Space is the Place
On We Are to Answer, German hip-hop duo Ancient Astronauts explore the abstract spaceways of hip-hop, dub and electronic, bringing back with them an evocative set of instrumentals and vocal collaborations. Album opener “From the Sky” features gritty kicks and scratched-up vocal samples that slice through an otherwise tranquil instrumental. Here, the layering of seemingly incongruous musical elements combine to make a satisfying whole, setting the table for the many sonic juxtapositions throughout the album.
Instrumental tracks like the DJ Shadow-esque “I Came Running,” the drum’n’bass-influenced “Dark Green Rod” and the space-funk of “Everybody” comprise seven of the album’s 13 tracks. Among the instrumentals, “Lost in Marrakesh” is the standout. The subtly evolving track blends traditional Middle Eastern and North Indian instrumentation with hip-hop drums. Organically building up to a double-time breakdown, the cinematic “Lost in Marrakesh” seems more like the work of a hip-hop-influenced Bollywood composer than the work of actual hip-hop producers.
Kabanjak and Dogu, the two beat makers behind Ancient Astronauts, collaborate with a diverse cast of vocalists on We Are to Answer. “Classic,” featuring alt hip-hop legends The Pharcyde, recalls the left-field brilliance of their mid-’90s work. Denmark’s Phat Old Mamas provide vocals for the moody “A Hole to Swallow Us.” As dark as the title suggests, a drone note from the piano’s low register accentuates the doom in the lyrics. “All the Things You Do,” with U.K. dancehall vet Tippa Irie, accurately captures the forever-reverberating snares and ambiance of classic dub.
Towing the line between cerebral and accessible, We Are to Answer retains a persistently haunting vibe throughout the album’s many stylistic shifts. While not vital or particularly new sounding upon first listen, the longer you explore the album’s soundscapes the more We Are to Answer reveals itself as a great collection of songs and beats.