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Christmas RESPECT festival: The Heliocentrics

Velká Británie | Respect Festival

& Barbora Pátková/ afterparty DJ Baltazar and Martin Mikuláš

Acid Jazz/ Funk/ Afro/ Psychedelic

The Heliocentrics are a group for which genres are meaningless and boundaries invisible. Since first appearing on DJ Shadow’s 2006 album The Outsider the group have gone on to release a string of records that float through jazz, hip-hop, psych, krautrock, and musique concrete whilst also collaborating with numerous genre heavyweights from Mulatu Astake to Gaslamp Killer and picking up prestigious fans along the way, such as Madlib and the recently departed David Axelrod. 

The group’s deep-set ability to craft music intuitively and impulsively stems from a desire to avoid typical song writing processes or generic structures. Since its conception, the band’s music has mainly been created from live improvisation. This musical approach gives the band its own sound and identity as nothing has been pre-written or prepared – for anything to happen it must be created at that time from the people in the room, and on the spot. A decade of such well explored sonic adventures has resulted in a tightly knit bond that the group refer to as, “almost a form of telepathy” with “musical changes that otherwise would be near impossible to write…”

The primarily instrumental group, who operate out of their vintage analogue studio in East London called the Quatermass Sound Lab, bring in a new singer on album number four – a young Slovakian singer called Barbora Patkova. The result is an album that takes the band already solidified in ever-expanding grooves and rhythms into new previously unexplored dimensions.

Traditionally this would be a difficult set-up to welcome the inclusion of a vocalist. However Patkova, or ‘Babs’ as she is known, entered the picture as someone who understood the infinite nature of improvisation and who had lyrics ready to explore over any music thrown at her. Following Babs’s discovery by a friend of the group, the sound, according to the band, “instantly worked with us” and a connection was born. Her improvised vocals, often sung in her native Slovakian, over the group’s improvised tracks add depth and a new direction to the album and for the band.

The songs themselves are still far from conventional though. A World Of Masls moves in sways of intoxicating jazz with rumbling and twisting bass lines that pull in the listener like a vortex. The production is subtle yet glisteningly warm, allowing the natural rhythm to shine through and lead the way. The added addition of the flowing vocals above the frazzled guitars and pulsing rhythms gives an Eastern touch to some tracks, with pieces like ‘Oh Brother’ resembling Can on a Turkish psych trip whilst others allow wonky strings and hypnotic beats to lead the charge. Whether the tracks are three or seven minutes, there is still an unshakeable immersive quality that drifts through the album. 

Not only have the group found a new member in Babs but they have found a new home too. After several years on the respected LA label Now Again, the band are now with Soundway records. The group also recently wrote the score to the critically acclaimed documentary about LSD ‘The Sunshine Makers’; have plans to do an album with the celebrated Arkestra as well as another collaboration with Gaslamp Killer; making 2017 a near impossible year to avoid the heady immersion of a group who have already rightly earned the title of cult legends.

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