When Carl Sagan pondered the possibility of life elsewhere in the solar system, he conjured up creatures such as hot-air-balloon-sized flying jellyfish that would float through Jupiter’s blistering atmosphere propelled by their own sulfurous discharges.
Sun Ra operates on a similar wavelength, often attempting to re-create what musical instruments might sound like on other worlds. “Lanquidity,” released in 1978, is the most repeatedly listenable Ra album I’ve yet to come across (the title track for 1965’s “The Magic City,” for instance, sounds much like a construction site hooked up to a loudspeaker) and one that easily holds its own beside Pharaoh Sanders’ “Karma” and Sonny Sharrock’s “Ask the Ages.”
The meandering Hammond, buzzing bassoon, muted guitar chugs, precariously perched bass notes, itchy drums, strangled oboe, and occasional whale-speak and duck-honk effects give the set a malleable, dreamy complexion.
It’s a barely controlled chaos best displayed on the title track, slippery woodwinds (bassoon, oboe, clarinet) playing leapfrog with Ra’s brimming, bubbling palette of synth, Moog, bells, organ and piano.
It feels like some primordial form of funk — or fusion in disrepair. The song even closes with an oboe melody identical to one, albeit synthesized, heard throughout Pink Floyd’s “On the Run,” off “Dark Side of the Moon (1973).” I have to think it was an intentional tip of the hat by the Birmingham, Ala.,-born jazz composer to his more rock-oriented space-dwelling brethren on the other side of the pond.