Recorded in 1978 and put back out there recently – on a heavyweight 7 – by Strut and Art Yard, Sun Ra`s The Sky Is A Sea Of Darkness When There is No Sun To Light The Way, might – based on that title – be both a mouthful and a downer. But its modal, mindful, mantra doesn’t strike me as melancholy. Instead it serves as a song of appreciation, celebration – a hymn to Sun worship, and Ra worship. A reminder to always focus on the light, and not give in to the alternative. Well, at least that’s how I hear it. This is flipped with Somewhere In Space – recorded 20 years previous, 1958. I have to admit that I had this revolving, pitched up at 45 – is that sacrilege? At that speed it`s an alien, otherwordly, watusi – honking, pots and pans rattling like a Moondog missive.
Joe Armon-Jones` Pray is the inaugural release on the London-based musician`s new imprint, Aquarii. Again, its another mantra-like masterpiece, moving slow and soulful – lush, as if the Mizell brothers had decided to cover, re-arrange, the aforementioned Ra. The vocal harmonies are heavenly, the synths come in celestial washes. The song`s cycle spinning, and peaking, rising and falling, from ecstatic drum rolls and clustered chords, to sublime stretches of electric keys. The players include Morgan Simpson – of Black Midi – on skins and sticks, and Luke Wynter – of Nubiyan Twist – on bass.
Also on vacation from Nubiyan Twist is Jonny Enser – who leads the 8-piece, Matters, through a trio of tracks, the first of which to reach the public ear / sphere, is, appropriately, A Beginning. Starting with an echoed horn, drifting in birdsong and delay, the track features tuba, trombone, and trumpet. Jonny demonstrating his chops on all three. The trumpet leads the chilled charge – kicking off the solos. Joe Murgatroyd`s clarinet then adds a Fela / afro edge. Alec Hewes double-bass all the while bumping on sunset. The beat made more concrete when Matt Davies commences tapping out Tony Allen-like time. With an album – We Aren’t Just – scheduled for later in the year, watch out for two more tunes – Ardu, and Blindspot – over the next couple of months.
Another promising new project is Lattitude – one that finds Parisian DJ, Saint-James, producing uplifting, uptempo, jazz-funk for his Chuwanaga label. The longer cut, Leo, is a dizzying dance – imagine Saint-James` fellow countrymen, Cortex, doing disco. Joyful, and delirious, its 8 minutes trading cowbell and then timbale breaks. The septet strutting thier strident stuff in a stylee similar to London’s STR4TA. Attitude could easily become an anthem. Its perfect piano partnering a clipped rhythm guitar lick, as live and electronic boogie b-lines battle it out behind UFO sound-effects. Singer, Club Célest, supplying echo`d, ethereal, whispers before the whole cast come together – bursting into climatic chorus, as the synth seriously wigs out. French rootsman, Mato, then seals the package, submitting a stripped-back, very summery, dub.
Run Logan Run are also sorta stripped back – in a damn funky ESG-fashion – and they also definitely bear a dub-influence. Hailing from Bristol I imagine that sound system bass must be super hard to escape. The duo – Andrew Hayes on saxes and Matt Brown on drums – here deliver two heavy hits for hometown imprint, Worm Discs. Caveman Disco makes machined, mutant, Wah Wah Wino-esque moves. A snare smashing collision of free-jazz and post-punk. Picking up the musical baton from bands such as Pig Bag, and Red Snapper. Skronking and stomping with hardcore – and I mean hardcore – bridges, straight out of the Napalm Death songbook. Sleepshop is a slow serenade in comparison. Saxophone parping above a big bottom-end drop.
Sampology`s Memories In Flight is altogether more serene – not surprising since the press one-sheet states that each of the Brisbane-based producer`s pieces starts life on his harp. But this single, trailering his forthcoming album, Regrowth, is built on bongos and Candido congas, Salsoul orchestral strings, and while nowhere as intense as Run Logan Run, the battery is still a frantic, flickering, funky shuffle. Hurried along by handclaps and stamping feet. Continuing in increasing complexity, until countless overdubbed keys converge in blue-skied Steve Reich-ian counterpoint. Having the listener lost in the wonder, spoilt for a focus in the frequency free fall. Not knowing which melody line to follow as the music showers around you like spring rain.
Ruby Rushton tease with the title track from a 12 due on 22a. Gideon`s Way – like the quartet’s Ironside before it – pays tribute to a “vintage” TV cop show. Aidan Shepherd’s deep, house-y intro might initially have folks wrong-footed, before the brass joins in with a more trad swing. Bandleader, Tenderlonious` flute in restrained but full flow – like a bird of prey gliding on warm thermals and swells – his tongued groove gaining traction. Nick Walters` trumpet then triumphant in bold, beautiful, blasts. Tim Carnegie coaxing his kit into a cymbal crashing crescendo.
A little way back Tenderlonious also turned in a solo E.P., that came care of 22a sub-label, Dennis Ayler Music – Dennis often collaborating with Ed on the house-ier end of things, which is where the Tek-88 record resides. An unabashed homage to Herbie Hancock, Underground Resistance, and the films of Ridley Scott, the set, in addition, is an exalted exploration of the Roland TR-808. The titular shot references Chicago`s Trax as much as it does Detroit`s UR and Transmat, with cascades of chaotic machine-generated claps – the sort that Marshall Jefferson always used to use – accompanying the box` distinctive bass boom. Opus is a blissed-out beat-less synthscape. Likewise, 808 State is not a cover of anything by the Mancunian rave pioneers, but instead a muted mediation. A swirling sonic sea, rife with rumbling seismic subs. Prometheus might boast a breakneck, broken beat, but it`s also kind of ambient – recalling the more chilled creations of Carl Craig, Kenny Larkin, folks like Stasis, B12, and the artists on Kirk Degiorgio`s A.R.T. label. A damn fine example of far out fusion – star-sailing on icy outer space strings, setting its sights on distant suns.
This brings us, hopefully neatly, to highly respected Chicago producer, Anthony Nicholson`s Dirtydiscojazzfunk, on The Jazz Diaries. The lead number`s filtered kick is refracted in musical mirror ball effects, sweetly powered by Rhodes and synths – like James Mason meeting, embracing, house. Its rhythms African, via Detroit. Future Black Fusion samples seabirds and surf, and establishes a racing, tribal, clip. Wah-wah-ed, wild, and wobbly with solos from axe, organ, and slapped bass. A marimba-kalimba melody completing the tropical allusion / illusion.