WTF?! Wednesdays: Sun Ra and his Astro-Infinity Arkestra, “Strings Strange” (1966)

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The music Sun Ra never disappoints. His “Arkestra” had the ability to swing like crazy in conventional contexts as well as more “out” presentations. His Space Is The Place was in that handful of first “weird” jazz records that pushed me off in the direction of what we like to refer to here as Whack Jazz.

But Strange Strings? Now this was whack.

The song starts with what sounds like the Orchestra From Hell warming up. We are then treated to nearly thirteen minutes of clattering percussion, chants, and all manner of bowed strings. Or at least, that’s what I think I’m hearing. There’s one point when it sounds like somebody is drawing a bow over the springs of an old rusty bed that’s been left behind in an abandoned mental hospital. It’s a huge old ward, given the depth of reverb.

The album credits list the band members under the heading of “Electronic Strings.” That doesn’t even come close to what we end up hearing. Maybe some of the liner notes will help:

…instruments linking East and West — The Universe, are stretched, stroked, struck, bowed, plucked and picked to vibrate the air and radiate the rays of sounds in movements re-presenting Nature as Music

OK. Maybe not.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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