Album of the week: Sun RA – Disco 3000

“We might have a gig on Mars one day,” Sun Ra told Michael Ray, “so you got to be swinging on your horn, because they don’t party like earthlings.” It was during the recording session for “Disco 3000” in Rome in 1978 that would completely change the way Ray approached his instrument, like someone had “erased your main frame and reboot your drive” according to the trumpet player and vocalist on the LP that was re-issued this year via Art Yard records recently.

That’s how you should approach Sun Ra’s music and this album, like it’s from Mars.  There’s no linear entry into “Disco 3000,” a jam session turned album and right from the opening you’re dropped into the centre of a musical tornado with portholes to multiple dimensions… folks, we’re not in Kansas anymore. Musical expressions like thought bubbles crop up and then dissipate in a miasma of sounds that push and pull the listener into every which direction.

A drum kit tumbling down the stair case; organ and keys quivering under the pressure of Sun Ra’s experienced fingers; and horns and vocals cropping up like interrupted communiqué from distant planets ebb and flow through recorded Jam session. It’s hardly easy-listening, as atonal musical vignettes gather and disperse around incalculable time signatures and transient rhythms. 

Without the famous Arkestra,  John Gilmore, Lauqman Ali, and the aforementioned Michael Ray, join Sun Ra on his inter-dimensional musical journey; an impromptu jam session living beyond its time and place forever sealed in wax. There’s a primal urgency that surges through the record that still echoes through the speakers some forty years on. It’s music that was made way ahead of its time and even in ’78 already Sun Ra was coaxing otherworldly sounds from synthesisers, and sequencers that at times like “Dance of the Cosmo-Aliens” seem more appropriate for Drexciya era Techno than 70’s fusion Jazz.

There are elements of Sun Ra’s other works too, most notably his film “Space is the place”, which according to the liner notes served as some inspiration for the musicians involved and ends in an interesting story with Sun Ra in a US customs office with a bundle of pornographic material under his arm.

Everything about Sun Ra is steeped in mystery and myth and this record just adds to the allure. Mere mortals like us are not really equipped to make much sense of Sun Ra’s music and ideologies, but there’s an undeniable magnetism  that even after the man has gone still lives on in his music. All you have to do is sit back and listen, and if you listen carefully, you might just pick up whatever the Jazz icon is transmitting from whichever dimension he occupies today.

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