Retired Astronauts – ‘Retired Astronauts’ (Review)

Every now and then I receive a music submission from an unknown South Carolina artist that blows my mind out of the blue. The last time that happened it was South Carolina rock band The Old Earthquake with their debut Loud Ones, and this time it’s Charleston experimental hip-hop/noise duo Retired Astronauts and their self-titled debut, Retired Astronauts. The album hit streaming platforms last month, and is slated for physical release on July 2nd.

Retired Astronauts is a project started by two friends Laika and Tobagun, who came into possession of a Tascam 242 tape recorder and started to mess around with it. After recording a 30 minute tape of solo guitar, the duo flipped the tape over and challenged themselves to create a cohesive album centered around the swell of the backwards guitar sounds on the tape. The verdict here at Extra Chill HQ is that Retired Astronauts have succeeded in not only making a cohesive 30 minutes of music, they’ve also made one of the most unique and interesting releases to come out of South Carolina in recent memory.

Right from the jump, Retired Astronauts comes in strong with “Bend Your Eyes”. The unconventional style immediately reminds me of the music coming out of the Odd Future crew, and particularly the style that Earl Sweatshirt has always explored. Retired Astronauts have taken these strange, atmospheric guitar sounds and built melodies around them, armed with an 808 and a microphone. Tobagun has been rapping since he was in elementary school, and had been looking for an interesting canvas over which to paint his poetics. I’d say he found that canvas.

Most of the songs on Retired Astronauts feature Tobagun rapping over these strange beats, though some of them leave out the rapping in favor of Laika’s singing, giving the tracks more of an experimental pop sound. I’d say that in the future they should have Tobagun rap on every song and save the singing for making hooks or for some variety (like on “Nassau”, for example), because the rap songs and verses on this record are infinitely more interesting than the non-rap songs, in the humble opinion of Extra Chill. An exception to that is “Komorov Left”, which production-wise kind of reminds me of “Walking on a String” by Matt Berninger and Phoebe Bridgers, at least in the intro.

The only song on Retired Astronauts that does not work for me at all is “Let’s Just See What Happens”, which is a rap song. I think this might be a combination of it being a very strange point in the tape, and also that Tobagun’s voice is more suited to rapping in a more quiet and chill tone. “Let’s Just See What Happens” is more aggressive in nature and I think the mix is lacking, giving the track an abrasive tone. Still, though, an album from a brand new artist with just one skip is a success no matter how you frame it.

Listen to Retired Astronauts by Retired Astronauts below.

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