It was probably Bills’ Volume 2 musings on the unique mythology of Superman that brought this memory back, but I distinctly remember running around in my baggy Superman costume as a boy, with The Planets by Holst playing triumphantly in the background. That music made a cushion held aloft feel like an asteroid, and a swirling pattern in the carpet an entire galaxy. Ah, memories…
But enough about what I got up to before I finally went to see Kill Bill Volume 2 last night. I’m trying to tell you about the third album from Grand Central act Fingathing. Fingathing and the Big Red Nebula Band is the follow up to last years Superhero Music. (You see, there was a link buried in my seemingly random introduction!) Fingathing, a duo comprised of scratch DJ Peter Parker (I rest my case) and electric bass wizard Sneaky, have made what is easily their finest work to date. Taking an intrepid journey through the Big Red Nebula, this really is like hip-hop Holst.
2003 saw Daft Punk complete their anime space-opera, Interstellar 5555. But if that was the electronic euro pop version of The Planets, Fingathing and the Big Red Nebula Band is the streetwise cousin wearing a baseball cap and leaning up against a set of tattered illegal billboard posters. In the capital city of Alpha Centauri. This is the funkiest, sweetest collection of original beats you’ll have heard all year, and is right up there with the brilliant Blockhead album which was released a month or two ago.
However, before I expand on this, a friendly warning should be attached to this review. Now, I’ll write it slowly so you have time to control your breathing and not overreact, but this is a c.o.n.c.e.p.t. album…
Take a deep breath…
And breath out slowly…
Okay? Still with me? There.s no need to worry, because this concept album is done with a wry sense of humour, and is a celebration, not a cynical arty take on the space theme. It’s as much Blakes 7 as it is 2001, and a glance at the album artwork by regular Fingathing pencil pusher Chris Drury will tell you as much (see the Fingathing website for more of his work).
You don’t need to know the concept behind the album to enjoy it, but it is definitely true that being aware of it increases the enjoyment you’ll derive from it. Each track is accompanied by a story, whether it’s Mista Fist wandering a desolate planet and discovering a mysterious portal on ‘Open a Door’, or ‘a dying planet in the Nebula inhabited by grubs that are being eaten by giant ducks’ on Lady Nebula. Planets that are giant baby heads, and naturally, giant robots, also make an appearance. But perhaps the most accurate way to sum up the attitude that’s directed this stunningly irreverent album is to be found in one of the track names. This is ‘music to watch aliens by’.
Instrumental hip-hop is rarely this imaginative and inspired, and once in a red moon is it this musical and intricately structured. Don’t get me wrong, when I referred to Holst I didn’t mean that this was an orchestrated work with a hip-hop beat tacked on the end; it’s an inspired work of contemporary electronica, but one so ingenious that it really does manage to transcend the genre. Synths buzz like an android wired up to the data hub of Cybertron, and space lava seethes from every polymorphic metal-alloy beat. More importantly, your brain will soon start to conjure up its own unique visualisations as the science fiction unfolds in front of your ears.
It could be argued that, even more exciting than the actual album itself, are the musical possibilities it opens up for djs the world over. These beats can provide a gargantuan canvas for the right set, and how often do you get to use that word in a normal sentence?
Man, I would have looked so much cooler if only I could have played Superman along to this. Or maybe not. I’ll get my cape…
Fingathing And The Big Red Nebula Band (2004)
Genre: Instrumental Hip-Hop
Record Label: Grand Central Records