Review: The Heliocentrics, Out There
Some CDs stay “In the Mix” list for a long time because I have to force myself to listen to them enough times to give them a fair review. Others stay in the mix because we’re enjoying them so much we just can’t get them out of rotation. “Out There” is of the second kind. It’s a terrific disc.
The Heliocentrics are an eight piece band that sound like they’re led by drummer Malcolm Catto. The music on “Out There” is instrumental with occasional brief spoken passages. The album is supposed to capture some kind of trip into the cosmos and back – you know, out there – but the overarching structure is relatively unimportant to enjoyment of the album. There is no simple way to describe the music in terms of genre because there really is no genre that captures it. On “Out There” the Heliocentrics combine elements of funk, big band jazz, free jazz, fusion, psychedelia, Middle Eastern music and electronica into a mix that is so rich and varied and so well played that considerations of genre seem beside the point. The album contains 20 tracks ranging from 0:16 to 5:26. You never know what’s coming next but the arrangements are so adept and the band is so solidly synched on groove that even the more abstract and out there passages can be easily enjoyed by listeners who are unfamiliar, or perhaps uncomfortable, with free jazz. There’s so much going on across this CD that you can listen to it every day for weeks and still pick up something new.
If the album has a weakness it’s that the relatively short running time for most of the tracks doesn’t give the band an opportunity to stretch out and examine the music a bit more. More than a few moments go by that could serve as the basis for extended passages of exploration. Of course “Out There” would then be more of a jazz album than an I-don’t-know-what-to-call-it album. Maybe it’s better the way it is.
“Out There” is the Heliocentrics only album and there’s not much info out there about them. The album may be a one-off from a group of studio musicians. I sincerely hope not because if these guys can continue to make music like this, I’ll buy everything they put out on sight. If they are a one shot and it sounds like this is the kind of music you might like, get the CD quick because it may not be easy to find in the future. Sometimes you hear a CD and know you’re going to be pulling it out of the rack periodicaly for years to come. In our house this is one of those CDs. Recommended.
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