Ras G - Back On The Planet
Previous Ras G joints might have been designed to inspire nightmares. The producer carries something of the Lee Perry about him, with ideas often piled ankle-deep and attuned to a particularly blunted kind of cosmic vagueness. Back On The Planet once again steers clear of solid ground to jettison another slice of appealingly dark matter.
The Planet of the title makes itself felt in a more grounded structure, with the producer settling down to some extremely deep, but club-friendly bumpers that rest alongside more experimental, off-key fair. Recent collection El-Aylien Part II was frighteningly (and frustratingly) oblique, twisting together rhythms, samples and tonal shifts to the detriment of the occasional listener. Hieroglyphic in its communication, it was a little too muddled and, bluntly, too scary for my own sensitive ears.
Beginning with a swampy storm of sub bass and clattering percussion reminiscent of the Ark studio being tornado'd off the face of the earth by a particularly funky electrical storm, the resulting mass of splintered wood, muddy beats and knee-deep polluted water is hammered into something approaching a form. 'Along the Way' sounds like dozens of tiny mouths picking out be-bop flavours, and reveals an unexpectedly cutesy side to the Anubian hip priest depicted on the gorgeous cover artwork. Rather than gliding over the rainbow, the remainder sees Ras crash the house down back into Kansas.
Still, the familiar fascination with all things celestial is maintained, as well as a commitment to the spiritual mantra of beat-making. 'Culture Riddim' features a sampled dub MC intoning blunted shibboleths into the pulpy funk - boom bap was always a slightly silly title (like an embarrassed return and retread of 'trip-hop') - Ras could perhaps pass easier for Swamp Rap. Whatever, giving it its own genre tag is just a silly way of saying the cut is original. 'Culture Riddim', 'One 4 Kutmah' and 'Ommmmm...' make up a thugged out, six-pack muscle machine of a halfway point, providing the heaviest and dubbiest of the cuts on Back On The Planet.
'Natural Melanin Being' is a curio. Following similar lines to Madlib's series of Melvin Van Peebles-reworking beat and poetry manipulation, he includes an extended discursive on the theme of 'naturalism' in Black men and Black women. Far from his usual astral projection, a lot of the narrative on Back On The Planet revolves around more human problems - crime, colour, truth and conviction. There's a more urgent, stripped down feel to many of the percussion patterns.
Ras G's latest sees him reworking previous ideas into a more approachable constitution. Falling a little flat in the latter stages, there’s a lack of dramatic curve overall, with a mid-section pumped up with dubby stompers sandwiched between less substantial bookends. The previously released 'All Is Well…' is a little too Madlib-y, never really taking off after the furious exchanges of the intro. As with the final tracks, it is certainly more grounded, but in the grounding loses something of its punch. It's still more than strong enough to reaffirm the producer's place among the frontline of elemental beat makers.