Fly me to the moon

Former local resident Dustin Reske pilots his solo indie-pop vehicle Rocketship to space, inner and outer

Scientists say that if you could drive your car straight up toward the stars at 60 mph, it would only take an hour before you would be in what astronomers call space, the home of the big bang. Conversely, if you drove your car northwest toward the Oregon border, in about five hours, you would hit Arcata, the town that contains Humboldt State University, the home of the big bong.

Arcata is also the town where Dustin Reske, making music under the name Rocketship for the past 10 years, now resides. In fact, it’s been a decade since Rocketship released upon an unsuspecting world the seminal Bus Stop Label single “Hey, Hey, Girl,” considered a musical milestone in the world of indie pop. Recorded here in Sacramento, the 7-inch was one of those instant classics that everyone within earshot adored on the first spin, no mean feat considering the pervasive stranglehold the “Seattle sound” had on guitar-wielding and hair-wagging kids. Instead, it could have been from a French PanAm commercial from the early 1970s. Rocketship recorded its full-length, A Certain Smile, a Certain Sadness, refining the sounds from “Hey, Hey Girl,” for the dream/twee pop label Slumberland. The album was released in 1995 to much anticipation and plaudit.

By then, Reske had moved to Arcata and ran with what he described as the anarchist-environmentalist scene. “Food Not Bombs, that nature,” he said. “All of my time was taken up with it. It was very exciting.” In addition, he engineered several bands. Then, in 1999, Rocketship released its second full-length, Rocketship’s Garden of Delights, a complete 180 degrees from the sunshine pop Rocketship had been making. Created specifically by Reske to “chill out to,” it contained two full sides of sweeping, swirling drones; backward guitars; and all sorts of hypnotic loops.

Rocketship is now just Reske writing all the music and lyrics, with the exception of two female friends singing on a couple pieces. Earlier this month, local label Omnibus issued Rocketship/Trace, a new double CD (or shared LP) split between Rocketship and a local band, Trace. Rocketship’s contributions to the set are a culmination of all of Reske’s past efforts combined into five songs, each very different from the others—from the vertigo inducing, drum ’n’ bass-infused opener “The Quad” to the full-on-guitar indie rock of “You’ll Regret It Someday” to the somber late-night synth-psych closer aptly titled “Postwork Come-down.” Each track explores Reske’s interest in altered-consciousness music.

But what’s taken him so long?

Soon after moving to Arcata, the heads on Reske’s vintage reel-to-reel recorder wore down. “And I found I lived in an area that high-tech stuff [couldn’t be] fixed very easily,” he explained over the phone. “There’s a lot of things that you can get in the city that you take for granted, like someone that can work on a professional tape machine.”

Also, for a long time, Reske was an analog purist, refusing even to consider integrating digital technologies into his studio. It wasn’t until he took a more dogmatic approach to analyzing the analog technology he used that he began to change his mind. “As a medium for storing, it’s imperfect.” he explained. “My ears were starting to get in tune with some of the flaws with analog. Also, the digital technology was improving more and more.”

So, does that mean that we won’t have to wait as long between releases now?

Reske says his second full-length, tentatively titled Higher Altitude, will come out next year on a new co-op media label he’s starting with a friend, which will sell CDs exclusively through the Internet to subscribers at cost before shipping the CDs to retail stores six months later. “We will release about five CDs in the first year,” Reske said, “perhaps including [an] ‘ambient’ CD compilation, as well as a compilation of obscure Rocketship tracks from here and there over the years.”