by Gargs Allard

Music Review: Beyond the Maze [EP]/Astronauts of Antiquity

Beyond the Maze, the new six-song EP from the New York and LA-based electro-pop/hip-hop band, The Astronauts of Antiquity (AOA), is a meticulously produced record that engages the senses from all sides, while lifting the mind and intelligence to higher consciousness, or beyond the maze, if you will.

The talented trio of India Weinberg (vocals), her husband B. Rhyan (aka Bradd Weinberg on guitars), and Ivica Simatovic (keyboards), are joined by Peter Antunes on the drums and a slew of other professional musicians throughout the EP to create a bright, effervescent musical atmosphere, which sounds like you’re discovering another dimension. Los Angeles-based hip hop artist Deploi raps on three of the tracks with gusto.

The opening track, “Paradise,” a song about the poisoning of our food supply and environment by greedy corporations, starts off by offering up a sarcastic slice of paradise from the Franken-veggie plate of the GMO champion of the world, Monsanto, who, according to the song, is the antithesis of the earth-darling corporation they want you to think they are. India’s mocking utterance of “Paradise, I wanna slice/ please play nice – but that’s not how this game goes” fits well in tandem with Deploi’s all-out assault on how the corporation nation state has blindsided the consumer public. In a shout out to the forgotten victims of factory farms, Deploi calls for the education of human beings from a tender age with the statement “‘Animal Farm,’ by [George] Orwell, should be mandatory reading.” Then he asks, “What’s on that plate you eating? Do you really know? Even when you think you do, it’s like a magic show.”

While India’s “We know what’s good for you folks” is chilling satire, her, “I want to see, I want to see every boy and girl, breathing clean, running free in a beautiful world,” is a heartfelt refrain that all concerned parents on the planet can certainly identify with.

“Lift me Up” is a contagious, rapid number that makes you feel better and better in spirit as the song progresses. The tune commences with Deploi’s oppressed declaration of bondage, but as he and India trade lead vocals, it turns into a lighter and more hopeful vibe. India does a little rapping of her own here, which appears to be a respectful nod to “Rapture” from Deborah Harry of Blondie.

The second single on the record, “Future Back,” whose video is due to drop on September 16, is perhaps the best song on the EP. It starts by declaring, in back to the future fashion, “I want my future back – I need a love, a love attack” in a robotic voice, which seems to want to incite the sincere listener to become more human again. The lyrics are beautifully poetic, and India does a stellar job of expressing the universal need for every individual to love and be loved: “Wanna fall in love/Kiss in the rain/Dance the whole night/Watch the sun rise/If I trip on my feet, I’ll laugh at myself/Call a friend who needs me/Do you see what I see?/Do it all for love/Never look back/Do it all for love.” At the same time, she shows how difficult this can be in a world wrought with fear: “I want my future back/I need a love, love attack/I’m spooked by nukes and kooks/Fallout from the radiation/It ‘s the treason of reason/Isn’t life for celebration?/I want my future back.”

“Recover” is an elegant sojourn of song about recovery from addiction to things with painful consequences in the material world, as well as unearthing one’s real identity, which is innate within all of us. India harmonically hums and sings, “I don’t want to disappoint you/I want you to be proud/Got no impulse control/The candy man told me so/Recover my soul.” Bradd’s short but sweet guitar riffs and Ivica’s resplendent dashing of keys make you feel as if you’re floating in space while the hope of being rescued from your plight still remains. In contrast to India’s soft singing, Deploi manages to convey the same helpless yet determined emotions with a style that’s more akin to a rhythmic punch in the nose,  “An old burn out is all it seems I amount to/About to get my shovel & dig my way out…Way out.” The two work well together.

“Love Child” is about the marital infidelity that leads to bringing life into the world out of wedlock. It’s about good people doing forbidden things because society’s morals and one’s natural tendencies in certain compromised circumstances don’t always align. The lyrics, “Love child – Tell me who’s your daddy” would be a shocking and cruel question to ask a child to his or her face, but it really works on a rhetorical level in this song.

The last track on the EP, “God is a Musician,” is about the Supreme as the divine artist, synchronizer and muse. Following in the footsteps of George Harrison, who once had the words “God” and “bullshit” in the same stanza, AOA here manages to join the club of very few members who can dare to mention the word “God” in a positive light without sounding preachy or sectarian in a pop song. The lyrics, “God is a musician/I heard his song today/Though I’m no technician/Man that cat can play” really underscore this by referring to God a cool “cat.” The tune is a true expression of the wonders of the world, whether you see nature as the naturalist does, or believe that there is a being of unlimited intelligence behind the seen and unseen worlds. Stan Slotter’s trumpet and flute adds to the song’s mystique.

Throughout the EP, the guitars, keyboards and drums (with only a bass guitar being played in the opening song) create a tantalizing soundscape that makes this record multi-layered and will have the listener going back again and again to discover added nuances.

With songs like “Paradise” and “Future Back,” Beyond the Maze addresses the evil we all have to face in the outside world, like greedy corporations who, to quote George Harrison again (AOA thanks him in the liner notes), want to “reduce this planet into hell, then find a buyer and make quick sale.” While doing this, songs like “Lift,” “Recover,” and “Love Child,”  also manage to address the demons of our inner worlds that we all also have to struggle with on a daily basis.

AOA has managed to record a stimulating collective of pop, rock, electronica and hip hop without sounding derived.

The musicianship is sharp, experimental and even pioneering. The female/male vocals are synergistic and dynamic, the lyrics thoughtful and inspiring, and the production is detailed to perfection without sounding overly posh.

These deft astronauts have exquisitely crafted songs that can be hits today without losing their integrity and that also should endure the test of time.

Although the EP is not set for a release until early January 2017 on their own label Revcon Records, Beyond the Maze will make the thoughtful person who loves music, a nice late Christmas present. Unless, of course, they get picked up by a bigger label, which will mean a full-blown LP a little further down the road.

Purchase the single “Paradise” here on iTunes.
The second single, “Future Back,” will be available for purchase on September 9.

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