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The Spirit Of Apollo

LA producers bond over Sao Paolo funk.

Rating: 8 / 10

Paul Nolan, 05 Mar 2009

N.A.S.A. is the brainchild of LA-based producers Squeak E. Clean (Sam Spiegel) and DJ Zegon (Ze Gonzales), who met five-and-half years ago in Sao Paolo and bonded over their mutual love for rare Brazilian funk and soul records. The duo decided to work on a project that would incorporate artists from across a vast array of musical genres, and The Spirit Of Apollo represents the fruit of their labours.

Spiegel and Gonzales’ impeccable hipster credentials (the former is Spike Jonze’s brother, the latter a pro-skateboarder) have allowed them to recruit a dazzling array of collaborators. The cast of The Spirit Of Apollo ranges from contemporary indie luminaries (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Lovefoxx, Lykke Li), to alt.rock aristocrats (David Byrne, Tom Waits, John Frusciante), to hip-hop legends (Chuck D, RZA and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the latter singing on his last-known recorded track).

The Spirit Of Apollo has something of the feel of Gorillaz about it, although it probably lacks major hit singles of the type that made Damon Albarn’s project such a huge commercial success. Instead, the album is comprised of a collection of upbeat party tunes, each of which boasts a fascinating combination of artists. Two of the earliest tracks, ‘The People Tree’ and ‘Money’, find David Byrne sharing vocals with a variety of big-name rappers (including Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na and the aforementioned Chuck D), and both sound superb.

Another highlight is ‘Way Down’, a psych-tinged hip-hop number featuring the talents of RZA, Frusciante and Barbie Hatch, while ‘The Mayor’ (a four-way face-off between The Cool Kids, Ghostface Killah, Scarface and DJ AM), ensures that the album ends on a high note. The Spirit Of Apollo certainly isn’t without its problems – the uptempo grooves get a bit samey after a while and there’s a noticeable lull around the halfway point – but, overall, this particular space odyssey doesn’t disappoint.

Key Track: 'Way Down'

Rating: 8 / 10
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