invitation into Space Captain’s universe and a headstrong assertion that they’ve grown.
The next three tracks are more nuanced in their approach, combining the band’s newfound fondness for spaced-out electronics with their established knack for neo-soul. “Cosmos,” for example, stakes out an interesting balance between milky atmospherics and earth-toned warmth. But the five-minute-long closer, “Two,” is the real standout jam of In Memory, showcasing the dexterity of Simmons-Cook’s singing as she seamlessly keeps pace with instrumental detours, and the whole band’s imaginative experimentations. We hear the track transform a number of times, climb upwards, and then rupture into a million showering stars—a fitting closing number.
There’s a lot to appreciate on this little release, right down to all the detailed effects embedded into each track. Though “soul collective” is certainly no longer an entirely fitting description, given everything this group is going after, it’s hard to say what label could really begin to define Space Captain. At the rate that they’re going, who knows what a full-length album from them could achieve.