The Heliocentrics’ debut album, Out There (2007) was a confounding piece of work. Drawing equally from the funk universe of James Brown, the disorienting asymmetry of Sun Ra, the cinematic scope of Ennio Morricone, the sublime fusion of David Axelrod, Pierre Henry’s turned-on musique concrète, and Can’s beat-heavy Krautrock, Out There pointed the way towards a brand new kind of psychedelia, one that could only come from a band of accomplished musicians who were also obsessive music fans. Drummer Malcolm Catto and bassist Jake Ferguson are the Heliocentrics’ masterminds and producers, and guitarist Ade Owusu, percussionist Jack Yglesisas and keyboardist Ollie Parfitt hold constant presence within this ever-evolving ensemble.
They have been playing together for over a decade and their collective drive is to find an individual voice. The Heliocentrics search for it in an alternate galaxy where the orbits of funk, jazz, psychedelic, electronic, avant-garde and “ethnic” music all revolve around “The One.” Back at Now-Again with 13 Degrees of Reality, the Heliocentrics have returned to develop this epic vision of psychedelic funk, while exploring the possibilities created by their myriad influences – Latin, African, and more. Thus, the electro-Latin fusion of “Descarga Electronica” sits next to weeping strings piled atop “Collateral Damage’s” chunky rhythms, which nearly misses the undulating swing of “Wrecking Ball,” a dirge as irresistibly funky as it is devastating.
No surprise, then, that the Heliocentrics have earned lifetime fans in the likes of questing spirits like Madlib (with whom Catto has collaborated on numerous Yesterdays New Quintet projects), DJ Shadow (both as a touring ensemble and in the studio), Quantic and Ethiopian jazz giant Mulatu Astatke, with whom the Heliocentrics recorded and released Inspiration Information 3, the fourth classic Mulatu album – released nearly forty years after his other three.
Out There may have been one hell of an opening volley, but having spent some years in the wild running among mavericks like Astatke and Oriental Jazz pioneer Lloyd Miller, the Heliocentrics have realized that their strongest statements are made somewhere between the persistent fuzz of Owusu’s distorted guitar, Catto’s impossible syncopation and Ferguson’s looping bass lines. 13 Degrees of Reality is one of the most distinctive musical statements you’ll hear all year.
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