Raygun Ballet's "World That Wasn't" is a wryly humorous requiem for the "Amazing World of Tomorrow" rhapsodized by old science fiction pulp novels and pre-sweetened cereal boxes — a world of promise that never survived puberty.
The album plays like a cache of archival recordings hidden away for decades. Rediscovered, dusted off, and then lovingly mangled with an assortment of digital widgets, "World That Wasn't" streams out a series of short subjects from a Brave New Otherworld. From game shows and atomic propaganda to inscrutable mysteries and (no kidding) an opus of elevator music played on children's toys, "World That Wasn't" is a strange world indeed.
For all its supposed disillusionment with the state of human progress, Raygun Ballet seems to aspire to, rather than retreat from, naivete — at least as evidenced by the liner notes, which look like they were ripped straight from the back pages of an old comic, sharing space with ads for X-Ray specs and lunatic inventions. It's a gorgeous, textural package that recalls the days of beautiful 12” album art and extensive album notes.
So what's it sound like?
Obviously someone's been listening to BT's "This Binary Universe", Lemon Jelly, Carbon Based Lifeforms and the rest of the Ultimae catalog...maybe even Loop Guru. But "World That Wasn't" finds its own electronic spectrum to explore as it arcs from a giddy and breathless view of Progress to a more introspective and remote vantage point on a world that's gone terribly wrong.
In terms of instrumentation, Melotron, Theremin, vocoders and laboratory sinewaves all make frequent appearances, but acoustic guitar, plaintive vocal wails, Gregorian chants, hypnotically pulsating beats and electronic glitches lift the tracks from simple nostalgia to a more imaginative place.
And then there are the toys...
"World That Wasn't" revels in them, subverting sad and somber melodies with toy keyboards, circuit-bent Furbies, and 8-bit chips ripped from dying Gameboys. As a result, sentiment never quite gives way to preciousness, and the sonic palette somehow manages to balance between challenge and guilty pleasure.
It's an album built on flights of imagination that may very well take you one one of your own.