Sun Ra and His Arkestra: The Space Age Is Here To Stay

Sun Ra soars into space on his latest album.

Sun Ra and His Arkestra

The Space Age Is Here to Stay

Label: Modern Harmonic
Release Date: 2016

Not many jazz acts can be confused with Sun Ra and His Arkestra. From his Egyptian-style African garb to his obsession with space, Sun Ra managed to define Afrofuturism both culturally and musically. Tribal rhythms hid behind lyrics dealing with space, science, and the future; ancient mythologies merged with dystopian literary references; lyrics dealing with nuclear explosions and Mutually Assured Destruction are sung over jazz bass lines and horns. Taken individually, these topics have been discussed before, but no one other than Sun Ra has managed to combine jazz, science fiction, and ancient civilizations together, and made it all sound so good in the process.

This, in essence, is what The Space Age Is Here To Stay offers its audience. From the very first song, “Along Came Ra/The Living Myth”, Sun Ra utilizes religious lyricism and imagery to create a mythos around the album and him. It sounds ostentatious and pretentious at first, but the stripped back percussion and tribal chants ground the song in a way that makes the abstract concrete, the general more intimate. In this way, he delivers unto his listeners more than mere music; he’s giving them an opportunity for a musical and spiritual journey through the cosmos of sound.

Along this journey are a variety of musical and lyrical styles. “Back in Your Own Backyard” and “Round Midnight” are soft piano jazz ballads, while “Space Is the Place” and “Nuclear War (Live)” feel like acoustic jazz-rock. “This Song Is Dedicated to Nature’s God” stresses environmentalism, “Moorish Nights” deals with the possible extinction of black people and their culture, and “1984” is an ode to the popular George Orwell novel. These seem like distinct topics, but Sun Ra and his Arkestra manage to link these topics through science fiction. The Space Age Is Here to Stay does not deal with the past or present, even though it occasionally comments on them. Instead, its focus is the future, and how the concepts of race, class, gender, technology, and religion in the present will come to shape the future of mankind, for better and for worse.

Even if one were to disregard the lyrical content of the album, The Space Age Is Here to Stay is worth listening to simply for Sun Ra’s unique take on jazz music. Everything’s here, from horns to piano to bass, and the variety of singers give each song an inimitable flare. The music on this album was recorded at various times in Sun Ra’s career, starting in the fifties and ending in the eighties. While the time and experience do contribute to the dynamism of The Space Age Is Here to Stay, Ra’s own, freewheeling take on jazz is the one link to tie everything together and makes listening to the album enjoyable both musically and lyrically.

Sun Ra’s music has always been more than music; it’s an experience in every sense of the word. Just as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis blended 20th century cinema with science fiction and became a seminal work in film history, The Space Age Is Here to Stay combines 20th century musical genres with science fiction and hopefully will receive the same acclaim that Metropolis does in the years to come. It’s an album that showcases the best of the best in Sun Ra’s career, an hour and 17-minute-long epic that reveals the best (and worst) about humanity in the 20th century in a way that’s creative, accessible, and wholeheartedly rewarding. For that, it’s worth an hour of your time.





The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.


90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.


How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.


Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.