Yes, this is a slice of great German hip hop.
Sophie Bruce 2009
''Germany what's happening?'' is a lyric rarely heard in hip hop. But it sits proudly on the atmospheric debut album from Cologne duo Ancient Astronauts. Yes, this is a slice of great German hip hop. You could even say fantastisch. So stop sniggering and enjoy it, okay?
In truth, hip hop's been alive and well in Germany for decades, and where Tic Tac Toe and Die Fantastischen Vier led the way in the 90s, Ancient Astronauts follow today. Kabanjak and Dogu are definitely kooky – their MySpace profile picture has them dressed up as a banana and a hat-wearing tiger.
They describe themselves as, ''a mash up of the distant past and far future'' and cite influences as far apart as Sigur Ros and Iggy Pop. That may explain why their self-mixed and produced debut is so eclectic. That… and their mass of collaborators – from hip hoppers The Pharcyde and Phat Old Mamas to reggae legend Tippa Irie.
There's some good stuff in the mix of hip hop, funk, down tempo, breakbeats and reggae. I Came Running has a classic old skool feel seeping into its lush twinkly melody. POM's gorgeous vocals simply make A Hole To Swallow Us. And Lost In Marrakesh transports you straight to that very country with its chimes and calls to prayer.
Funk odyssey Everybody and upbeat reggae stonker All of the Things You Do bring the party vibe up a few notches. And you owe it to yourself to check out Azeem's blistering politically-fuelled rap on Oblivion: ''they build more prisons than places for teachers/prostitute freedom, gave us fake leaders''.
Inevitably with experimental albums, there are some tracks that end up less then perfect. Chaotic drum and bass track Dark Green Rod sits out of sync with the rest of the disc. And while not horrible, Surfing The Silvatide is a weird mesh of reggae meets 4 Hero.
Ancient Astronauts have lavished care on the artwork - beautiful, dreamlike sketches of the pair in their spacesuits with turntables and guitars. Though by no means polished, the eclectic, individual tracks within come together as a whole greater than the sum of its parts. It's not an outright success but it's a very, very promising start which hints at a glittering future.