30 November 2009

Mulatu Astatke & The Heliocentrics - Inspiration Information

Mulatu Astatke: Ethiopian bandleader, managed to draw attention to his idea of jazz music in the 1960's and 70's. The Heliocentrics: a bunch of musical mavericks. Inspiration Information: the title of a series of musical collaborations on the Strut label.

For those of you who now think of Booker T. Jones' latest work with The Drive By Truckers: this is a fully contemporary album, collaborative in that Astatke isn't the center piece but is often enough relegated to the side or not (noticeably) present at all (yes collaborative, strange but true). If you find 'Inspiration Information' disappointing, it's for different reasons (not saying that 'Potato Hole' is that bad either).

The keyword here is 'jazz' although used quite loosely; it's fitting but also because being more precise would require naming too many influences. The Ethiopia part is, besides Mulatu Astatke's contribution, in Ethipoian songs, instruments and additional musicians. The Heliocentrics' music is sometimes described as 'psych-jazz' and if you're looking for a clean cut and classified set of songs, then this album isn't for you. It's not so extremely noisy or improvisational but just hard to put in a standard category.

You'll get strange instrumentals (only two songs with vocals). I was drawn to this because of the Astatke I knew from the Broken Flowers soundtrack (which would have been an OK movie without the music of Astatke but a lot shorter or incredibly boring) but this completely different, probably thanks to the disruptive influence of The Heliocentrics. Let's say that The Heliocentrics probably would have been called 'Eccentrics' if it wasn't for some Sun Ra albums. Oops, did I just say Sun Ra?

Now before you draw the conclusion that listening to this is hard work let me tell you: listening to this can at times be hard work. This should mainly worry you if you only listen with your ears and don't use the stuff that's between them. The sound of this album is slightly off the beaten track. Does that give a strange impression? It's justified but you'll also find an incredibly beautiful, gentle and dreamy piece of music on it. Anyway, hear for yourself.

The rest of the CD is artwork, pictures and background on Mulatu Astatke, The Heliocentrics, guest musicians and more. Good enough.
Strut / Folded Wing / Red Bull Music Academy, 2009

Mulatu Astatke & The Heliocentrics - Inspiration Information