THEEsatisfaction - EarthEE - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

THEEsatisfaction - EarthEE

by Hayden Harman Rating:7 Release Date:2015-02-23

Black spiritual music in America has always dealt with the other-worldly. From fervent gospel hymns praising heaven to Sun Ra’s Space is the Place to George Clinton’s planetary funk, imagining a futuristic world far more advanced than our own seems to be a common theme that has trickled down into evolving musical styles. Perhaps it’s a natural way to escape the hardships and injustices of the present, from Jim Crow laws to the fight for Civil Rights to the contemporary struggle of ending police violence. In regards to the latter, THEESatisfaction’s second album EarthEE seems to have come out at the opportune moment, right on the heels of a particularly brutal year of police violence towards blacks.

The R&B/hip-hop duo’s 2012

for 'QueenS' was a reminder to the cyber-world that grunge isn’t the only thing to come from Sub Pop or Seattle. That song’s infectious groove (that you better not funk with) mixed with the couture in the video brought to mind the style of forward-thinking black female artists like Alice Coltrane and more recent voices like Erykah Badu and Janelle Monáe. But sonically, THEESatisfaction owe their biggest debt to frequent collaborators Shabazz Palaces (who also appear on this album), with whom they share the same label and overall spiritual/mysterious hip-hop vibe.

EarthEE starts off like the bulk of last year’s Shabazz Palaces release, with the first two songs essentially serving as sketches that introduce the listener to the duo's futuristic vision. Right away you can tell this is forward-thinking music. The beats and electronic keyboard swashes recall the spiritual jazz moods of the 1960s and 70s, but in a spaced-out, contemporary hip-hop form.

'Planet for Sale' is the first clear indication that this duo is concerned with leaving the sounds and restraints of this earth to move into the unseen cosmos. They sing on that track, “You need to reach out to know/ or stay and stand still waiting to be sold/ Your future, waiting to be sold.” That seems to be the invitation for the rest of the album: to have the listener reach out by looking deeper within, to the place where the new world resides.

But to reach that internal nirvana is difficult and requires hard work. They might dress like Egyptian queens from another planet on the cover, but they are incredibly grounded in Earth-life, which the album’s title implies. On 'WerQ', they sing: “You hope to change/ but you stay mundane/ Sunday to Monday/ keep saying one day.”

Throughout the album they offer sex, basic human relationships and community as possible solutions to transcend the humdrum of Earth-life, without ever relying on any one of those options completely. That indecisive quality is reflected in the music, which is constantly modulating and shifting into new moods and sonic territories.

As a whole, EarthEE feels like a party that you only experience by looking through a window at all the people having fun. During standout tracks like 'Blandland' and 'Recognition', you feel like you’re close to entering the party. But the album never fully invites you into the heart of the party or completely immerses you in a new world.

However, as an outside observer, it still makes for a fascinating listening experience. Clearly what THEESatisfaction are doing is part of the revolution, but they are just doing it their own way and at their own pace. Maybe Earth just isn’t capable of fully appreciating it right now. Only time will tell.

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