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Listed: The Heliocentrics + Ensemble Economique

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Dusted Features

Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: U.K. arkestra The Heliocentrics and West Coast composer Brian Pyle.

Listed: The Heliocentrics + Ensemble Economique

The Heliocentrics

The Heliocentrics is a collective of U.K. jazz and funk musicians that, frankly, is making some of the best jazz-based music on the planet right now. Members include Catto (vinyl and percussion), Jake Ferguson (arranger/producer), Mike Burnham (bass), Jack Yglesias (percussion, flutes), Adrian Owusu (guitar), Ollie Parfitt (keys), James Arben (sax, clarinet), Shabaka Hutchings (sax), James Allsop (bass clarinet). Dan Keane (cello), Kat Arney (harp) and Tom Hodges (musical saw and theremin). As you can guess by all the parentheses, these guys don’t subscribe to any one religion. They can play the funk card just fine (as on its debut album, Out There on Now-Again), but what separates The Heliocentrics is its members love for ethnic musics from around the world. Last year’s collaboration with Ethio-jazz legend Mulatu Astatke was nearly flawless, and this year’s record with ethnomusicologist Lloyd Miller (of Oriental Jazz fame) proves it wasn’t a fluke. True to its name, The Heliocentrics is the closest thing we’ve got to vintage Sun Ra Arkestra. Ferguson took part in this week’s Listed.

1. Salah Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band - Egyptian Jazz (Art Yard)
Originally released as by Prism Music Unit in 1974, I first heard this record (like many others) through Jazzman Gerald, who was lucky enough to pick up an original. It remains to this day a big influence for us, something unique and mysterious, up there with Mulatu’s early recordings. A good example also of a not-technically-amazing production really suiting the music, we have tried on several occasions to recreate the same piano sound on our own recordings.

2. V/A - John Peel’s Archive Things (BBC)
A truly inspiring record with recordings from all across the globe, including a live beetle Jews harp and Malaysian Hydro drums.

3. Yusef Lateef - Blue Yusef (Atlantic)
Both me & Jake have had this record a long time and like Sun Ra, Yusef Lateef is an important reference for us, with many excellent ever evolving releases spanning his career from Before Dawn in the late 1950s up to the present.

4. Philip Cohran and his Heritage Ensemble - On the Beach (Zulu Records)
Another jazz-related genius who has honed over the years, very much his own sound, originally part of the Arkestra. Cohran’s superb arrangements echo Sun Ra, but are simultaneously light worlds apart.

5. V/A - Music in the Heart of Islam Vol. 4: Flutes & Trumpets (Tangent)
We could include pretty much the entire output of labels like Tangent, Ocora, Bam, UNESCO and Musicaphon to name a few who specialized in capturing the diversity, rawness and Soulfulness of Ethnic music. In places, this record sounds like the Velvet Underground jamming with tribes people from the Sudan.

6. East New York Ensemble de Music- At the Helm (Smithsonian Folkways)
A truly beautiful and uplifting recording combining superb musicianship with a transparent yet warm production from a period when the two went hand in hand.

7. V/A - UNESCO Collection: Musical sources - Banda Polyphony (Philips)
Probably one of the most influential ethnic recordings ever made. Possibly the closest we will ever get to hearing music from other galaxies.

8. Sadao Watanabe and Charlie Mariano - We Got a New Bag (Tact)
It’s a bit tricky to decipher the Japanese liners, but from what I can gather it was recorded in 1968 and the main track reflects that turbulent and creative period. A search for something new rooted in the traditional and unlike any other jazz record I have ever heard to this day.

9. Johnny Dyani with John Tchicai & Dudu Pukwana - Witch Doctor’s Son (Steeplechase)
It is always a good feeling when you buy something blind and it turns out to be at the same time better and nothing like what you expected it to be. Contains an immensely soulful version of a traditional song called “Magwaza.”

10. Shahib Shihab - Companionship (Vouge)
We are big fans of the above and have got the usual suspects like “Seeds” and ‘Summer Dawn” covered. But the track “Om ma ne pad me om” still stands out as one of those few tunes that are actually life changing.

Ensemble Economique

This is the solo project of Brian Pyle, half of California’s Starving Weirdos. While that moniker undersells the virtuosity on hand, Ensemble Economique hits it just about right. Pyle’s solo material differs quite a bit from his work with Merrick McKinlay – he comes across as more of a composer. Not in the traditional sense, mind you, but there’s obviously a lot of thought put into the stitching of his field recordings and original music on both his debut At the Foot of Nameless Roads and Standing Still, Facing Forward, out last month on Amish Records. Matthew Wuethrich wrote of Nameless Roads, “Pyle is very good at blurring the origins of his sounds just enough so that his music does the only thing that really matters with music that aspires to mind-altering status – it evokes a palpable sense of the unknown.”

1. Bongwater - Too Much Sleep/Power of Pussy (Shimmy-Disc)
I found this music in a thrift store years ago on a low-bias generic tape that just said BONGWATER scrawled stoner-style with a sharpie. The A-side had “Too Much Sleep” and the B-side had “Power of Pussy.” For a LONG time i had no idea what the album titles or track titles were, I just knew that this was some of the greatest, most inventive pop I had ever heard. I played this tape into the ground, was the car soundtrack for at least four years.

2. NWA - Straight Out Of Compton (Ruthless)
Nothing will ever sound as cool and as wild to my ears as this tape did when I first put it on, Easter 1989. I had asked for this tape as a small Easter gift and I’ll always remember my mom sitting me down and telling me "Brian, we got you this tape you asked for but we have serious reservations about you listening to it [the parental guidance sticker had piqued her interest] but we’ve decided you’re old enough to make your own decisions about what you listen too." I remember thinking “What has freaked my mom out so much?” So I go into my bedroom and put the tape in my boombox and WHOA!!! The lead title track hits SO hard, I felt like the coolest 13 year old on the block! For the following year, my mom was like “Brian are you listening to that tape again?”

3. 1991: The Year Punk Broke (VHS)
There’s a point on this doc during the Sonic Youth track “Schizophrenia” where the band is reaching the crescendo and Thurston is just LAYING into his guitar, eyes closed, fully immersed. It kinda changed everything I thought about music. So much drama, intensity, passion. it’s been a constant inspiration for me. Always trying to reach that level when playing, going for it with everything i got ... FULL-ON. Behind the spectacle of Sonic Youth and the massive European crowds, there’s some great Nirvana performances, the BEST live Dinosaur Jr. track (“Freak Scene,” fucking GUITAR hero), and a blistering take of “Dust Cake Boy” by Babes in Toyland.

4. the Breeders - Pod (4AD)
This album for me must be how The xx is for teens today. Just powerfully romantic. Nothing captures a time in my life more than this record. Definitely my first and only rock-star crush. Kim’s voice along with music just had this POWER ... captivating.

5. Tyrannosaurus Rex - Unicorn (Regal Zonophone)
I remember Merrick putting this on and I was like, “Who’s this?!?” And he’s like “It’s T-Rex, Unicorn.” I remember feeling almost angry that I hadn’t heard this sooner! But that feeling quickly faded as the record played. It sounded SO timeless, transcendent. Like it could be from any era (esp. now, but it’s from 1969). Much like the Breeders’ Pod, it just has this feeling ... that’s special. Greatest summer record, cruising through the mountains.

6. Laurie Anderson - Bright Red (Warner)
Tempting to go with Big Science ... but I’m gonna go with Bright Red. Laurie Anderson is transportative shit. Completely shaped/influenced my ideas in regards to composition/sound dynamics. NO ONE is more adept at creating a mood than Laurie Anderson and it’s that quality that I strive for most with my own music. A true trailblazer!!!

7. Yo La Tengo - Electr-O-Pura (Matador)
It’s coolness defined.

8. Shankar Jaikishan - Raga Jazz Style (1968)
Simply the greatest fusion album of all time! ANY time I put this on it sounds good and it’s completely singular. Nothing quite like it. But it’s SO good, you’d think this record came out of some giant “Raga-Jazz”‘ fusion scene. But instead the world got “Jazz-Funk” fusion instead. YIKES!!!

9. Harry Partch - The Bewitched (1955)
Greatest album art and track titles ever! A MASSIVE influence. A total pioneer. Pure idea-music ... and the best stoner-jams!

10. Katey Red - “Punk Under Pressure”
My favorite dance track and perhaps the greatest dance track ever recorded! This groove is so out-of-control!!! Undeniable.

By Dusted Magazine

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