RAS_G AND THE AFRIKAN SPACE PROGRAM: DANCE OF THE COSMOS
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Dance of the Cosmos
When it comes to L.A.’s “beat” scene, few figures are as influential as Ras_G. While contemporaries like Flying Lotus (interviewed here) may have wider name recognition, Ras_G has been releasing music since 2005 and helping to grow L.A. beats from a local strain of Dilla-fied boom bap to a progressive musical movement known for punishing subwoofers worldwide. But on Dance of the Cosmos, Ras_G turns away from the beats he’s known for and dives headfirst into the world of house music. In some ways, it’s a big departure—but at the same time, Ras_G applies his signature sound so seamlessly that it reveals an underlying affinity between his previous music and house. Dance of the Cosmos draws from a soulful sample-based form of house that is synonymous with Detroit. From the unstoppable groove and bouncing chords of the title track to the lopsided rhythm of “Harambee 2 the Sun” and the dusty pads of “Push it Along,” Ras_G’s tracks are built with loose, unmechanical elements that would sound at home on a Theo Parrish record. And like many house records from Detroit, Dance of the Cosmos is concerned with the struggle for Black liberation, sampling political spoken word segments from records by X-Clan and Mtume Umoja Ensemble, among others. It’s fitting that Ras_G would turn to the Motor City for inspiration, considering the larger than life influence of J. Dilla on L.A. beats—as well as the Michigan roots of other members of the scene—but the dialogue between Detroit and L.A on Dance of the Cosmos moves in both directions. (Listen to new-school Detroit house producers like Kyle Hall and Jay Daniel and you’ll hear something resembling the overstated swing of L.A. beats sped up to 120 BPM.) But symbolic context aside, Dance of the Cosmos is a powerful offering all its own. Ras_G finds his voice in the details, layering the mix with wonky sound effects, rapped vocal snippets and his official watermark—a voice calling “Oh Ras!” through a soup of dub effects. Certain points do suggest the sensibility of an artist more accustomed to making two-minute beats rather than seven-minute club workouts, like how the opening track begins with a fully-formed groove that could have unfolded over several minutes—but that kind of immediacy can be irresistibly catchy. More importantly, it demonstrates how creatively fertile the space between genres can be. By fusing aspects of Detroit’s influence on L.A. and vice versa, Ras_G brings an ongoing exchange between the two hubs of electronic music full circle. Even within L.A.’s electronic scene, Dance of the Cosmos serves as a unifying statement by formally acknowledging the cross-pollination between techno, hip-hop and everything in between.
RAS_G’S DANCE OF THE COSMOS IS OUT FRI., FEB. 22, ON AKASHIK RECORDS.