Sun Ra & His Astro-Infinity Arkestra: Other Strange Worlds (Roaratorio LP)
Just released from Roaratorio Records is Other Strange Worlds, containing previously unheard recordings from May 1965 from the Sun Ra Archive. While only available on limited-edition vinyl, it also contains a coupon for a free MP3 download—so, whether or not you even have a turntable, every Sun Ra freak needs to jump on this quick!
According to archivist Michael D. Anderson’s brief liner notes, the recording was intended as a “second volume” to the wonderfully weird Strange Strings album but, for whatever reason, never released. Certainly, the approach is similar, with an arsenal of exotic instruments deployed in what Sunny called “an exercise in ignorance.” But on Other Strange Worlds, the Arkestra is substantially reduced, down to a quintet of Sun Ra, John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, Ali Hasaan and Art Jenkins. Along with the koras, zithers, kalimbas and fiddles, Gilmore and Jenkins stick mostly to percussion while Allen takes keening leads on oboe and Hasaan adds warm trombone. Occasionally, Ra will brighten the texture by tinkling on the celeste; but, most of the time, he is subtly guiding the improvisations, turning them into challenging and sublime pieces of space-age chamber music.
Recorded in Sun Ra’s apartment on the Lower East Side of New York (you can hear the telephone ring several times during the proceedings), Other Strange Worlds actually sounds quite clear and clean—especially compared to the noisy and distorted Strange Strings. The smaller ensemble obviously contributes to the transparent sound quality yet Sun Ra’s mastery of effective lo-fi recording techniques is quite in evidence here. Thankfully, Roaratorio has done an excellent job with this vinyl pressing: my copy is flat as pancake, quiet as a ghost and sounds flipping fantastic. Officially out this Tuesday, run—don’t walk—to your nearest record store and grab yourself a copy. Or do what I did and order it direct from their website. Other Strange Worlds is another essential addition to the Sun Ra discography and should not be missed!