The Ancient Astronauts are back, this time with a turntable and a guitar.
Kabanjak and Dogu aka Ancient Astronauts are two hip-hoppers from Cologne, Germany. Ah! German Hip-hop. I was surprised, but then I have only my ignorance to blame, Germany had been fertile ground for hip-hop for some time. Ancient Astronauts didn’t sound like a hip-hop group name to me and that was just the beginning because Ancient Astronauts is somewhat different from the usual hip-hop stuff you are generally treated to. According to Wikipedia, Ancient Astronauts are extra-terrestrials who visited during the pre-historic times, there are theories which suggest the deities in most of the religions are these ancient astronauts, the Doju figurines from pre-historic Japan being an example.
The Ancient Astronauts from our times have released a new album, We are to answer. The album starts with an airy, atmospheric track called “From the Sky“, as if to signal the landing of the astronauts. The next track is called “I came running“, it is basically guitar loops and ambient noises mixed with break beats and some grace.“The Classic“ features the alternative hop-hop group Pharcyde. This is classic hip-hop meeting the present. The track is embellished with fusion in the form a flute and some turntable exploits. There is a spacey, weightless feeling to these tracks, with a constant backdrop of break beat. You get a feeling of listening to a hip-hop mutation of Radiohead, low-fi melacholy stuff. In hip-hop circles this kind of music is called down-tempo.
Just when I started categorizing AA as down tempo, “Dark Green Rod” started playing. This song features Ulf Stricker, a German drummer. This is an explosive track and seems to change the tempo of the album completely. Almost a rude awakening, but once you get into the groove you won’t notice anything other than the rhythm. The next song is an evocative number featuring Phat Old Mamas.
In Risin High, AA have roped in Raashan Ahmad. The song brings Gorillaz to my mind. There is a flute playing in between Ahmad’s rap verses and that is very cool. “Lost in Marrakesh” is the kind of song which you can use as back ground score in a movie for a scene when your hero is vainly searching for his heroine among sand dunes with a hot breeze for company. There is very strong Middle Eastern feel to the song (as the name suggests) with the Arabic beats and the sound of bells. The song can easily be the pick of the album for it’s sheer ingenuity. The blend of varied instruments is perfect and the resulting sound is simply mind blowing. The next number is a reggae track rendered beautifully by Tippa Irie. The next track, “Everybody” sounds like an acid jazz track with lots of guitars and drums. The bass line is superb and elevates the song to a different level all together. Oblivion featuring Azeem and DJ Zeph is a turntable riot. “Surfing the Silvatide” can be called atmospheric reggae, the whole album is made around the concept of an ET visiting earth, having some fun here and finally flying back to space. The final track Crescent Moon kind of validates my theory, this is a trippy track with a sci-fi feel. The song starts with a radio announcer from the 30’s welcoming the travelers “to the sounds of man in space”. The funny thing about this “sounds of man in space” is that space is generally considered devoid of sound as its pure vacuum, all the astronauts will get to hear is their breathing and voices of their colleagues. And towards the latter half of the song with almost 90s left the track goes silent!! I told you, you can’t hear in space! Then after 30s or a creepy voice says something like AA has returned to the space. The sound and mood of the song might have been inspired by classic science fiction movies and has an eerie feeling to it, Through out the album AA have consciously tried to add these sounds to the songs.
The album art is a reference to the Pioneer plaque, which was sent to outer space on NASA’s Pioneer 10 spacecraft, as a “Hi there!” to any alien life form which may find it. Last time when the Ancient Astronauts supposedly came to Earth they were turned into gods, these days the closest thing that you can get to being worshiped is becoming a pop star. Ancient Astronauts have the stuff to make it big, whether it will become reality or not needs to be seen.
On the whole this album is worth its money. Looks like lots of experimentation has gone into this body of work. Considering the amount of fusion it has I would categorize it as World Music. If you are the type of person who likes to listen to new sounds and can appreciate some real creative work, this album might lit up your day.