Fists of Fury/The Space Travelers Lullaby Review
Kamasi Washington is slowly creating his own subgenre of jazz, and this is no more apparent than on his latest two singles, “Fists of Fury” and “The Space Travelers Lullaby”. Both are to appear on his newest album, Heaven and Earth, set to release on June 22. The double album is split up into two concepts, with the Earth disc revealing Washington’s feelings of living life in the material plane and the Heaven disc looks to reveal his feelings of living in the spiritual plane. This duality is present in the two singles he released for the album, “Fists of Fury” from Earth and “The Space Travelers Lullaby” from Heaven.
From the beginning notes of “Fists of Fury”, you can feel the protest seeping from the march-like progression he creates. The song’s strong funk feel, as well as the tonal call-back to kung fu movies and black power, make it feel like it could be from a really good blaxploitation film. However, this song feels and sounds like most of the other vocal tracks from Washington’s first major release, The Epic, in 2015. The song doesn’t really expand on anything he’s done in the past, and feels more trapped in a box. While the song is still fun to listen to, I wished he would’ve experimented more with a sound he’s already used to create something a little fresher.
On the flip side, “The Space Travelers Lullaby” is where I feel Washington has hit his stride in creating his own type of jazz. His use of large orchestration and choirs creates an almost ethereal, heavenly mood that as a listener you can’t help but get lost in. The song begins quiet and mysterious, floating along through a weightless space, and while the song does build in volume, it never loses this delicate, floating feeling. There were moments of this on Washington’s first full length release The Epic, as well as on the EP Harmony of Difference, which was released in September of last year. But on this track it feels like he’s reached a new creative high of what jazz can be outside of an improvisational setting.
Kamasi Washington’s mixing of string orchestras and choirs breathes fresh air into a period of jazz where musicians are delving further and further into electronic experimentation and improvisation. It’s refreshing to hear something that sounds organic both in composition and performance. While I feel “Fists of Fury” is a little too much like the other vocal tracks off of The Epic, what he creates with “The Space Travelers Lullaby” is something to be truly excited about. Earth and Heaven is set to release on June 22nd, and while I hope the Earth disc doesn’t sound like more of the same, I am eagerly waiting to see where Washington takes this new sound he’s been crafting on the Heaven disc.