With the three-part "Deep East Suite," AYBEE and Afrikan Sciences seem intent on taking the listener on an arduous journey through space. The record starts with the duo fiddling with their synthesizers for a solid two minutes before settling on a rough cowbell-and-snare rhythm. Their musical ESP is palpable. You can sense their unspoken communication as they gradually build and then tear apart the beats, slathering the drums in space echo.
Since Kubrick used Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathrustra" to begin and end 2001: A Space Odyssey, every space epic has needed a memorable theme. Sure enough, a triumphant synth line is introduced eight minutes into the opening track on Sketches. That's about all the listener is given to latch onto. If "Part One" heralds the brave explorers upon launch, "Part Two" is a turbulent journey through the asteroid belt. A pair of synthesizer chords are distorted to the point of clipping over the piece's 15-minute runtime. It's a difficult, unsettling listen. The cycle's theme reemerges in "Part Three" before a long, ambient cool-down.
The "K-Fetisch" improvisations that follow are slightly more approachable, bearing a resemblance to the propulsive stew of Miles' "On The Corner." "Part One" mixes Rhodes and organ with searing psychedelic guitars. "Part Two" begins with stuttering, funky drums that are eventually jettisoned for a cinematic outro. The album's closer, "Knew What's Coming (Sculpture)," uses creeping synth and a monotone vocal sample that sounds like HAL informing the duo that they'll remain trapped in space forever.
Nothing is easy with this record. The drum programming is restless and erratic, keyboard lines are hammered for marathon stretches and each track has an ominous, lurching feel. That said, fans of truly adventurous music will find plenty to love here. If the goal was to go where no man has gone before, then I suppose they've succeeded. The question is how many listeners will be brave enough to join them.