Mulatu Astatke & the Heliocentrics - Inspiration Information
Hmm, tackling an album which promises to blend traditional music from the ancient Coptic church with the madness of Sun Ra, the grooves of the Funk Brothers and the mysticism of the East; there’s nothing like a challenge is there? Far from it though, as these apparently diverse elements combine, under the expert eye of Ethiopian bandleader legend Mulatu Astatke, to generate one of the most exciting, organic suites of music I’ve heard in many a year. Imagine another universe, far, far away in which Miles Davis signs not for Blue Note but for Trojan Records – this is what you’d get and by God it isn’t half bad. The secret is, of course, in that most underrated of qualities in pop music – musicianship. The Heliocentrics are working at the top of their game and can call on the most eclectic of tools, ranging from a C15th harp through to a virtual beat-box, with which to craft art which is unfettered by tradition, style or convention.
Of course, for some, threats of musicianship and innovation will bring them out in a cold sweat but, fear not, fashionistas as you can ignore the shimmering qualities of this record and just shake your big old ass to it’s ever shifting grooves and rhythms. The album is at its very best with epic grooves such as Chik Chikka and Phantom of the Panther but there’s not a duff track to be found. Part of its charm lies in its vast eclecticism with the traditional African folk music of Masengo seamlessly arriving at the blaxploitation-tastic funk before heading off to the almost Floyd-ian guitar sigh of Blue Nile. This isn’t for the faint hearted though, it is a genuine collision of two musical universes and there will inevitably be casualties. There’s no familiar “key change on the final chorus” to grasp as a way marker, you are on your own with this one and, be warned, here be monsters.