Welcome to the fifth edition of Music in Minnesota’s New Music Friday series!
We’re doing things a little differently this week. Instead of a featured release and a couple of short takes, we’re focusing on the latest from the Heliocentrics.
The Heliocentrics – Infinity of Now
I’ve been listening to a lot of Sun Ra lately.
The jazz legend isn’t necessarily a household name, but his brand of discordant, cosmic jazz is quite good for an occasional mind fuck. Or sometimes even a frequent one.
Ra built his persona around his mystical philosophy that largely incorporated Egyptian and African mythology. He also claimed to be from outer space, and I believe him.
His music is basically the aural version of his beliefs and biography: it’s discordant, it’s wild, and it’s unpredictable. It really does sound like it’s from outer space.
Ra’s experimentation wasn’t just simplistic dross, as so much forced experimental music is today. He and his band had an extensive background in jazz and classical. Beneath his expansive sounds were solidly musical ideas.
The Heliocentrics are reminiscent of Sun Ra for two reasons: their experimental expansion of jazz brings his music to mind, and they are savvy enough to experiment well.
Unlike Ra, they incorporate many different genres, and are also more accessible. Their sound incorporates jazz, funk, psychedelic, film scores, Indo-Asian music, and more.
The band released two albums in 2017, expansive step forward A World of Masks and the acclaimed soundtrack to The Sunshine Makers, the documentary about LSD evangelists Nicholas Sand and Tim Skully.
Infinity of Now is something like the moodier counterpart to A World of Masks. This largely has to do with the sultry vocals of Slovakian vocalist/actress/dancer Barbora Patkova, which appear on almost every track. This also makes it the most accessible Heliocentrics release.
That’s not to say that it isn’t filled with creative experimentation, because it is.
Opener “99% Revolution,” like most of the album, has a tight, almost hip-hop sounding groove. Patkova’s dreamy vocals give it a pop feel, but sonically it is as creative as their best work, mixing guitars, synths, and ambient noises.
Lead single “Burning Wooden Ship” brings to mind James Brown groove-wise, but once again the vocals give it a more ethereal feel. Like “99% Revolution,” and most of the rest of the album, its sounds and noises are interesting without being overkill.
Sun Ra should really be on the radar of more contemporary musicians that want to experiment creatively. If he was, more bands would successfully carry on his legacy, not by copying him, but by tapping into his sense of adventure and running with it in their own unique way.
On Infinity of Now, the Heliocentrics do just that.