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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cool-as-Fuck Fantasy

posted by on December 27 at 15:28 PM


I spent 360-some words hailing the brilliance of the Heliocentrics in this week’s paper and it’s not enough—the band’s woozy, spliffed-out space jazz and instrumental hiphop soul is addictive. Between the splattering of baritone sax, flute, and clarinet; electronic frippery and turntable daliance; rotund, high-stepping upright bass lines; and bandleader Malcolm Catto’s whip-crack drumming, there’s a whole lot to talk about.

The update here is Catto’s drumming—pugilistic, usually snapping on a high hat and snare break. It’s pure hiphop, the true-school stuff of Stones Throw, beholden to 1970s soul-jazz cats like Bernard Purdie and Idris Muhammad. That hard-swinging syncopation shifts and stutters but never lets down, lubricating these diffuse, swaying melodies with a slick rhythmic sheen. Where rhythm and melody come together—in the cosmic funk of “Distant Star,” the buzzy downtempo smokeout “Untitled,” the gorgeous “Winter Song”—sublimity occurs. These songs radiate with crystalline guitars and sitars and synths like morning light. Throughout, space-age vocal samples and sound effects evoke a retrofuturistic vision rendered into a wry, self-aware soundtrack to a moment that’s not quite then, not quite now, not quite later.

Like much of Sun Ra’s output, Out There is too long, too dense, too full of ideas to fully digest. It’s a collusion of art and science, a cool-as-fuck fantasy more vast than a mere album of music.

There are just so many ideas going on in Out There that whole worlds are evoked in the music. You can get a taste—starting with the galactic electro-swing of “Sirius B”—from the Stones Throw website:

Listen to “Sirius B.”

Slow-flow MC Guilty Simpson grounds the track “Before I Die” on solid earth, but the addition of vocals adds another dimension, another layer to peel back, on top of this already-dense music.

Listen to “Before I Die.”

Out There is one of my hindsight faves of 2007.

RSS icon Comments


Nicely put. This is an overlooked gem--as is Oh No's Dr. No's Oxperiment.

Posted by segal | December 27, 2007 8:12 PM

I agree with Segal. I know you (JZ) don't believe in lists, but this disc definitely made mine. If I had to do it again, though, I'd have placed it higher (it comes in at #18, between Baby Elephant and Nicole Willis). And I would've added the Black Lips to my top 10, but ya gotta draw the line somewhere...

Posted by Kathy Fennessy | December 28, 2007 2:50 PM

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