Let Sun Ra tell it: the wisdom of the past is the light of the past; the light which is to be the wisdom of the future; the light of the future casts the shadows of tomorrow.
In that zigzag prophecy, the late jazz sage distilled the need to synthesize ancient visions to illuminate the new realities. Our greatest artistic conduits transmit signals through sound and words, emitting iridescent beams of light to help guide the collective drift into the unknown. On his latest opus, 2121, Michigan composer and multi-instrumentalist, The Lasso, creates a thermonuclear rocket ship glide of astral funk: a floating house party that exists at that eternal crossroads, suspended in timeless animation, the axis mundi where past, present, and future all get down.
Its genesis traces back to the dozens of instrumental demos that The Lasso created throughout 2019 and early 2020, vulcanizing his singular twists on psychedelic rap with delirious mutations of vintage Ohio and Minneapolis funk. A long-brewing collaboration with New Mexico-based vocalist A. Billi Free, coupled with his introduction to the vocalist Rachele Eve, allowed for their voices to buoy his interstellar thump. Over the course of the summer of 2020, Lasso gathered various features from old and new collaborators to fill out the core vocalists, including Fat Tony, Hemlock Ernst (Sam Herring of Future Islands), Ill Camille, Namir Blade, and Nelson Bandela. In the fall of that year, The Lasso met up with The Saxsquatch and cellist Jordan Hamilton for the fait accompli: layering lush orchestrations to capture the haunted reverberations of a renowned 100-year old Michigan theatre.
Consider the spirits of those immortals summoned: the galactic futurism of sci-fi writer, Arthur C. Clarke, the technicolor symphonies of Van Dyke Parks, Funkadelic. You hear the echoes of Motor City funk and techno, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and the Purple One, and rubber factory funk from its Ohio cradle. Visualize the alien voodoo of late ‘60s and ‘70s sci-fi artwork. Modern funk fused with art-rap. The numerological revelation that 42 is the meaning of the universe.
The title track, “2121” starts with eerie library music synthesizers before blasting off into outer space, shimmering inside a disco with a sherbet-colored strobelite. A sax riff explodes, channeling late ‘70s Nigerian funk, then Billi Free and Rachele Eve come in to offer some cosmic soul - packing dance floors for the faintly conjured future. The vocals are mixed perfectly, a little faded and distant, but still bright and immediate. The Lasso himself handles drums, bass, mellotron, guitars, Moog, and percussion.
On “No Illusions,” Ill Camille breathes heavenly fire over 22nd century grooves, on the verge of going postal, waiting for funds, castigating those selling their souls to the highest bidder. The Lasso crafts Alpha Centauri concertos that somehow feel rooted and organic. Both stratospheric and low to the ground. “Unfurls” sounds like The Roots at their most lively, crossed with Mort Gorson’s plant hymns. It’s echoing and dubbed out, nebular slaps from the far out future transplanted to 1973 Dayton: filthy but somehow sparkling clean.
2121 exists in its own galaxy, its own planetary tilt, its own sense of time. A record that asks whether the future is merely the place where the loop starts again, but this time a little more aged. As the centuries progress -- from 1921 to 2021 to 2121, with each repetition, we can hear the tape warble deepen and the hi-end lose its definition. What is it about this moment now that will shape our future ten decades hence? Life revolves in cycles, so you might as well maximize the upswing. If music is our collective vessel to track where and who we are and what we hope to lean towards in this next passage through history, the only sane answer is to turn 2121 up as loud as possible, until we all disappear into the shadows.
Selskab: Mello Music Group
02. No Illusions
03. Will We Be Us Again
04. All Gone
06. The Abyss
09. Amber Prisms
10. New Bud
11. Fly Futura