Hailing from the United Kingdom, the youth-oriented ensemble the Heliocentrics are hard to pigeonhole, though some have dubbed them a contemporary acid jazz band. Led by drummer Malcolm Catto, the band straddles hip-hop, funk, modern creative jazz, soundtracks, library music, psychedelic electronica, and world musics. They acknowledge as influences James Brown, Elvin Jones, David Axelrod, Sun Ra, Ennio Morricone, Stark Reality, and Joyride. Madlib and Yesterday's New Quintet have prominently used Catto's drumming and sampled sounds. The full nonet includes Catto on drums and piano; Jake Ferguson on bass and Thai guitar; Mike Burnham on modular synthesizers and effects; Jack Yglesias on flute, percussion, and santur; Adrian Owusu on guitars, oud, and percussion; James Arben on clarinet and tenor and baritone saxophones; Ray Carless on alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones; Max Weissenfeldt on vibes and percussion; and Khadijatou Silcott-Fraser (K2 Wordplay) on vocals. The Heliocentrics have backed DJ Shadow, Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke, and American poet/activist Melvin Van Peebles.
The group first appeared on wax in 2005, with the release of the Nico-sampling "Winter Song" 7" on Jazzman. After contributing to DJ Shadow's 2006 album The Outsider, the Heliocentrics signed to Stones Throw subsidiary Now & Again Records and released their debut album, Out There, in 2007, along with a few 12" singles. "Before I Die," featuring Guilty Simpson, appeared that year, while "Distant Star" (with Percee P and DOOM) and "Sirius B" (with Vast Aire) followed in 2008. Strut released Inspiration Information, the group's collaboration with Astatke, in 2009, and Fallen Angels: The Singles Collection was issued in Japan later in the year. Lloyd Miller & the Heliocentrics, their collaboration with multi-instrumentalist and Middle Eastern jazz innovator Dr. Lloyd Miller, appeared on Strut in 2010.
They didn't issue another recording until 2013, when they re-emerged with 13 Degrees of Reality, The Quatermass Sessions, Vol. 1, and Helio x GLK (with the Gaslamp Killer), all on Now-Again. Two collaborative LPs appeared in 2014: Jaiyede Afro with Orlando Julius (on Strut) and The Last Transmission with Van Peebles (on Now-Again). From the Deep appeared on vinyl in February of 2016; the album's CD issue also contained the tracks from The Quatermass Sessions, Vol. 1. The Heliocentrics did a slew of touring and collaborative work -- collectively and separately -- before embarking on a new phase in their musical journey. Upon reentering the studio, the band turned its free-flowing, beat-based focus toward a future brand of psychedelic rock. To that end, they enlisted Slovakian vocalist/actress/dancer Barbora Patkova, who shared the same improvisational aesthetic as the Heliocentrics. The end result was 2017's critically acclaimed A World of Masks. A month later, their original score and soundtrack for Cosmo Feilding-Mellen's The Sunshine Makers (a documentary about LSD evangelists/ manufacturers Nicholas Sand and Tim Scully) appeared from Soundway. ~ Michael G. Nastos & Thom Jurek