‘Towards Other Worlds’ (First Word)
Released December 3rd 2012
Hardly the most exotic of locations, Leeds however is home to a hotbed of polygenesis hybrid bands, whose musical allusions look to the far sunnier climes of Africa and beyond for references.
One of these groups – conceived from late-night jazz club jamming sessions at the local Sela Bar – is the nine-piece Ariya Astrobeat Arkestra, their rambunctious collage moniker a summary of the music they radiate: Afrobeat, live at the Apollo funk, and the jazzman who fell to Earth, Sun-Ra are all signposted on the bands instrumental travelogues.
It is the cosmological enlightened Sun-Ra that inherently guides their second LP, Towards Other Worlds, his persona and synonymous “space is the place” mantra is put into use on this loose conceptual collection.
His famous ‘rocket to the stars’ Arkestra form of spiritual jazz looms ever large, beginning with the explanatory sound bite that opens the album, “The music is different here, not like planet Earth. Planet Earth is the sound of guns, frustration, anger.” And so we set out on the albums first half expedition, which bubbles with a certain tension and allows moments of reflection.
‘Old Ground’ covers just that: past transmissions reverberate from Fela Kuti, as the horn section reprises a magical convergence between Afro funk and jazz from downtown Lagos, circa 1971.
From then on in the sonic journeys just get better, running through polyrhythmic shuffles (‘Blood In The Water’), hustling the San Francisco streets Lalo Schifrin soundtracks (‘March Of The Idiots’), and James Brown in the motherland funk (‘Turncoat’) to great effect.
Not so much an obvious shift in mood or tempo, the second half is dedicated to the outer reaches of space; the band now leaving the confines of Earth to go in search of the new vibrations!
Satellite bleeps and expletory soundwaves are added to the Afrobeat and jazz template. Over the next four songs the keys light up, screaming passionately, running wild, and riding over the notes like a man possessed. Planetary escapism has never sound sweeter, as the infectious grooves take over, whilst we navigate the universe.
This trip culminates in the choral soul requiem ‘New Frontiers’, which ends by repeating the opening gambit like a ghost from the future-past.
Ariya Astrobeat Arkestra’s style is quite refreshing, although we’ve heard many of these influences and sounds before, we rarely hear anyone absorb them all, or adopt such a freeform philosophy whilst convincingly transporting the listener to distant lands.