Sacred Places – Dope Sagittarius (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Even though Define Love signalled that the album to follow from New York’s Dope Sagittarius was going to be a wonderfully eclectic affair, few could have predicted such a sweet and sophisticated set of songs. But then again with a playwright father and folk singer mother and as a teen punk-funkster who spent his formative years opening shows for the likes of 24-7 Spyz and Fishbone, the writing was on the wall for all to see that Luqman Brown was going to deliver something a bit special.

Sacred Places is a love letter to life in New York or as the instigator and driving force of the band puts it, an ode to “hard times, staying alive, and taking the time to have a good brunch along the way.”  And sonically it is as eclectic as the city that it is trying to describe, a blend of hip-hop hustle and funky freneticism, sonic avant-gardening and alt-pop poise, reggae groove and jazz moves.

It runs from the funky-soul of Brunching With Bitches to the Prince-esque majesty of Hate Us, the celestial sounds of Laronda to the blistering bluesy rock of Sharpest Claws. There are moments of strange and scattered sonics such as the wild and weird sound of Black Empress and also the more conventional rhythms of the title track. But even when pushing the boundaries, Dope Sagittarius seem to make perfect sense, knowing exactly how far to go with their sonic experiments. Far enough that the listener understands that they are in new musical territory but stopping just the right side of confusing and confounding their audience.

And that is exactly where bands should position themselves. Stay too close to normality and you can only be mere conformists and copyists, clinging to comfort zones and convention. Go too far out and your creations can alienate and annoy all but the most adventurous pairs of ears. Bands, if they want to stand out and bring something new to the table should aim for that slim and sought after creative zone between. If and when they find their way to that sonic sweet spot, they will find Dope Sagittarius there waiting for them.

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