Post Coal Prom Queen - Music For First Contact (self-released) 2

Post Coal Prom Queen – Music For First Contact (self-released)

This is not your average album, that’s for sure…

Music For First Contact, the new album from Post Coal Prom Queen, is a record that explores humanity’s first contact with extra-terrestrial intelligence through the prism of political satire, Scottish identity and the cosmic sociology of cult sci-fi author Cixin Liu. If that seems like a lot to take in at first, wait until you hear the album…

There’s so much going on here, that it really is quite bewildering at first, and indeed fifth listen. Post Coal Prom Queen are producer-composers Lily Higham and Gordon Johnstone, who formerly made music as L-space before becoming Post Coal Prom Queen in 2020. On this album they collaborate with artists including violinist Laura Wilkie, saxophonist Calum Cummins, pianist Baichuan Hui and Stephanie Lamprea, an operatic soprano. The album – not quite a concept album, not quite an opera- deals with a question with the potential to change the course of civilisation: if we were to receive a signal apparently from aliens, should we respond to it? The songs on this album are based on arias for soprano and piano which were debuted in June 2022 to high acclaim via an interactive referendum live show at Edinburgh’s Hidden Door Festival. This is tied in with Scotland’s political future – how should we go forward?

The album opens with ‘I See No Gods Up Here.’ There’s lots of interesting ideas going on here, but it’s rather a lot to take in at times, and it’s really hard to see all these different aspects working together. (It took half a dozen listens before I could make sense of it. I have no doubt that the finished album is as its makers intended, but whether listeners will be willing to give the attention required is another matter entirely.) Rather better are the more focused tracks like ‘Radio Free Phobos‘ which argues against responding to the aliens, and its counterpoint ‘Daylight On Demos’ which argues that we should. There are moments that are utterly sublime – the aforementioned ‘Daylight’ and parts of the closing ‘Sapere Aude‘ (which can be variously translated as ‘dare to use your own reason’ or ‘dare to know’) and ‘Wheeling Through The Void.’

All in all, an experience, but it’s an album that needs to be persevered with. There are moments that are reminiscent of Julee Cruise, Angelo Badalamenti or Laurie Anderson. Reportedly 92% of the live audience voted Yes to responding to the alien signal. If we take the idea that we should use reason in responding to alien signals, does that mean that they same approach can be applied to Scotland’s future? The idea seems to be that we should be guided by hope not fear, which should be a mantra for anyone, irrespective of where they live.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.