Published Feb 18, 2020London, UK-based jazz fusion outfit the Heliocentrics made a ripple with their appearance on DJ Shadow's generally underwhelming 2006 effort, The Outsider, but that subtle vibration has turned into a tidal wave in the years since. Along with their own heavily instrumental works, they've produced lengthy collaborations with such legends as Melvin van Peebles, Mulatu Astatke, Lloyd Miller and Orlando Julius, and created the score for the LSD documentary The Sunshine Makers in 2017.
Also released in 2017, A World of Masks was their first album with Slovakian vocalist Barbora Patkova. While the creative core of the band remains drummer Malcolm Catto and bassist Jake Ferguson, Patkova's spooky, cerebral voice seems to embrace an even larger role on Infinity of Now. Granted, that could be due as much to the track selection as anything, there being only eight numbers on this album, with her prominently featured on most of them, but to the outsider, it feels like she has gained well-deserved confidence within the group.
Like the rest of their catalogue, Infinity of Now was recorded at the analogue dreamscape of Catto's own Quatermass Sound Lab. The title may evoke exotica composer Esquivel's 1960 effort Infinity In Sound, but the sound that the Heliocentrics produce here is more of a psychedelic blend of Fela Kuti's propulsive Afrobeat, David Axelrod's symphonic library psych, and BADBADNOTGOOD's hip-hop-flavoured post-apocalypse jazz.
Certain moments burn themselves instantly in memory. With its sliding strings, boom-bap drums and space-fuzz guitar riff, "Venom" is simply too cool for words. "Light in the Dark" sounds like a discovery from one of Vampisoul's Czech Up! compilations, with Patkova assumingly singing in the similar Slovak while the haunted house organ and warbled violin glissandi lend it an obscure vintage horror film vibe. If you said the fat horns and slappy drums served up with scintillating wah-wah organ of "Hanging by a Thread" was actually the result of a Fela Kuti jam session crashed by Iron Butterfly, many would believe you. Yet, taken as a whole, it has a meditative, if hallucinogenic, flow that focuses the mind through every detour, a flight of fancy with a purposeful direction in fully realized detail.
The more I listen to it, the more that Infinity of Now sounds like the album I wish Portishead would finally get around to making. Given how much the Heliocentrics continue to advance with each album, it's possible the general public may end up forgetting Portishead entirely. They may not be pioneering a movement, but the Heliocentrics do something no one else can, and it is worthy of the loftiest praise. (Madlib Invazion)