Sound Tribe Sector 9’s space shuttle comes back to California from its long journey. Its doors open and we hear a love song creeping out from the interior. It begins. Clapping in rhythm gets the audience prepared for uppity, funky beats that follow. Finally, we’re met with an everyday, organic sound as birds chirp and lead us out. Sound Tribe Sector 9’s newest album, The Universe Inside, is more than music, it is a flowing story. The band was inspired by the Golden Records sent off in 1977 with Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. They contained brain waves, images, and sound that act as a time capsule for any galactic neighbors who may find them, which time and space block from us now. The contents don’t discriminate; they show who we are together as humans and hope to connect us to something bigger.
This is a tenet of STS9, a common belief that holds its community of fans with base ideals of bringing about good in a united world. The Universe Inside has more lyrics than the band’s previous endeavors. “We are one, made from the dust of the stars.”, “This life is a give and take, it’s what we make with the ones we love.”, “Take my hand.” “Love is all around.” “You don’t have you worry no more.” Most aren’t samples, but original or collaborative words. Another difference is that it’s the first album with bassist Alana Rocklin.
Fans have eagerly awaited a full-length STS9 album for seven years. The band was busy during that time, learning as much as they could about the musical acts that inspire them, working on better production and figuring out the perfect equipment, tinkering with their song techniques and writing, and even helping with sound design for the Grateful Dead. Often, they were in the studio recording pieces to be used later.
But amazing production and an emphasis on skill didn’t change the easy sound listeners are used to, part of the reason it has been so well-received. The Universe Inside made its debut at number one on iTunes and Amazon’s Electronic Album chart, and two on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Album chart. The fun music still makes you want to shut your eyes and dance in peace. The album absolutely has to transfer well to live shows. STS9 is almost constantly playing live and has been at festivals seemingly non-stop for years. If you haven’t caught them at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Summer Camp, North Coast, or Electric Forest, know that this electronic/funk/rock band helped pave the way for many of the EDM sounds heard now. They’ve had openers like Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, and Big Gigantic. They continue to make music in their own way, one which transcends any closed in genre, always ahead of the current time to avoid falling into fads. The almost-20 year veterans of the scene are still in their prime, always developing with originality and authentic care.