"Rocket Juice and the Moon" album is available
Damon Albarn, Flea, Tony Allen and special guests
|ROCKET JUICE AND THE MOON Album|
Rocket Juice & The Moon
1-2-3-4-5-6 / Hey, Shooter / Lolo / Night Watch / Forward Sweep / Follow-Fashion / Chop Up
/ Poison / Extinguished / Rotary Connection / Check Out / There / Worries / Benko / The
Unfadable / DAM(N) / Fatherless / Leave-Taking
Damon Albarn, Tony Allen and Flea. With Erykah Badu, Fatoumata Diawara, the Hypnotic
Brass Ensemble, M.anifest, and Cheick Tidiane Seck.
Out 26 March, on Honest Jon's Records.
Up and away / To your journey to the sun / Drink your rocket juice / Fly away (Hey, Shooter).
High up in the skies, amongst the clouds, Rocket Juice & The Moon was born. Literally. It
happened back in 2008, when Damon Albarn, Flea and Tony Allen convened on the same
Lagos flight, to play and exchange musical ideas in that city as part of the Africa Express
collective. Relishing a shared enthusiasm for one another’s work, and bonding immediately,
there and then the triumvirate laid down the blueprint for Rocket Juice.
Still, more than a year passed before conditions were set for three weeks together at Albarn’s
West London studio, recording and refining two-dozen startlingly out and deeply funky
instrumental grooves. The next stage was to invite onboard some extremely talented friends,
with further sessions in Dallas, New York, Chicago and Paris… Erykah Badu, no less, queen
of contemporary soul. Three companions from Africa Express: Malian singer Fatoumata
Diawara, whose debut album has topped World Music charts since its release last Autumn;
her multi-talented compatriot Cheick Tidiane Seck, whose prodigious keyboardism has lit up
releases by artists ranging from Youssou N’Dour to Hank Jones; the young, Ghanaian rapper
M.anifest, quizzically existential, switching seamlessly between Twi and English. And the
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, long-time stalwarts in the Honest Jon’s set-up — since one of the
team discovered them busking near the shop in Portobello Road, on his lunchbreak — with a
second album for the label due in May… Finally, the tracks were dispatched for mixing to
Berlin, to be meticulously honed, polished and envenomed by Mark Ernestus, one half of the
legendary Basic Channel and Rhythm & Sound partnerships.
The result is Rocket Juice & The Moon — out March 26, 2012, on Honest Jon’s Records — a
triumphant exploration and proliferation of kinetic Afro-funk rhythms: organic, exuberant,
communal music-making, evidenced by the project’s live debut on stage as part of the Honest
Jon’s Chop Up in late 2011, which hit London, Marseille, Dublin, and Cork to such great
acclaim (witness the flurry of smart-phone film-clips uploaded in the days thereafter).
From the inaugural bars — that absurdly funky slice of instructional timekeeping, 1-2-3-4-5-6
— the liquid pulse of Fela Kuti’s classic recordings drives the action through a suite of 18
shape-shifting compositions. The greatest drummer in the world has never sounded so good
as he does here. His intricate cross-patterns jostle and lock with Flea’s nimble, rumbling bass
riffs. Joined by Seck on There and Extinguished — ‘when you dispose of something burning,
be sure it’s out’ — Albarn’s keyboards spray synth fusillades up top, over, and under…
splicing into the mess of wires running between the freaked Afro-disco of William Onyeabor
and the space-jazz-moog of Sun Ra. The HBE brings extra intensity and drama to Leave-
Taking — likewise Flea’s trumpet to Rotary Connection — teasing out the haunting melody
coiled in the mix.
Where the best of vintage Afrobeat sides sustained their concentrated energies over the
course of sprawling, marathon jams, RJ & TM manages something altogether different: the
group bottles the idiom into capsules of funk… and real songs. Beautifully buoyed by Erykah
Badu’s unmistakable vocals, Hey, Shooter brilliantly traverses metaphysical spaceways sans
any semblance of noodling. Lolo and Follow-Fashion — featuring the open-hearted sensuality
of Diawara’s singing, M.anifest’s quick, brawny science, and more brass blasts — play like its
musical cousins or codas. Indeed, the album’s shrewd sequencing creates the composite
effect of tracks working both individually and within the context of an extended song-cycle.
The lovely ballad, Poison, is bittersweet and ruminative: ‘If you’re looking for love, beware the
signs / They will paralyze you one by one / Poison, it will only break your heart.’ Down-tempo
and dubby, Check Out and Worries amplify the range of styles and moods. And by the time of
Fatherless — a chugging Afro blues that evokes John Lee Hooker lost in Lagos — one gets
the sneaking suspicion there’s very little outside the reach of this collective’s inventive
There is, in fact, a palpable openness pervading Rocket Juice & The Moon — the sense of a
limber willingness to follow creative impulse — right down to how the group acquired its
name. When Ogunajo Ademola — the Lagotian commissioned to do the album’s cover
artwork — dubbed his submission ‘Rocket Juice & The Moon’, it quickly morphed into the
formal name of the project, like trying to hold onto mercury.
Surely, the stars above also approved.