The Heliocentrics

Infinity of Now

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It's been nearly three years since London's Heliocentrics issued 2017's mind-blowing one-two punch of A World of Masks and their soundtrack for The Sunshine Makers. Drummer Malcolm Catto and bassist Jake Ferguson, the band's producers, reached a new plateau with those releases. They forged an aesthetic that explored numerous Indo-Asian traditions, library music, fractured '70s funk, film scores, beat jazz, and more, and applied them as carefully woven sonic experiments. They realized long ago that the band's restlessness is their M.O. Here, they've managed to deliver a rainbow stew of hybridized genres, production techniques, subtle but effective sound effects, and massive grooves.

The Infinity of Now is the Heliocentrics debut offering for Madlib's Madlib Invazion label. Vocalist Barbora Patkova returns to the fold as a full member. She appears on most of the album, including the set's first mind-melting single "Burning Wooden Ship." Paced by Catto's funky breakbeat shuffle, reverb, analog synth blips, Dan Smith's open-tuned modal guitars, and a Krautrock bassline, these traits commingle in a droning melody before the instruments clash amid a dubwise mix, as Patkova effortlessly croons through the middle. "Venom" is a snaky melody languidly framed by the rhythm section, bluesy distorted guitar, telegraph-key Farfisa organ, and Patkova's nearly June Tyson-esque vocal that transforms itself into something regal in the bridge. At the midway point, the track breaks wide open as the quartet reference and challenge one another as broken beat funk meets a nocturnal psychedelia. "Elephant Walk" features saxophonists Jason Yarde (baritone) and Colin Webster (alto) blowing free into a hypnotic, circular drum'n'bass vamp and acid-drenched organ, increasing the intensity until it fades. The spiky Afro-beat in "Hanging by a Thread" melds Afro-Latin drums and spiraling psych-blues guitar while a fractured funk bassline chugs along to a shimmering, steamy organ pulse. "People Wake Up," the nearly ten-minute closer, is the most tripped-out thing here. A fuzzy Indian banjo (courtesy of Jack Yglesias) Keith Levene-esque snaky electric guitar (circa PiL's Metal Box era), a sparse doomy, dub bassline, sirens, flute, Raven Bush's strings, and Patkova's airy vocal all execute a ghostly melody that refuses to be anchored. It hovers, floats, mutters, stutters, and purrs. As the band strips it down to nothing, it re-emerges on the other side as a mutant jazz-funk jam messing with time and space. Amid drones, wafting sound effects (Sylvia Hallett's hurdy-gurdy and sarangi among them) and broken beats, it ratchets up the intensity. A droning circular bassline frames the psych effects to usher in a circular rhythmic vamp that dissembles itself amid sawing strings, steely distortion, and industrial feedback, engaging in modal interplay that radically but seamlessly reshapes the band's process and force until all the music has left to do is fade abruptly. The Heliocentrics' multivalently textured sound is by now a trademark signature. Infinity of Now is more adventurous, disciplined, and focused than any of their previous outings. Its dark and murky sonic vision is at once completely out of step with everything else, as well as miles ahead of it.

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