Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics ‘Inspiration Information’ LP/CD (Strut) 4/5

mulatu-astatke-heliocentricsLegendary Ethiopian keyboardist Mulatu Astatke came to the attention of a wider audience via the musical soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch’s film ‘Broken flowers’. This new recording on the Strut dance label, part of a collaborative series, intriguingly pairs him with band the Heliocentrics and on the whole it is a collaboration that works surprisingly well, and one that respects the vast Ethiopian tradition. It is the Latin-influenced ‘Cha Cha’ that immediately impresses with a heavy rhythm section, distinctive Ethiopan-sounding horns, and relentless grooves. 
Equally hypnotic and gaining in intensity as the track progresses from a leisurely intro is ‘Dewel’ with a nice saxophone solo into the bargain. 
Contrast that with the oriental flavour of ‘Phantom of the panther’ featuring a lovely keyboard solo from Astatke. Far from oriental in approach is ‘Chinese New Year’ which can be best described as an off-key jazz trip hop of a groove. Another highlight is the mid-tempo riff laden ‘Eskete dance’ with subtle use of horns. Not all the tracks have an Ethiopian influence and ‘Blue Nile’ is a drum heavy groove that will appeal to long-time fans of the Heliocentrics. This could prove to be one of those slow burner albums that ends up providing the soundtrack to early summer.

Tim Stenhouse