From Mickey Moonlight to Motor City Drum Ensemble, Mike Huckaby to A Guy Called Gerald, there has always been a vocal minority within electronic music who are ready to invoke the power of Sun Ra's astral jazz. 20 years on from the big man's death (or, as his hardcore devotees insist, his return to Saturn), the tributes continue. Last year, Zombie Zombie took Ra's afrofuturism as a jumping-off point for a playful homage in fizzing analogue electronics. Now, London brothers Tom and Ben Page—AKA RocketNumberNine, named after a Sun Ra track, of course—are weighing in with their own exploration of the Arkestra's lineage.
The Page boys record live, their setup revolving around wild jazz drumming and fat analogue keys. On the face of it, it's pretty serious, if not scholarly stuff. Kieran Hebden facilitated their entry into clubland, but on propulsive tracks like "Black And Blue" and "Deadly Buzz," MeYouWeYou sounds more like Fridge than Four Tet. In their swarming drama, delicious crescendos and loose drumming, the dynamics are all post-rock à la Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
There is, however, a lighter, more obviously club-based aspect to the group. They like to retread '90s rave motifs that would seem outright cheesy in any other context. Recalling the frivolity of Brandt Brauer Frick's early work, "Lone Raver" nags at the simplest of riffs, tugging and twisting at it, rolling it over and stretching it out as it takes on a new hypnotic intensity. "Rotunda" merges the rhythms of Fela Kuti and junglist basslines with a fond, cheeky irreverence, while "Steel Drummer" distills punk energy, Afro-jazz percussion and UK hardcore's dread-electronics into the kind of fusion that anyone who has ever bought anything on ZE or DFA will appreciate.
"Matthew And Toby," a much smoother, self-consciously modish dance track, sounds a little meek in this company. But then, is on record really the best way to hear RocketNumberNine? Probably not. This is a perfectly fine debut, but probably nothing compared to seeing them live. RN9 have already supported Radiohead, and it's clear that, if dropped into the middle of a 4/4 dance music lineup at this summer's festivals, their hip-shaking, shamanic noise could turn a willing crowd into a baying, demented moshpit. What Sun Ra thinks of all this we can only wonder.
Buy RocketNumberNine - MeYouWeYou at
Tracklist: RocketNumberNine - MeYouWeYou 01. Lope
04. Steel Drummer
06. Deadly Buzz
07. Black and Blue
08. Lone Raver
09. Matthew and Toby
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