King Khan, “The Infinite Ones”

King Khan
The Infinite Ones
KHANNIBALISM/ERNEST JENNING RECORDING CO.
8/10

Fascinated as he’s been since the start of his career in the roots of psychedelic soul, King Khan was made for The Infinite Ones. Tagged as his “jazz album,” and sadly treated like an irregularity from the rest of his junk-analog catalog, the composer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist behind The BBQ Show and The Shrines simply follows up, logically, on the braying, wheezing, and merry-making of the avant-garde as he has on every KK album since 2001’s Three Hairs and You’re Mine

What’s truly different this time—and all the more wonderful for it—is that Khan’s Infinite Ones not only allows his cranky-but-melodious compositions room to breathe while remaining tautly compact (a real feat). The Indo-Canadian-Berliner is breathing life into hard and soft free jazz while paying tribute to the composers who inspired him (Alice Coltrane, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone, Miles Davis, Sun Ra, John Carpenter, Quincy Jones) while holding his bold ensemble up to the task of making his dreams into realities.

For instance, the doom-tronic Spaghetti Western “The World Will Never Know” features Morricone students of sound Martin Wenk and John Convertino of Calexico to bolster Khan’s own sundown melodies. Wenk and Convertino stick around for many of Khan’s cinematic mood shifts here—dub Kind of Blue Miles moments where Khan plays spook-house organ, Mothers of Invention–like soul heavy on the wah-wah, pastoral jazzy ballads so mossy your ears are dirtied; each coming on like a too-brief dream where every possible weirdly vivid imagining is ready to become clear when, pow, you awaken. Only two prior mostly instrumental albums have captured that clammy brand of feature-film dream expressionism that King Khan holds dear: Barry Adamson’s Moss Side Story and Startled Insects’ Curse of the Pheromones.

What Khan has going for him, on tracks such as “Wait Till the Stars Burn,” “Tribute to the Pharoah’s Den,” and “Theme of Yahya” is the very real feel for the beautiful noise—the open-ended, avant-carnival jazz—of Sun Ra and his Arkestra. Khan appropriates that loop-de-loop gloriously and dramatically, with saxophonists Marshall Allen and Knoel Scott (of the Sun Ra Arkestra) on the first two tracks, and in the prayer-pushed spirit of Arkestra member Yahya El Majid on the latter with “four harps panned in stereo to form a sonic flower” in tribute.

If you’re truly going to go to space, best to bring a few real astronauts along for the ride, and to have a flight simulator such as Khan imagining the scope of the spheres.

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