Switched On – The Heliocentrics: Infinity of Now (Madlib Invazion)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

The Heliocentrics are musical chameleons in the best sense. The UK-based duo of Malcolm Catto and Jake Ferguson speak an international language, often flavouring their music with funk, deep jazz, psychedelia or hip hop – but never really settling for long enough to pin them down. Their refreshingly open and boundary-free approach to music has already led to highly rewarding collaborations with Mulatu Astatke, Lloyd Miller, Orlando Julius and Melvin Van Peebles, all completed since debut album Out There was released in 2007.

While there will no doubt be more working in tandem, Infinity Of Now is The Heliocentrics’ first album for three years, released on celebrated producer Madlib’s label.

What’s the music like?

In a word, brilliant. Infinity Of Now is The Heliocentrics going back to their first principles, with a richly rewarding melting pot of instrumental and vocal winners, bringing a good deal of funk into an already colourful mix. This is the sort of music the group can make instinctively but they do it so well that there could never be any accusations of musical laziness. Put simply, the pair have just the right instincts to make our heads nod, our feet move and our horizons widen a little.

To take examples, the descriptive Elephant Walk uses loping bass and braying saxophone to describe its subject, satisfying both casual listeners and those who like their funk with a bit more experimentation. There are parallels to ensemble jazz groups such as Sun Ra but also 1970s detective theme tunes, all stirred in to the stew.

The single Burning Wooden Ship is equally fine, a bright flame alight with a vivid rhythm track, while by contrast the bluesy Hanging By A Thread is led by cool organ and rasping saxophone. 99% Revolution is a great vocal track with which to start, establishing the album’s lively groove, while Light In The Dark has a lovely grainy breakbeat supporting dreamy vocals and a more exotic musical language. Its Eastern flavours could easily have rendered this as music from the 1970s yet it still sounds forward thinking.

Does it all work?

Yes. The only regret is that there are not more than eight tracks, such is the richness of Catto and Ferguson’s invention. What remains is highly concentrated and musically stimulating, and repeated listening to the album brings out more of its colour and ideas. The only regret is that the vocalists appear not to be mentioned anywhere.

Is it recommended?

Without question. The Heliocentrics have always been musical stimulators, and Infinity Of Now adds another link in that particular chain. It finds them on fine form, displaying equal parts funk, invention, experimentation and a dash of humour. More power to their funky elbows!

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