Lacking any element of melody, unconventional producer Ras G’s newest offering kicks off with a beat that instead relies on a quickening pace, reaching a crescendo during its closing moments. Cymbal clashes and loud clanks reminiscent of pots and pans smashing together mesh with a thunderous drum roll and twinkling, mechanical shimmers. The explosive beginning track is as beastly as it is unpleasant… as if Ras wanted to prove that he could create sounds which evoke the imagery of a hard-hitting hurricane, or a warped crash. With a title like Back On The Planet, the latter option just might be a little more likely.
The Afrikan Space Program becomes clearer in focus and more tolerable musically on the following two records, “All Is Well…” and “CosMc Lounge Kisses” (in which Ras crafts an eerily entertaining electronic instrumentation of what seems to be giggling), only to be continued by the beginning moments of “Along The Way…”.
Not a fully developed song but rather an artistic attempt at composition, “Along The Way…” first consists of a gradual buildup; a slow-churning, dark instrumental integration that conjures a moving shot of an ominous ship drifting through an abundance of black nothingness before a change occurs. Just over a minute into the aforementioned fourth track, an overly repetitive, off-key, messy bridge is introduced. With each passing second of this new inclusion, Back On The Planet regresses back to its ambitious but ineffective introduction.
One can only imagine that a ride aboard a spaceship would mean encountering a fair share of intergalactic potholes, asteroids, and God knows what else, all of which making for a rather bumpy ride. During the Afrikan Space Program’s exploratory periods, head captain Ras G leads himself through the borderless, hazy, futuristic zones once occupied by his influencer Sun Ra, a jazz composer (among other titles) who never met a boundary he was afraid of testing. Following in Ra’s footsteps, Ras unmistakably strives to chase whatever he envisions, to be seen as a true original force behind the boards. The end result, though, is not always fruitful for him.
“OMMMMM” is a definitive moment of success on this album, as the West Coast producer seems to toss an assortment of goodies into a witch’s bubbling cauldron (one sound is similar to the creak of a swing moving back and forth, while another almost certainly belongs to an animal, perhaps a horse) that somehow yields a truly entertaining track. On the closing record “Jus There…”, the effects-modified narrator simply classifies the project as “ghetto sci-fi,” and a better classification for this project would be difficult to find.
Even when a song is questionable on Back On The Planet, Ras G’s novel experience provokes some important questions regarding the boundaries of musicality and the willingness of the listener to accept something that goes beyond “experimentation,” but it also raises concern and doubt. When is it okay to say that music is substandard because it varies from the norm (or even from the left of the norm), and when is it not? The space traveling producer flew by the realm of continually listenable and unearthly creation, opting instead for the very human lands of self-indulgence.