Dope Sagittarius – Sacred Places

photo by Jana Jeroz

This past May saw the release of Sacred Places, the long-time coming album from NYC’s Dope Sagittarius. It is a release which, on first listen, certainly fascinated and pleasured if without excitable tendencies but the seeds were sown. It had laid lures which came to the surface time and time again, moments which sprung in the memory so that the next reunion with it was like an old friend for ears and the start of a growing captivation for a collection of mischievously unpredictable and rousing encounters.

Dope Sagittarius is a band formed by Harlem-based Luqman Brown, renowned for New York punk funksters FunkFace. The band similarly has punk funk tendencies but woven in with just as rich essences of avant-garde pop-rock and funk with further flavours rising up. Influences to their sound are cited as including the likes of Bobby Womack, George Clinton, David Lee Roth, The Bad Brains, Fishbone and Ronny Drayton and as proven by Sacred Places, it is a mix of unpredictability and imagination dealt with mischievous enterprise and a provocative hand which at times challenges as much as it rousingly incites.

Sacred Places itself was slated for a 2017 release but stopped in its tracks when Luqman suffered a stroke. His subsequent time having to learn to speak and walk again was followed by heart surgery in 2019 which in turn obviously needed more time to recuperate and gain the strength to pursue his musical passion and push forth the album. Recovered he thankfully has and Sacred Places has been unleashed upon a world in turmoil and needing the kind of fun, adventure and messages that it brings.

Alive kicks the party off, the song a funk sprung stroll with swinging rhythmic hips and a melodic jangle that teases swaying bodies. Unapologetically virulent from its first breath, the track is pure temptation leaving bodies still animated past its departure; the kind of infection you can only devour and pray for more of.

The irresistible start is more than backed up by Sacred Place and its reggae infused amble. From compelling bassline to shimmering melody and vocal intimation, the track proved thickly mesmeric and just as manipulative. It too has a swing which infests the listener, commanding matching and controlled but eager manoeuvres as it converses with thoughts.

Brunchin with Bitches is one of the tracks which maybe took longer to persuade in lyrical and musical tempting, though that element of mischief in the band’s enterprise soon drove attention while Define Love within its smoky jazz lit atmosphere took far less time to seduce thick curiosity and pleasure. There is a touch of The Veldt to the song and a fusion of hues and texture in vocals which alone captivated.

Though as mentioned set for release four years ago, so many moments just fit with current times and issues, next up Black Empress a potent addition to the call of the Black Lives Matter movement. Featuring the voracious style of Paris-based hip-hop legend/wordsmith/rap pioneer Mike Ladd and the glorious senses challenging hues of violinist Mazz Swift (Whitney Houston, Valerie June), the track is a tempestuous and spirited slice of electro hip-hop incitement which challenges and arouses in equal measure.

The outstanding Hate Us follows, an infectious stroll nurtured in electro pop and dipped in melodic punk voracity. Everything about it proved addictive, the flames of brass alone that it squirts out delicious and the vocal incitement it brought to bear inescapable provocation upon on one’s own thoughts and eager throats before the Quitting Time with its blues tempered fiery rock ‘n’ roll captured its own meaty slice of the imagination.

The gentle and romantic call of LaRonda provided a calm and rich temptation easily embraced while Break It Down immediately after strode forth to incite energy in feet and bodies with its pop rock saunter. Both songs hit the spot with gathering fertility by the listen though outshone by our favourite track of the album. Southern rock and punk collude with the band’s inherent funkiness in the fire born Sharpest Claws, the track akin to a fusion of Eagles Of Death Metal and Rick James and a rousing furnace upon the senses.

Concluding with Brunchin with Missess, a sister saunter to the earlier track, Sacred Places is fascinating and a fanfare of feel good sounds. Additionally featuring contributions by such artists as Ronny Drayton, Corey Glover, Marc Cary, Roy Radics, and Micah Gaugh, and coming with a copy of the comic book Dope Sagittarius In the Bumbaclout Strain, which was written by Luqman Brown with artwork by Tim Smith III, this is a must exploration for all funksters with a tendency for the unpredictable and wonderfully aberrant. 

Sacred Places is out now through the band’s own imprint Buddhabug Records; available on vinyl and digitally on Apple Music and Spotify and @ https://dopesagittarius.bandcamp.com/

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Pete RingMaster 25/06/2021

Copyright RingMaster Review

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