Charles Luck & Black Astronaut – Life On Mars
Offbeat and filled with a dry sense of humour, Life On Mars is a hip-hop record like no other.
Black Astronaut is a hip-hop collective headed up by the enigmatic Charles Luck, who has brought together a number of artists from across the globe to put together this ambitious, sprawling collection of tunes. Based in Atlanta, Black Astronaut also draws on talent from Chicago, London, Sweden, and several other global locations.
Simply jump in at the start and be surprised by the curious, slightly slurred tones of ‘The Race’, which sets things up by winding time itself all the way back to the beginning – biblically so, in fact, back to the time of Genesis. The lyrics are written with an ever so twee feel, not unlike the work of Lewis Caroll and the comic verse found in the Alice In Wonderland stories. There is a touch of the metaphysical here, as we are led all the way back to the dawn of time: “I was surrounded by sleepwalkers and thought I was the only one up /Because they kept both eyes open, but left the third one wide shut /They shook hands and smiled, and had me fooled for a day /But the look on their faces, gave them away.”
Next up is a rather touching cover of David Bowie’s classic ‘Life On Mars’ here presented with piano and a confident vocal that truly nails the song while also adding a fresh feel to it. This being the year of Bowie’s passing, there is a sadness that comes with listening to the song these days, but this makes it all the more powerful.
This is not a record to simply put on and check out. It’s certainly not background music – it demands a certain amount of involvement from the listener, constantly reaching out and encouraging a reaction, be it thoughtfulness, laughter, or passion. And don’t be surprised to find that this is a record that asks you to put a little work in yourself – you will find that there are many moments where you will need to stop and go back over what you just heard.
What is most refreshing about Life On Mars is that rather than simply taking samples and chopping them up to be redistributed in a haphazard fashion, here we have been offered something that is, on the whole, entirely original. Admittedly there are covers and interpolations here, but there is an underlying sense that this has been created out of a desire to make new art that responds to the world around it, rather than simply imitating it or recreating it. Some might say that too many cooks spoil the broth, but here we have an example of how many hands make light work – and more to the point, a thoroughly engaging collection of tunes.