Spectrum is the most high-profile and straightforward of the projects undertaken by Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember after the demise of the trance-rock avatars Spacemen 3. As his work as a member of the Experimental Audio Research coterie allowed Kember the opportunity to explore ambient textures and tonal constructs, Spectrum satisfied the singer/guitarist’s more conventional pop leanings, while never losing sight of the hypnotic otherworldliness which became his music’s trademark and legacy. The name Spectrum initially appeared as the title of the first Sonic Boom solo album, released in 1990 before the break-up of Spacemen 3; a collection of ethereal, nearly formless songs, Spectrum openly acknowledged Kember’s debt to Suicide with its cover of the duo’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Killing My Life.” Meanwhile, the Kember half of the Spacemen 3 swan song Recurring, with its tighter, more structured songs (like the gentle wash of “Just to See You Smile”), offered an even stronger indication of things to come.
After the break-up of Spacemen 3, Sonic formed Spectrum with guitarist Richard Formby and bassist Mike Stout, along with contributions from Pat Fish (a.k.a. the Jazz Butcher). After a series of singles, the band issued its debut Soul Kiss (Glide Divine), a sprawling collection of tranquil, luminous retro-pop, in 1992. At the end of the year, Formby was replaced by former Darkside guitarist Kevin Cowan, and in 1993, the group released Indian Summer, an EP of covers. After Kember spent much of the next year working on Experimental Audio Noise Research projects, Spectrum — now rounded out by guitarist Scott Riley, programmer Alf Hardy, and ex-Spacemen 3 bassist Pete Bassman — released the 1994 LP Highs, Lows and Heavenly Blows, another narcotic collection which explored unique scales and compositional structures. Another layoff followed as Sonic Boom resumed work on his other projects, but in 1996 Spectrum teamed with the Seattle band Jessamine for a joint release titled A Pox on You; at the end of the year, they also issued an EP, Songs for Owlsey. The full-length Forever Alien appeared in 1997. A second collaboration with Jessamine as well as work with the Silver Apples followed.
“Sonic Boom” was the alias of Pete Kember, best known as the singer-guitarist in the legendary hypno-drone unit Spacemen 3. A native of Rugby, England, while attending art college Kember teamed with Jason Pierce to form Spacemen 3, recording a demo tape in 1986; after signing to Glass Records, the group recorded their debut LP Sound of Confusion, for which Kember adopted the name Peter Gunn. By the time of their follow-up EP Walkin’ with Jesus, he had rechristened himself Sonic Boom, keeping the pseudonym for the duration of his career. In 1990 he issued his lone solo LP, Spectrum; after the 1991 swan song Recurring, Sonic recycled the Spectrum title as the name of his new band, which debuted with the LP Soul Kiss (Glide Divine). Sonic Boom was also the driving force behind the Experimental Audio Research project, a loose configuration of musicians which included My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields.
The next Spectrum album is going to be released on Mind Expansion U.S.A. and Space Age Recordings U.K. sometime later this year. The record is a mix between “Highs Lows and Heavenly Blows” and Spacemen 3’s “Perfect Prescription”.
Formed in New York in 2003 by Brad Hargett and J.B. Townshend, the Crystal Stilts were a multi-influenced indie rock band that released its first work — some singles and an EP — in 2004 on the Feathery Tongue label. The first single, “Shattered Shine,” was followed by a series of local shows, and after an EP — all eventually collected in one place on the self-titled full-length 2008 release — added Kyle Forrester on keyboards (for live gigs, anyway) and Andy Adler to take on bass duties. Finally, the group added a drummer — Frankie Rose, formerly of the Vivian Girls– shortly thereafter.
-Chris True via All Music