Welcome to the second post of album roundup week, where I tackle more releases that I want to spill ink about. Beats Etc = electronic music for home listening, really, but that won’t fit in a headline.
Make no mistake, there are a lot of red hot producers out there right now in the LA beat scene, or whatever you call it. The Shigeto album is killing. Teems, Dimlite, Om Unit, the list goes on – all over the world there are cats making subwoofer-melting boom bap-derived ear candy. But in terms of mystique, of prolific genius, of straight-up neck-snapping goodness, nobody holds a candle to Ras G. The eccentric beatmaker likes to lace his raw jawns with bone-dry snares and vocal samples scored from reggae classics and science fiction movie oddities. There are clickity-clack percussion loops, roughly assembled collages a la Madlib and wobbly basslines that’d loosen the bowels of even the hardiest dubstep aficionado. The spirituality of his work is what makes me come back to it over and over, though. A devotee of Sun Ra, the man from Saturn exerts a huge influence over Ras G (or “Cool Raaaaaass” as his ever-present signature sample drop would have it) from dialogue samples to album art. And as blasphemous as it might be to jazz heads, nobody else is carrying Le Sony Ra’s torch the way this beat brigadier is on his new album for Brainfeeder, Back On The Planet.
Lesser ears might be put off by Back On The Planet’s title track, a loose assemblage of noises and free jazz freakouts. But the beat is never far away. Heads may start with “OMMMM…,” which makes a melody out of white noise like it was the most natural instrument in the world. There’s a vaguely Dilla-like sense of time in his tunes, but there’s none of the late Detroit don’s R&B slickness in the beats, which often sound like they were unearthed from under a pile of dust taller than Dikembe Mutombo. “CosMic Kisses” is light on the low end, hanging close to a barrage of handclaps that are funky enough to be a song in themselves. But be careful with your subwoofer settings by the time you get to “Culture Riddim,” lest you knock the crockery off the wall; from “Been Cosmic” to “Injera Lentils and Kale” and the afrocentric-tao-of-Sun Ra-sampling “Natural Melanin Being”, there’s enough bass business to put a new face hole up in your cheek.
“G Spot Connection” is a particular highlight. The otherworldly chipmunked vocal samples and reggae drops bash up against hand percussion in a gloriously molasses-like slog, making it among the sludgiest tracks Cool Raaasss has ever dropped – and given his prolific nature, that’s saying something. Personally I’m holding out for a Jeremiah Jae/Ras G collab album — come on FlyLo, make it happen –, but Back On The Planet is to that dream as Bitches Brew is to the rumoured Miles/Jimi Hendrix collab: even if the latter never comes into being, the former has still ruptured the space-time continuum and let a whole new kind of ramshackle funkiness come tumbling out.