Sunday, 4 March 2018

EP: Auxiliary Phoenix - Power Cosmic

Auxiliary Phoenix - Power Cosmic

Info: Auxiliary Phoenix (James Strain) is an experimental hip hop & jazz producer, multi-instrumentalist & DJ based out of Carlow, Ireland.

'Power Cosmic' is the follow up to the 2017 EP 'Camelopardalis'. While 'Camelopardalis' leaned towards organic, live and jazzy sounds, this new release takes root in a more electronic space. It draws influence from future beats, experimental hip hop, trap, Indian classical, and jazz fusion to create a darker atmosphere than explored previously, with heavy beats and off-kilter sounds and rhythms.

Guests on the EP include Vast Aire of iconic underground hip hop group Cannibal Ox (Night Light), whose album 'The Cold Vein' has been described as one of the best rap albums of the 2000's. D-Sisive, an acclaimed Canadian underground hip hop emcee, provides vocals for A Splash of Paint. Knowah, an Irish singer and musician, contributes harmony vocals to Signal Boost, and frequent collaborators Gentle Jones (of High Elders) and Illab return for Night Life and its remix version.

In my book, there is always so much intrigue and pleasure in abundance to be found in every release by Auxiliary Phoenix aka James Strain, who never stands still. On latest EP Power Cosmic we are customarily overwhelmed on the first listen, there is so much going on, bouncing off the walls and in turn our ear drums. 

With 'Night Light' we have a tasty intro, some bluesy piano which unfolds to be linked with his trademark off-kilter percussion and beats, shifting right from underneath your ears. Bone fide hip-hop feels come via Vast Aire and Gentle Jones, with a smooth and chilled backdrop of sounds, there's still time for Auxiliary Phoenix to throw some dub jazz into the mix towards the end.

'BRB' is the launchpad into said cosmos of the EP's title, a lightspeed journey past blurring starlight streaks and the feeling of outer-body release, the blender goes rogue at 1:16, asynchronistic beats and clicks swirling like white blood cells swarming around a virus. On 'Signal Boost' we're about to dock at the space station, a slow considered approach and landing, the chaos of the previous track evaporating with Knowah's vocal giving the track a full on experimental electronic ambience. 

On my first scooch through Power Cosmic fourth track 'Neptune Horizon' really stood out for me, the bending sitar and acid jazz groove combining like something out of Alice Coltrane's back catalogue, or George Harrison's deepest, darkest nightmares. The percussion and electronic sounds here are beyond enjoyable, what a trip from A.P..

'A Splash of Paint' feat. D-Sisive mixes mellow sounds with some straight up old school early 90's rap and rhyme to an unusual backdrop of 70's sci-fi film score electronica, before the E.P. closes out with a reworking of the first track, you think it's going to be a lighter affair but it develops into a punchy smackdown.

Power Cosmic is such a layered collection of tracks and concepts that one or two listens would never suffice, littered with subtleties in sound and method there is so much to be uncovered. That said, there is an immediately gratifying experience to be had on your first whirl of the latest offering from Auxiliary Phoenix, it's a mesmeric voyage through everything you love about the past, but wanted to hear reimagined today, and no better individual to tie both together.

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