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Hot on the heels of their joyous collaborative 2LP with Afrobeat trailblazer Orlando Julius, London's leftfield funk heroes Heliocentrics are at it again, this time on an LP with Melvin Van Peebles, a filmmaker, musician and author best known for his Brer Soul trilogy of albums in the '70s and for writing, producing, scoring, directing and starring in the 1971 film 'Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song'. The result is an interplanetary space/love odyssey which the band consider their defining work.

Vinyl LP £20.99 NA5118LP

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CD £14.99 NA5118CD

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The Last Transmission by Heliocentrics & Melvin Van Peebles
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8/10 ReviewBot300 24 October 2014

London's chameleonic progressive funk mavericks Heliocentrics only just put out a collaborative double LP with Afrobeat pioneer Orlando Julius last month, and they've already got another collaboration out this week, this time pairing their space-funk sound with some spoken word cosmic philosophy from Melvin Van Peebles.

Van Peebles is a fascinating character, last seen on Quasimoto's 'Further Adventures of Lord Quas' album but perhaps best known for writing, directing, producing, starring in, scoring and editing the cult 1971 film 'Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song' with the single-minded and admirable aim of creating cinema in which black people were more than just villains or comic relief - an achievement which triggered the start of the blaxploitation movement and inspired his son to portray him in the 2003 biopic 'Baadasssss!' alongside Adam West. I'm not making this up. Compared to the aforementioned Orlando collaboration, though, his contributions here are relatively peripheral, with the band's surreal cosmic funk soundscapes dominating the bulk of the playing time, punctuated by his thoughtful philosphical poetry.

The themes of space and spirituality along with the puttering rhythmic grooves and otherworldly textures bring to mind a 21st century update on Sun Ra's space-jazz aesthetic, but it's also very distinctively Heliocentrics, with their assured lightness of touch and unpredictability making for an eccentric mix of old-school musicality and sound art inspired textureplay with oscillators and radios and theremins squeaking and bubbling away in the mysterious groove-jumble. Enlightened astral funk for the laid back sonic adventurer.



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