Underexposed Albums #5: Aybee & Afrikan Sciences – Sketches Of Space (2014)

dbrv022lp

Last.fm listeners as of 1st October 2015: 42

Deep East Suite Part 01 (The Call) (14:58)
Deep East Suite Part 02 (Response) (14:58)
Deep East Suite Part 03 (Sunward) (7:45)
K-Fetisch 01 (Kosmo Bahn) (5:52)
K-Fetisch 02 (Vibes) (4:04)
Knew What’s Coming (Sculpture) (4:10)

As fast as the blogosphere and social networks operate, calling an album released only last year is still quite premature, I admit. But listening to this album gives you that sense of immediacy: most other recordings feel irrelevant as this sounds so fresh, so necessary. ‘Deep’ house is all too often incredibly shallow, a watercolour of apathetic sounds and effects which is not designed to be challenging or even danceable; rather, something to nod along to, something ‘agreeable’, something that floats along a mean value of cool across the Internet music sphere with no danger or experiment orbiting it. Sketches Of Space goes deep. Sketches Of Space penetrates to the abyssal zone of the oceans underneath Europa.

Devised through 3 different jam collaborations in Berlin and the US, Sketches Of Space sounds like Sun Ra’s Arkestra crashing into Parliament’s funk spaceship with Flying Lotus analysing the black box for samples. It is a collaboration between Aybee, founder of Deepblak Records, and Afrikan Sciences (Aybee’s ‘bredren’, according to the back of the sleeve), a jazzy electronic producer of South African extraction. The first three tracks form the Deep East Suite are far and away the dominating presence on the album, even though the other tracks aren’t too bad at all: it’s a bit like the paleness of the second side of Autobahn (one of the tracks here is even sub-titled ‘Kosmo Bahn’, suggsting an influence of the German quartet on Aybee and Afrikan Science’s cosmonautical road trip). The suite is a glorious cosmic soup of all kinds of instruments and effects being toyed around with, and that experimentation is just so joyous, so free – like the exhilaration of hearing Ornette Coleman or Charles Mingus for the first time. Other dance music seems embarrassingly uptight afterwards. It’s all anchored with an offhanded two-chord sequence, a call-and-response between extraterrestrial worlds, which puts you in mind of the to-and-fro of Manuel Goettsching’s E2-E4. Yet even that groove is manipulated a different way each time, exploding over all sides of the stereo mix, sometimes syncopated, with stresses in different places: this is the closest I’ve found to free jazz within the often programmatic world of dance, an ambition Aybee admits to having on the sleeve. So many elements go into the mix but it’s not a case of finding which bits ‘work’ – the music is too carefree to evaluate it in that way; you just hold on and enjoy the ride. ‘Response is a bit less busy than ‘The Call’, as the mix reverberates much more and the central synth is adjoined to a serpentine bassline for a while. ‘Sunward’ powers the machines down as their spacecraft enters hibernation.

The second half approaches the loose improvisation of Miles Davis On The Corner: ‘K-Fetisch 01 (Kosmo Bahn)’ has a more conventional synth line, jerkily pulled from east to west by some spidery percussion and intermittent jolts of John McLaughlin-like electric guitar. ‘K-Fetisch 02 (Vibes)’ slows down the pace even more, to the point that the percussion drops out, leaving the other elements of the track almost staring at each other while figuring out what to do until they all exit. Some reviews see this as a revelation of the unfinished quality of the album, but Aybee & Afrikan Science’s triumph is to make the mixes sound so organic that the music dictates its own forms from the inside-out. The last track, ‘Knew What’s Coming (Sculpture)’ might be the most conventional of all, as it features a squelchy piano loop and vocal sample of the title. As with K-Fetisch though, the track feels like it has more legs in it but dies off before it can be realised. Part of that comes with the territory of improvisational jamming when releasing on physically limited vinyl (an intriguing choice – the music looks forward, but its format harks back) so hopefully there is extra material we will hear at some point in the future. Perhaps when the future sheds its affection for tracks designed to be shared, and hence diluted, across social networks, in order to catch up with the astronomic expansiveness embraced in Sketches of Space.

Advertisements