African-American music has often been associated with outer space; from Sun Ra through George Clinton by way of John Sayles' indie film classic The Brother from Another Planet, there emerges a legacy of self-professed interstellar travelers who have touched down on earth long enough to beguile us with their alien way with music. Dragons of Zynth are the latest in this heritage to appear on the radar screen of avant rock, even if they don't actually profess to be from Saturn or Venus. Combining various essential elements of black rock history from Sly & the Family Stone, Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix, Living Colour, Public Enemy, and their similarly minded N.Y.C. cohorts TV on the Radio, their debut fell-length, Coronation Thieves, is so full of jarring juxtapositions and startling twists and turns as to have been under the influence of alien spawn, yet deep down inside lurks the greatest soul album of 2007. From the opening synth swell, Hendrixian feedback, and ebony croon of "War Lover," to the counterculture call to arms of "Who Rize Above," to the demented doo wop and shoegazing bombast of "Rockin Star," it's immediately apparent that brothers Aku and Akwetey Orraca-Tetteh (O.T. for short) get their freak on in grand post-millennial apocalyptic style, although their songs are often impenetrable, in large part due to a murky mix from TVOTR's David Sitek (the Dragons also played on TVOTR's Return to Cookie Mountain) that favors peripheral instruments over the vocal hooks or guitar riffs that would give the listener something to grab onto. Some of the inaccessibility may also arise from complex and unusual arrangements, but there is just enough ballast to keep most songs from floating off into the stratosphere. And regardless of the intangible and rarefied nature of this album, it will be interesting to see where these Dragons go next, because it will definitely be heavy, man, and the brothers gonna work it out.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Brian Way