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  • Filed under: Review
  • 10/25/2013

Afrikan Sciences Theta Wave Brain Sync

Now operating out of Berlin, Oakland-born label Deepblak wasn't on many people's radars prior to the release of label head Aybee's Worlds album in 2012. Combining Drexciyan Afro-futurism with combustible, early-era Autechre breaks and flashes of an out-jazz sensibility that's comparable to Terrence Dixon's, the LP offered a heady strain of homegrown Bay Area techno with an impressively fresh approach. The album made a strong argument for the Deepblak crew as a kind of West Coast equivalent to Levon Vincent's Novel Sound stable, a collective organized around launching deep house into deep space. Oakland's Eric Porter Douglass, operating as Afrikan Sciences, does just as much to further the label's vision with his second LP, Theta Wave Brain Sync.

Afrikan Sciences' experiments are more pointed than Aybee's, courting disorder on a suite of songs early in the album. The carnivalesque "A Trove" starts off the run, and it goes even further with the pealing cellos and cracked rhythm of "As You Were Brother" and the sticky, fusion-era Miles Davis energy of "What Who What, the Bazooka Was Who." Still, none of it goes too far down the rabbit hole, thanks to hobbled, murky drum patterns that break down and build back up every eight bars. There's a potential for chaos, but Douglass only allows it to peek through his compositions; it never asserts itself at the listener's expense. The title track consolidates the benefits and drawbacks of those experiments around the album's halfway point, ultimately coalescing as a swaggering slice of blown-out boogie. Its dueling hi-hats and astral keys deserve more than the five-minute slot they're given, but Douglass doesn't like to stay in one place too long.

The album's second half is all about tying up the various threads. Bulbous droplets of synth bleed into the pattern of the otherwise cosmic sound design of "New Morning," eventually guiding an unwieldy conversation between instruments toward a satisfying destination. "Monseq Q" is the album's most out-and-out house cut, an eight-minute sound stream of shuffling, off-beat claps, lumpy kicks, and still more bubbly Rhodes riffs whose m.o. is straightforward enough to seem somewhat out of place. The presence of acoustic samples in Afrikan Sciences' music puts him, from a certain perspective, in league with John Roberts, another producer who sows those timbres in his jacking house cuts. But the approach here is descended from jazz, rather than a stately modern classical mode. And in terms of jazz influences, the results are often more overtly humane than the sometimes arid pace of like-minded music being turned out by acts like the Moritz von Oswald Trio. Afrikan Sciences often conveys a sheer sonic intensity that's reminiscent of Seekers International's meta-dub; it's the sound of music technology and history being sold for scrap and subsequently melted into a chunky, hazardous amalgam. In truth, Theta Wave Brain Sync is at its best when it takes things a little too far. That sense of instinctual experimentation is what makes for Deepblak's particular relevance.

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