Aberrations of Starlight

Sun Ra etc.
Astro Black
Impulse! : 1973

Ra, Moog synth; Danny Davis, Marshall Allen, alto sax; Danny Thompson, baritone sax; John Gilmore, tenor sax; Charles Stephens, trombone; Akh Tal Ebah, Lamont McClamb, trumpet; Eloe Omoe, bass clarinet; Pat Patrick, clarinet; Alzo Wright, violin; Ronnie Boykins, bass; Tommy Hunter, drums; Atakatun, Chiea, Odun, congas; Ruth Wright, “space ethnic voice”; June Tyson, “word melody vocal.”

Dear C,

Sorry we called so late last night. We didn’t mean to wake you and throw a fright into your slumber. The skies were so unusually clear that we spent the entire evening laying on the roof, cataloging the constellations, and blasting vintage Sun Ra sides. We became obsessed with his 1970s Impulse! album Astro Black and put the title track on repeat and soon enough we started receiving some serious wisdom from the combination of decaying starlight and Saturnian tones.

Now, of course, we can’t quite reconstruct it. The particulars have slipped through our fingers along with the smoggy dawn. And to address the question you were too groggy to ask last night, we stopped taking mushrooms (of all kinds — we won’t even look sideways at a portabello) years ago. Though we have to admit there’s something about the flow of “Astro Black” that transports us to, let’s say, another plane of there.

You could say that about many Sun Ra tracks, but this tune captures the man’s many moods in a scant 10 minutes. There’s June Tyson singing about strolling through outer space with the vamping big band behind her; the way the track decays and morphs into abrasive bass solos, skittering percussion, Ruth Wright’s otherworldly “space voice,” and gonzo swirling synth passages; and how the singing finally returns, couched in an utterly alien soundscape, June singing as if she has finally reached home, perhaps a little worse for wear.

There’s some deeper meaning in all that, we’re sure of it. The next clear night, we’ll be up on the roof with a blanket trying to recreate the experience and reclaim our lost revelations. You’re more than welcome to join us.

The boys from D:O

Category Sun Ra