As discussed in a recent Brain Fuzz podcast episode with artist Michi Meko, I recently revisited Sun Ra for some reason. Probably because I’m rebooting my record collection and realized he wasn’t represented.
I couldn’t remember how the evolution of his music worked, so I decided to start again from the beginning. This proved tougher than expected – the discography is massive and disorganized. Recordings were made, then shelved for years in some cases, then released, then maybe released on another label and combined with another title.
I say simply, because something noticeable happens with Nubians of Plutonia – a new favorite of mine. The emphasis shifts to experimentation, and from there, the listening gets more complicated. Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy is downright difficult – the seemingly devil-may-care approach coupled with percussion at the forefront makes for tough going, even on repeat listens.
Is Space The Place?
But of course, approachable is far from accessible. It’s tough to connect the cosmic and demonic references in the titles of even the earlier, more traditional jazz works. And at first glance, it just gets stranger from there.
For most potential listeners, the Sun Ra persona is a barrier. In the past, I lumped the costumes and the language all in neatly as “Afrofuturism,” mainly because it was easy to label and move on and, hey it’s just weird and maybe even nonsense.
In actuality, there’s much more to it. Spoiler alert: Space isn’t the place after all.
. . . And that is why you should not only listen to Sun Ra, but check out our Brain Fuzz arts podcast episode with Michi Meko for unique insights on Afrofuturism, altered destiny, and persona.