Saturday, June 13, 2015

Sun Ra - Oblique Parallax (El Saturn,1982; Enterplanetary Koncepts, 2015)

This album was recorded during Sun Ra’s New Years residency in Detroit 1980-81, and sees him sticking to the electric organ for an albums entirety of solo pieces, a duet with a french horn player and then a longer blowout with a larger ensemble. But it’s Ra’s show from the get go starting with the title track "Oblique Parallax” which has his freaky organ groove building up and down in an ominous fashion. I don’t know if the organ’s speakers were blown out or if it’s the poor quality of the recording, but the whole edifice seems to groan in protest as Ra grinds further out, on one hand making sadistic circus music and on the other crushing the most ear-splitting chord imaginable. "Vista Omniverse” is also a solo performance, continuing directly from the first one weaving in quiet and loud passages making for a mysterious feel before once again hitting the most ear-rending keyboard note imaginable, akin to having your eardrums cored by a sandblaster (in a good way) followed by applause by the awe struck and probably half-deaf crowd. Ra is joined by Vincent Chancey on French horn on "Celestial Realms” and this seems to pull him back from the brink and ground him a little bit into a more traditional jazz setting. The subdued sounds of organ with waves of mellower horn and barely audible drums make for a marked contrast compared to the rest of the album. There is a smaller version of Sun Ra’s regular ensemble The Arkestra present here and they make a brief appearance on the showstopping "Journey Stars Beyond” which opens with Ra using his keyboard to blast a warning siren which turns into space sounds with jabs of organ. He really puts the hammer down as a signal for the massive sounding drums to come blasting in followed by the horns, led by Ra stalwarts John Gilmore and Marshall Allen, who wail hard and lift everybody off into space. After getting a boost from the band, Sun Ra jettisons them like spent rocket boosters and launches an all out keyboard assault. Prefacing movie and video game music to come in the following decades, it’s outrageous classic Ra, downshifting to creepy waves of music then grinding huge blocks of noise. This is experimental music with a purpose, Sun Ra as was very disciplined and he knew exactly what he was doing even when he is melting your mind into a puddle. When he finally lets up somebody yells What was that? Indeed. Oblique Parallax -

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