NIK TURNER & YOUTH

Hawk­wind veteran and am­bi­ent house pioneer team up in space.

Prog - - The Musical Box - JoE BAnks

Any­body fa­mil­iar with Nik Turner’s oeu­vre will no doubt raise a know­ing eye­brow upon see­ing the ti­tle of this col­lab­o­ra­tion with uber pro­ducer and Killing Joke bassist Youth. Af­ter be­ing kicked out of Hawk­wind in 1976, Turner trav­elled to Egypt and ended up record­ing a se­ries of flute im­pro­vi­sa­tions in the Grand Pyra­mid of Giza. These would be the foun­da­tion of Xit­in­to­day by Nik Turner’s Sph­ynx, an al­bum recorded with var­i­ous mem­bers of Gong and based on the Egyp­tian Book Of The Dead.

Pharaohs From Outer Space has other mu­si­cal res­o­nances as well, the most telling one be­ing its evo­ca­tion of Sun Ra’s Egyp­tol­ogy-en­twined mu­sic of the spheres. These echoes and ref­er­ences are no doubt de­lib­er­ate, but what this al­bum de­liv­ers is a very 21st-cen­tury take on elec­tro-am­bi­ent cos­mic jazz, Turner’s sax and flute weav­ing their way through widescreen Logic-driven sound­scapes. But it’s tes­ta­ment to Youth’s con­sid­er­able skill as a com­poser and sonic al­chemist that Pharaohs… feels vi­tal and or­ganic. Rather than set the con­trols for the heart of the drone, these tracks un­furl in mul­ti­ple di­rec­tions with­out just drift­ing into the void.

What’s re­ally pleas­ing to hear is how well Turner has been recorded. Of­ten crit­i­cised for lack­ing tra­di­tional tech­nique, the feel­ing and emo­tion he puts into his play­ing comes over clearly here, and far out­weighs any quib­bles about his chops. Also strik­ing is the lack of ef­fects on his sound, in con­trast to the alien glos­so­lalia he’s usu­ally associated with. In­stead, his tone through­out is warm and rich, the hu­man el­e­ment in­side Youth’s com­plex in­ter­stel­lar sim­u­la­tions.

Al­most in­evitably, the grace­ful note clus­ters of sax and chim­ing elec­tron­ica of tracks such as Toltec Fly­ing Pyra­mid re­call the melan­choly fu­tur­ism of Van­ge­lis’ Blade Run­ner soundtrack, but there are also strong hints of play­ers such as tex­tu­ral min­i­mal­ist Jan Gar­barek and ‘Fourth World’ fu­sioneer Jon Has­sell. Un­sur­pris­ingly, Youth has cited ECM as a ma­jor in­spi­ra­tion for his new la­bel Painted Word, of which Pharaohs… is a flag­ship re­lease.

An­other key track is the ec­static techno of Junk DNA, which could al­most be Tan­ger­ine Dream in­ter­pret­ing Floyd’s One Of These Days. Turner takes his time and picks his phrases care­fully, pro­ject­ing a sense of space into the mu­sic. The lu­mi­nous dig­i­tal waltz of Heruxuti and the ur­gent, pul­sat­ing ti­tle track sim­i­larly draw on Youth’s am­bi­ent trance back­ground, but there are more re­flec­tive mo­ments too, such as the sombre pi­ano and flute of Don’t Stand Still In The Sky.

Glo­ri­ously out-there, this al­bum reaf­firms Nik Turner’s sta­tus as a cos­mic cit­i­zen par ex­cel­lence.

A 21ST-CEN­TURY TAKE ON ELEC­TRO-AM­BI­ENT

COS­MIC JAZZ.

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