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Review: The Jet Age of Tomorrow – Journey to the 5th Echelon (Odd Future)

By Behold the Destroyer, 01/10/2011 - 5:00pm
The Jet Age of Tomorrow - Journey to the 5th Echelon (2010) [Odd Future] // Grade: B One of the unifying properties that's tied together all of the Odd Future releases so far is their abrasiveness. On most of their songs they use a dual attack of hyperactive and unsettling beats paired with equally disturbing vocals. Think of Earl's perfectly calm and detached, thousand yard stare, serial killer fantasy delivery on Earl and the bass and distortion collage called a beat he rapped over. Even on the more sedate albums of their oeuvre, like Domo Genesis' Rolling Papers – definitively a smoker's album – there's still a palpable sense of menace lurking in the hazy atmosphere surrounding the music. This continuing and defining trend of implied violence makes the albums from The Jet Age of Tomorrow (in-house producers for OF) particularly atypical. Amongst a crew of thematic marauders, plunderers and killer where exactly does a group of tripped out intergalactic space travelers fit in? The Journey to the 5th Echelon's sound is somewhere close to the music that would be produced by a culture of sentient alien creatures who were raised on nothing but mid 00's Neptunes productions, Sa-Ra Creative Partners' instrumentals and the more acid jazz leaning section of Madlib's body of work. Locked away on an ark like space ship with copies of In Search of… and Miles Away, they'd spend generations perfecting the art of creating simple yet memorable hooks from stock sounds on synthesizers, while garnering inspiration from dwarf stars and nebulae they saw out the windows. "Wonderland" sounds exactly like this, it's blatantly spacey but at the same time has just a bit of four on the floor to it to make it danceable. It's totally the intro song for an as yet unmade MTV remake of Carl Sagan's The Cosmos series – but instead of Carl Sagan it'll be Pharrell because he's the self appointed "Black Carl Sagan." "Protozoa" is the type of light funk experience with vocal distortion that would retroactively serve as a perfect interlude in a Parliament Funk disc, except in that context it'd have to be titled something decidedly more over the top like "Electronic Baby Butt Funk." In the same vein, "Burfday" is maybe the best song about all the things you can do on your 18th birthday – buy porn and go to the stripclub. Its a quick and light song that should appear on a new season of My Super Sweet 16, hopefully The Jet Age could preform it in some nice powder blue tuxedos with some easy choreographed dance moves. The standout tracks of the album are the ones where they get vocals on the tracks that manage to get the same level of airiness and spaceyness as the music does. "The Finer Things" featuring Om'Mas from Sa-Ra actually surpasses a couple of Sa-Ra's actual songs as far as sounding like it was created by those black aliens that created the pyramids.*  That's pretty impressive considering I'm pretty sure that Sa-Ra's mission statement is – "make black alien music." Om'Mas really brings in that rambling singing style that sounds perfect over Detroit influenced funk beats. Over the Jet Age's interpolation of that style, which brings in more synth, the song gets so light it pretty much levitates – but it's the slow levitation that makes you smile as it happens, like a kid being lifted into the air by a grip of red balloons in an old Disney cartoon. "Welcome Home Son" features Casey Veggies, who should work exclusively with The Jet Age because his style of breezy nondescript swag rapping sounds entirely at home over their "bumping ever so gently" space funk. Tyler, The Creator also drops in for a verse, and through production or him modulating his voice and flow he for a change doesn't sound entirely like the creepy dude who draws X's over the eyes of all the kids he hates in his yearbook. Surprisingly, that works. To go back to the initial question of where The Jet Age fits in amongst the rest of the Odd Future works, after listening to 5th Echelon it's pretty easy to pickup their signature touches in the various OF albums. However, in those albums they're filtered into a darker place and stripped of their super spacey peculiarities. In their darker OF compositions you still get the feeling of space travel. While The Jet Age songs sound like they come from a Utopian peaceful alien society (like the black aliens that built the pyramids) the stuff they've done for Odd Future otherwise has the horrors of space built into it. Its more about the dread you'd feel on a long lonely space mission and serves as a great soundtrack to random acts of violence brought on by space madness. Thankfully, The Jet Age are prepared to give us music that supplements both points of view. *What you didn't know black aliens created the pyramids?  A lot of heads will just tell you it was aliens, and history books will say it was just the Egyptians, but as we all know the real history lies somewhere in the middle. That middle would be black aliens who had knowledge of advanced mathematics and advanced synth-based funk. Early, knowledge jewel for Black History month right there. Spread the word y'all. Download The Jet Age of Tomorrow - Journey to the 5th Echelon (Click Here)
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