THE HELIOCENTRICS have been working away on a rarified astral plane of musical fusion for more than a decade and a half now – and frankly, if you’re a crate-digger on any kind of level, whose musical tastes range multifariously, they’re the kind of band whose wax should be sat in that little favoured stack that sits right in front of your deck; the clutch of records that never quite get refiled. They’ve got taste, amazing taste; and they look beyond the sum of their chosen influences to combine them in a surging soundscape that wishes to seize you by the soul and whirl you out into their particular multi-hued galaxy.
They’re releasing their twelfth album of deeply cosmic Afro-retrotronica-cinematic-krautrock-funk-psych – yep, you heard right – on October 3rd; it’s actually their second album of the year. They’re on it.
Back in March they released The Infinity Of Now, their first for their new home, Madlib’s Madlib Invazion imprint – and if that isn’t a conferral of approval from someone with taste, I don’t know what is.
Not content to rest on their laurels, core duo and psych masterminds drummer Malcolm Catto and bassist Jake Ferguson are still restlessly seeking, travelling towards their musical point of singularity referred to as “The One”: somewhere out there in technicolor deep space, where a new star is forming from the hot and essential gases of David Axelrod, Sun Ra, Can, Pierre Henry; Italian soundtrack maestri, oh! A host of other recherché and fantastic musical paths plotted on charts and whose ultimate north-west passage The Heliocentrics desire to discover.
It’s straight in as your stylus drops with the thirteen and a half minutes of the title track – you should have intuited by now, these guys really have no time to mess about; and “Telemetric Sounds” lives up to the concept inherent in its title (telemetry being the transmission of data from remote points for measurement). It swirls into form on the back of a slow, grinding Moog lope with cosmic cross-chatter firing around above like ball lightning, wavering course hard to predict; give in and relax now, it will make entry into orbit all the easier on your exoskeleton. An eerie and portentous, fuzzy riff begins to saw away, suggesting form; some of the trippy effects become enamoured of this new form, themselves settle.
A few minutes in and you’re getting Louis and Bebe Barron, Loop, Can … drums begin a seductive, percussive rumble, staying just out of reach, merely tempting you deeper. There’s off-kilter motorik and it pulses, fades, steadfastly refuses to allow you to grab it fast; it slips and eludes like smoke. You’re inside it; there is no subject and object. Towards the end, there’s an almost Tardis-like radiophonic swooshing … touchdown may be imminent.
And we make landing in the soft moondust of “Devastation”. Drums skitter, freestyle, begin to break, roll, groove; the atmosphere above is full of the deepest Moog static. A strange, microtonally slurred two-note bass call settles into a jazz motif. Brass arrives, reinforces the Afro-space orbit. Other textures flow and swell out in the distance to remind you you’re far from home. The bass is your safe shore on this cosmic journey. Let that be your guide and float downstream.
“Space Cake” – as if we need further illustration and temptation to sample heady delights (you’d imagine this album would be just bloody perfect after a sampling of said confection – allegedly) = we’ve embedded for you, below. The jazz is at the helm; imagine, if you will, the much-missed Red Snapper out at play on Planet Gong. It has thrust and funk and pleasingly incoherent sampled transmissions, and a haze of fragrant smoke. You could get to really like it here. A strange little flute motif leads you out into the radio cross chatter, snares a-skitter.
“Rehearsal 24” is an early-70s !Impulse! jazz sketch given Money Mark brevity, and just hinting at whole other exotic horizons glimpsed. It set-dresses for “Shattered Mind” which; well the title isn’t inaccurate. It’s a deep fug of rhythmic jamming and space effects, all atmos and texture, best experienced horizontal. “The Opening” keeps up the exploration of exotic space jazz; driven by bass, with ethereal voices out there somewhere in the ether, big bubbles of synth innerspace popping rhythmically.
And album with such a breathless setting of the manifesto as the opener here can only flip back the same way on the return journey: and so it is, with “Left To Our Own Devices” clocking at more than eight minutes. It’s very krautrock; Jaki Liebzeit stalks the backward masking on thunderous tomtom work. Guitars venture and thrum in a red-lit rainforest of gradually climbing threnody. Possibly best heard reclining in a bath in a commune in the Black Forest with a very loosely rolled one on smouldering on the enamel, it opens doors to deep textures and mindscapes.
Phewee, sayeth your correspondent. It is, all hackneyed usage aside, quite the trip. It forms a companion piece to this spring’s The Infinity Of Now, with a slightly different focus at play; the two albums are like twins, and if the artwork of the two has any colour-wheel conception implied, then Infinity’s siennas and umbers signifies the Afro grace leanings of that set; while Telemetric Sounds’ lush greens indicates … well, do I really need to spell this out, here?
I could well picture myself holding them in each hand, flipping the sealed vinyl over and back, over and back; checking my wallet, checking it again; finally resolving hell: I need em both, really. They function perfectly as individuals, but my do they also, in a gestalt way, make a beautiful way. Turn, tune in, funk out.
The Heliocentrics’ Telemetric Sounds will be released by Madlib Invazion on digital, CD and vinyl formats on October 2nd; order yours now from their Bandcamp page, or from all good record emporia.