Sun Ra - The Universe Sent Me: The Lost Reel Collection vol. 5 [Transparency, 2008]

Sun Ra was a mystical and masterful musician who claimed that he had been beamed up to Saturn by aliens with little antennae on their ears and eyes, and after listening to this album, I believe him. On Lost Reel Collection Volume 5, Sun Ra and his Arkestra slap you around like The 3 Stooges, leaving you more dazed and confused than Jimmy Page could have ever dreamed possible. The first track, Outer Spaceways Incorporated begins with a catchy sing-song refrain, before descending into an abrasive, interstellar freak-out: a crackling keyboard spaz-a-thon followed by a squawking, squeaking horn from Hell solo extravaganza. The audio accompaniment to The 7 Bowl's of God's Anger.

This Apocalyptic potency is followed up by Untitled Improvisation, which takes us back into crazed keyboard land and more spastic outbursts from the horn section.

Next up, with its mournful, slouching sax and tired trumpets, Discipline 27 conjures up visions of lost space creatures trekking through the Mojave Desert searching for a way back home. Mournful, yet hopeful.

The Universe Sent Me picks up the mournful main theme from Discipline 27, but mutates it into something cacophynous with its rambling, incoherent speeches from various band members, until an oscillating, organ melt-down ushers in Discipline 99. Discipline 99 begins with more frenzied keyboards, before resolving into a funereal dirge which also witnesses the resurrection of the horn section's meandering madness. From there the music takes a turn to perky, springy, blues punctuated with atonal chords and a breezy trumpet soloing above them like a detached vulture, followed by an awesome, jazzy flute whirling around a laborious bass with that sinister organ bubbling subtly underneath.

Watusi begins with a chipper, upbeat brass melody, quickly giving way to a desperate cowbell which almost seems like some cosmic telegraph operator, frantically SOS'ing the Grand Architect of the Universe. With its intermittent, air-raid siren sounding whoops and crazed percussion, Watusi sounds like an ancient tribe having a communal seizure after ingesting a particularly potent batch of ayahuasca and experiencing a group vision of the Industrial Age.

For a man who claimed to be here to save humanity and bring harmony to the world, Sun Ra and his Arkestra were capable of kicking out some pretty demonic sounding jams. Untitled Improv #2 fits the bill, with its squawking saxophone shrieking like some psychotic bird, while the trumpet meanders like a snake charmer. As I listened to it I pictured some Frank Sinatra-type guy suffering from the D.T.'s- wild-eyed with terror - as one of the band members once again broke out in a fit of deranged ranting, with the brass instruments ascending and descending some twisted scales in a paroxysm of dementia, growing more shrill and berserk, like birds attacking humans, before a sudden and abrupt end. Wicked in a most peculiarly delightful sort of way.

Joe Pickell

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Sun Ra - The Lost Reel Collection Volume 5: The Universe Sent Me