Thursday, July 16, 2009

CD Review: We Are To Answer by Ancient Astronauts

After spending years remixing for others, German duo Ancient Astronauts have dropped their debut album We Are To Answer. Featuring hip-hop tracks alongside songs from other genres, this album has a surprising amount of variety that will appeal to hip-hop and non-hip-hop fans alike.

A mix of vocal tracks and instrumentals make up the 13 tracks of We Are To Answer. "I Came Running" is the first real song on the album and it's a dark, somewhat enigmatic instrumental. Moody vocal samples and keyboards help set the tone. While it is a very good song in its own right, it also feels like it could be the perfect backdrop for the right rapper.

"Everybody," another instrumental that appears later on the album, is almost the complete opposite of "I Came Running." It's an upbeat and funky crowd-pleaser. The drums are quite forceful here and the use of other types of percussion liven things up. The pace is quicker and less deliberate. The song floats by so quickly, you'll be surprised when it ends.

The first vocal track on We Are To Answer is "Classic" and this song very nearly lives up to its title. Imani and Bootie Brown of legendary hip-hop group The Pharcyde appear on the track, which is one of the best moments on the album. A great beat and well-timed scratches courtesy of DJ Icewater make this song instantly appealing, especially to fans of the earlier days of hip-hop. Raashan Ahmad of Crown City Rockers appears on the album's other standout vocal hip-hop track, "Risin High." The rather low-key beat lets Ahmad's lyrical gifts shine easily.

There is more than hip-hop to be found on We Are To Answer as Ancient Astronauts dabble in other genres. The instrumental "Dark Green Rod" is a drum and bass song benefited by Ulf Stricker's live drums. Two vocal tracks feature reggae sounds. The better of the two is "All of The Things You Do," featuring Tippa Irie. It's a fun, catchy track with a deeper message than you expect. Another instrumental track, "Lost in Marrakesh," has a smooth world music sound reminiscent of Thievery Corporation.

Kabanjak and Dogu, the members of Ancient Astronauts, have created something that will appeal to hip-hop fans and beyond in We Are To Answer. The duo's ease in shifting from hip-hop to reggae to electronic music in the short span of this album is quite remarkable. Works like this can often have a disjointed feel that can frustrate listeners. Even with a couple of missteps, that feeling is nowhere to be found here. We Are To Answer is an immensely enjoyable album and further proof of hip-hop's global reach.

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