September 1, 2009

SPACE JAZZ...?!?!?

It's back-to-school time, kids! And our first lesson is about the intersection of spacey sounds and high-minded JAZZ! Now it's no secret that the illustrious Sun Ra claimed to be from outer space (Saturn, I believe), as have many African American auteur/musicians from George Clinton to Dr. Octagon (aka Kool Keith who insists, "Earth people: I was born on Jupiter")... what IS it with that, anyway? So this month's installment is a bit of an inter-disciplinary study, deviating from the decidedly rockist format of this spacecast; a chance to explore the spacier tangents of jazz from the bop era to the space age, from free jazz exploration to avant garde science fiction.

We begin with the band who brought jazz (along with dub, latin rhythms, spaghetti western and experimental electronics) to the nebulous genre known as post rock, the mighty Tortoise, standard bearers of the Chicago sound. Following them are their Chi-Town schoolmates Pit Er Pat who bring a skewed melodicism and scattershot rhythmic edge to the proceedings. Next up, a very a-typically jazzy track from no-wave avant gardist Rhys Chatham who's more known for postmodern orchestral pieces (if a composition for 100 electric guitars is your idea of orchestral) as well as inspiring the likes of Sonic Youth. And how could this playlist be complete without drum-and-bass DJ and all-around madman Squarepusher, who alongside his prodigious programming talents just happens to be one berzerk mofo on electric bass. Another entry from the realm of electronica, the former drum-and-bass experimental duo Spring Heel Jack have morphed in recent years into extreme avant garde jazzists along with many trad jazz players and other unlikely guests including Spiritualized's J. Spaceman.

Another couple entries from the Chicago school (are they dominating this genre?), Exploding Star Orchestra and Isotope 217, both feature an alchemical mix of trad jazz and avant players, from cornetist and composer Rob Mazurek to multiple members of Tortoise. Next we trip lightly through a segment featuring the godfathers of space jazz, the always angular Ornette Coleman, the free jazz pioneer Pharoah Sanders, and the spaceways exploring Sun Ra.

Continuing the theme of melding electronic to organic, we have the familiarly monikered Spacetime Continuum from San Francisco, the polyrhythmic dub-jazzniks HiM (not to be confused with the thoroughly awful Finnish goth-metal band Him), and a collision between British electronica composer Kieran Hebden (aka Fourtet and 1/3 of post rockers Fridge) and old school American free jazz drummer Steve Reid. And if that doesn't leave you exhausted, prepare to wrap up this astral traveling set with New Zealand motorik-monotonists The Necks.

Okay class, school's out! Time for a nap...

The following tracks should appear in the player below:

TNT - Tortoise - TNT
I Am The Jungle - Pit Er Pat - Emergency
Flash - Rhys Chatham - Hard Edge
Delta-V - Squarepusher - Just A Souvenir
Autumn - Spring Heel Jack - The Sweetness of the Water
Sting Ray and the Beginning of Time, Part 1 - Exploding Star Orchestra - We Are All From Somewhere Else
Luh - Isotope 217 - Utonian Automatic
Civilization Day - Ornette Coleman - Complete Science Fiction
Astral Traveling - Pharoah Sanders - You've Got To Have Freedom
Lanquidity- Sun Ra - Lanquidity
Manaka - Spacetime Continuum - Double Fine Zone
A Verdict of Science - HiM - Sworn Eyes
Morning Prayer - Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid - The Exchange Sessions
Abillera - The Necks - Chemist