A STORY about a woman orphaned by the Congolese Space Programme is the unusual inspiration for a new record out on Mogwai’s Rock Action Records in May.

Versus Universe is the name of the long-awaited album by Rev Magnetic, the new project headed by musician and author Luke Sutherland.

The Whitbread-nominated writer has been making music since the early 1990s when he fronted influential Scottish post-rock band Long Fin Killie and has been an occasional recording and touring member of Mogwai for the best part of 20 years.

Now the band’s Rock Action label releasing his album of 11 songs based on the memories of a now middle-aged woman whose astronaut parents disappeared into space without a trace.

Her response, Sutherland says, was to sit in the family garden for the next three decades, listening to music on a portable radio.

An explanatory note accompanies the record:

“ABBA, Hawkwind, Kate Bush, Louis Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix,

The Ronettes, Marvin Gaye, Stravinsky … so much transformative music that after a while, when people asked the daughter where she was really from – as they did on an almost daily basis – her true answer referred to a sonic realm as much as a physical one.”

Those influences – and others, notably the crushing sonics of My Bloody Valentine – are to be found on the record, which features Sutherland’s ethereal vocals and virtuoso violin-playing as well as multi-instrumentalist Audrey Bizouerne, drummer Sam Leighton and Gregor Emond – a guitarist who used to play with Sutherland in a pre-internet band called Hynd.

With more gigs in Scotland expected to support the album’s release, Sutherland says that when his band play live, they express the “energy, dynamics, emotion and chaos” of the record.

“I’m trying to make the sound of 25, 30 years of sound – that’s what the chaos is,” says Sutherland, who has been working “obsessively” on the record at his home near the Highlands for more than a decade.

He continues: “The chaos is the daughter’s memories and all the music she has listened to. The chaos of a life. I remember hearing The Avalanches’ Since I’ve Left You for the first time and being knocked over by it.

“It sounded so tremendously chaotic but it also sounded very cohesive. It rooted me to memories of a time like nothing else I’d quite had up until that point. The samples that they were using came from my youth, but they came to me through this wall of chaos, of life.”

He adds: “It’s what John Peel said: ‘People complain about records having surface noise. Well, life has surface noise.’ That’s part of where the chaos comes from.”

Sutherland used the woman’s story as a framework to explore his reflections on mortality, ageing and the role of memory in life.

“Twelve years ago, when I started to put the record together, I was in my mid-30s,” he says. “In another twelve years’ time, I’ll be in my mid-60s. This examination of time, its fallout, the collateral damage, ideas about where one hoped to be versus where one is now. That’s why I came up with this idea of a woman looking back.”

Sutherland says his current focus is Rev Magnetic, and that there is no follow-up as yet to Venus As A Boy, his 2004 novella inspired by his childhood in Orkney, where he was the only Scots-African. Perhaps his acclaimed three novels were detours in a career dominated by music.

“After the last book came out, things dried up,” he says. “I wrote two or three full-length manuscripts, but they had no life, so I had to give up. The muse left me and I learned at that point not to force it. It has to come to you. So I started playing more music with lots of different people, different bands.

“It’s taken me a long time. It’s only now, a good 20 years after first doing my thing, that I’ve come back to doing my thing again.”

Sutherland, who was helped with the recording by former Mogwai guitarist John Cummings, would often work on his record while on tour with the post-rock titans.

“Though I’ve been doing stuff with Mogwai since 1998, the period I’m talking about is about 2012, 2013,” he says.

“When I was with them, I was always sketching ideas. I’d come straight off the stage with them

and on to the laptop. They were always wondering what I was up to. I was basically sketching these songs.”

Venus Universe is released via Rock Action Records on May 10. rockaction.co.uk www.facebook.com/revmagnetic