The Pyramids’ story is something of a jazz fairytale: having released a few cosmic private-press records in the late ’70s and travelled around Europe and Africa, their lynchpin, Idris Ackamoor, reformed the group earlier this decade with players old and new, to great acclaim.
An Angel Fell is their second proper album since The Pyramids rose again, and it successfully continues Ackamoor’s space-jazz mission – in the time of Kamasi Washington, Shabaka Hutchings and Esperanza Spalding, Ackamoor’s music strangely and suddenly feels very vital again.
Sun Ra’s influence is strong here, of course, but as usual The Pyramids also incorporate a heavy dose of Ghanaian frafra music into their mix. Message To My People might end in a free-jazz freak-out to rival Pharoah Sanders, but it’s over in 30 seconds: this is generally groove-based music, as the highlife funk of opener Tinoge demonstrates.
Ackamoor and his crew dabble in a variety of styles, so that these eight long, propulsive tracks never drag: the eight-and-a-half-minute title track, for example, is a circular chant that mixes analogue synth effects with minor-key organ and scraping violin, before syncopated drums, electric guitar and smokey sax propel the song to a reprise of the chant. Papyrus, meanwhile, is a little bit tiki, with a touch of John Barry cinematics, Soliloquy For Michael Brown pays tribute to the American shot by police in 2014, while Land Of Ra is interstellar, echoing dub, the group intoning: “We are children from the land of Ra/Travel space from star to star…”
Most hypnotic of all is Warrior Dance, an up-tempo, 11-minute track that combines almost drum’n’bass-style drums with an endlessly repeating two chords and layers of overdubs.
Ultimately, An Angel Fell is a worthy chapter in Ackamoor’s catalogue, and as funky, cosmic and fun as any of the younger musicians currently setting jazz alight.