There’s an effort to make the entire Sun Ra catalog available online, and that’s no easy task. The inimitable jazz artist’s catalog is vast and perplexing, and previously unknown recordings are unearthed on a regular basis. Admittedly some of his work is impenetrable to the uninitiated, creating an impression that Sun Ra is a cacophonous weirdo. That would be a misunderstanding. Irwin Chusid, who is managing the reissue series via Sun Ra LLC, had this to say in an interview with Bandcamp Daily:
He is an institution. He is a cosmic force. He is a genius. He’s one of the great neglected composer-musicians of the 20th century. There’s no question what this man created is singular. There’s no one like Sun Ra. […]
I think 75 percent of Sun Ra’s sprawling catalogue is accessible … Is it slick? No. Is it smooth? No. Is it mainstream? No. But it’s fun. It’s musical. It’s engaging. It’s adventurous. It’s diverse. And a lot of it is jazz.
Diving into the catalog is daunting but rewarding, and it’s not difficult to find starting points. That Bandcamp Daily article suggests many good intro albums. This piece in Vulture has some excellent recommendations, too.
I’ve been going down the Sun Ra rabbit-hole, exploring the extensive catalog available on Bandcamp, and ran across the compilation Sun Ra Exotica. I do love the strange ‘50s genre of ‘exotica,’ exemplified by the likes of Martin Denny, Les Baxter, and Arthur Lyman. The style, in a way, is a precursor to what Jon Hassell coined ‘fourth world music:’ a blending of different traditional styles with Western music to create a previously unimagined sound.
I had never thought of Sun Ra in the context of ‘exotica,’ but it makes sense. He was, after all, an exotic dude. And his oeuvre is so expansive that contextualizing groupings of his compositions under a theme, like ‘exotica,’ reveals something new about Sun Ra’s work.
From the release notes to Sun Ra Exotica:
Was Exotica kitsch? Did it represent “cultural appropriation”? Was it a dilution of indigenous art? Who cares? Music should be enjoyed on its own terms. … Exotica has roots, but those roots are uncopyable. What emerges is something derivative, yet original. Here you have Sun Ra, of African-American extraction, influenced by Les Baxter, a Caucasian from Texas, who was in turn influenced by primitive jungle rites. It’s a cultural feedback loop, best enjoyed by leaving politics out of it.
Sun Ra Exotica is a terrific starting point for those unfamiliar with Sun Ra’s spaceways. It’s also a pleasure for this longtime fan, the 25 tracks fitting together effortlessly in Ra’s cosmic sonic puzzle. It’s the soundtrack for my weekend.
- Readying Monta At Odds‘ Unsuspecting album for release on January 18 on my 8D Industries label. This is a reissue of the Kansas City combo’s first album from 2005, and I’m planning for it to be the first in a reissue series for this prolific band.
- I’m also expanding my consultancy, a big plan for 2019. I just sent a proposal to one prospective client and will be checking on a couple of others next week. There will be a website for my music publishing consultancy, which I’ll be working on in earnest once January 18 passes. I’m also debating another site focusing on my DIY label management consultancy.
- The daily blog practice has been amazing. I’m so happy I relaunched this. So far, I only missed a few days around Christmas and NYE. But I must remind myself it’s not a competition — there’s no pressure.
- After spending a week in the sticks (that is, a remote wooded location), I’m back home in time for some beautiful Florida weather. We’ve paddle-boarded two days in a row and it’s possible we’ll make it three. That might be it for a while as the weather looks to go downhill starting tomorrow.
- Movie: last night we watched Leave No Trace and loved it.
- Music: listening to Ultramarine’s terrific new album, and today’s been a Sun Ra day with the albums Crystal Spears and Sun Ra Exotica (the latter a great starting place for any Sun Ra neophytes).
- Reading: How To Make It Big as a Consultant. At times an amusing read as it’s a little outdated but there’s plenty of useful advice within.
Sun Ra is often cited as the founding father of afro-futurism, a tangent of thought which extends through the mothership connections of Parliament-Funkadelic, to the astral techno of Underground Resistance, to the aquatic, lardossian narratives of Drexciya; his work examines racial identity and the black experience in America through the eyes of an alien visiting humanity. The language of this deconstruction is peppered with his own neologisms, like the “astro-black” of outer space, the “myth-science” or “solar-myth” of creation, right down to the name he chose for his band, “the Arkestra”, a linguistic riff on Noah’s biblical safe haven.
Buran, the Soviet Union’s answer to NASA’s Space Shuttle programme, wasn’t quite as successful as its American rival. Just one flight-capable Buran orbiter (craft OK–1K1) was completed, and flew only once, unmanned, on November 15, 1988. Today, a handful of relics from the Buran programme lie strewn across the former Soviet Union and beyond, from half-finished orbiters to a series of full-scale engineering rigs and other test articles; among them was this wooden wind tunnel model, abandoned for years in a corner of Zhukovsky Airfield in Moscow Oblast.
Have you ever wondered how a vinyl player actually plays a record? Well, wonder no more. Microscopic Images shared this image on their Twitter some months back, showing what a record’s groove looks like under 1000x magnification.
Meenakshi Temple was originally built by Kulasekarer Pandya in the 6th century BC, but the credit for the present look of the temple goes to the Nayakas, who ruled Madurai from 16th to 18th century. The reign of the Nayaks marks the golden period of Madurai when art, architecture and learning flourished expansively. The riot of colors, however, is a more recent addition.
Mark’s approach to working with a band always began with hearing their ideas for the project first, because, he pointed out, they always had ideas for it. “It’s pretty rare that someone comes to me and says, ‘Hey I’m doing this record, but I don’t know what to do for the cover.’ That almost never happens. What they really usually need is for someone to edit those ideas.”
It’s time for our semi-regular round up of articles and links that we found particularly interesting over the past week. And, yes, I do need a better title for this section.
The term Afrofuturism might only have been coined in 1993 by author Mark Dery, but the black cultural experience of freedom achieved through sci-fi, ancient African cosmology and magical realism has been underway since the middle of 20th century. Time, for an Afrofuturist, is a fluid concept, and the terms past, present and future aren’t necessarily linear.
I’ll just be blunt: why can’t you get metadata right? What’s keeping you from tagging digital song files with all the information I and everyone else needs? This is important data. And supplying everyone with this data is your job!
It’s just funny to imagine Donald Trump listening to Pavement. Trump has written real tweets praising stadium acts like Taylor Swift and Aerosmith. What if he heard Pavement? He probably wouldn’t like them very much! I imagine a man of such extreme wealth and ego being repelled by the uncompromising, lo-fi aesthetic of early Pavement recordings.
It appears that when Apple ships iOS 9.1, iPhone users will have access to a key symbol of human communication. In a beta posted yesterday, Apple greatly expanded the number of supported emoji, including multiple new hand gestures. Of course, there’s one gesture that all have been waiting for, and it looks like we’ll be getting it at long last.
Orlando is known around the world as a theme park playground for children and adults alike. Yet visitors often miss out on the relatively undiscovered sections of Orlando, cherished by locals as up-and-coming cultural havens. In our humble opinion, these neighborhoods—your friends may not have heard of them yet—are a destination vacation in and of themselves.
Mr Ricciardi did not get up at all during hours of playing and kept his thumb tucked in his armpit. The 37-year-old player was also “batting his eyelids in the most unnatural way”, (referee Jean) Coqueraut said. “Then I understood it. He was deciphering signals in Morse code.”