Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Ghetto Sci-Fi - Ras G & The Afrikan Space Progam

‘The Ra ship has landed’ – sampling from the source of inspiration for all intergalactic artists, Ras G can’t resist hitching a ride on Sonny Blount’s rocket ship. After all he is, and always will be, the premier space pilot of the sonic sound world. Sun Ra, self-made solar myth and musical magician, conjured up artforms from both the old and new worlds, and Ras G does likewise, less by visionary acumen, more by borrowing Soul, Jazz and Reggae at the push of a button. Well, without an orchestral palette at his disposal, what else can he do?
   From Ra’s tireless DIY discipline to the Do It All Yourself ethos of one man and his machine, Ras G’s chopped-up chunks of rhythm, and raw production smell more of Punk spirit than the classic craftsmanship of jazz pioneers. That’s a good thing. A little scat here, sampled marimba there – hey presto! – the Afro-Jazz cut’n’paste collage works perfectly for these times, as do tracks which on this album never run longer than 3.39.
   But Ras G isn’t only about black American Afronautical inspiration, as he demonstrates with the Jamaican toasting sample which kicks of ‘Staring Riddim’, proof positive that along with the slow jams and blunted bass beats he can reconfigure classic dub construction with great success. As an advert for Ras G’s Black Star Liner bound for Saturn, ‘Sign Me Up’ is a fine one, beginning with the same kind of comical helium vocal employed by Hendrix on ‘EXP’ before getting into a good groove. The background squiggle is the sound of machines programming their own beats until they fade away leaving them to sing electro acapella.
   ‘Ghetto Sci-Fi’ is, as you’d expect from the title, jeep jive rewritten for the 22nd century wherein the poor can only cruise in battered wagons that were once symbolic of material success whilst whitey’s evacuated a post-apocalypse Earth and taken up residence on the moon. ‘Sloooooow Doooooown’ does just that, not for a relaxing trip, but more of a gravity (ie beatless)-free floatation experience somewhere Out There, perilously close to a black hole.
   Although ‘El Saturn Day’ supplies the last reference to Sun Ra, it plays out as a simple beat bumping over the crackle of ancient vinyl once the producer has responded to an enquiry about what he’s doing by saying that he’s ‘mixing, trying some new stuff'. In that respect, Ras G continues very much in the spirit of his main musical inspiration.

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