Eighteenth Street Release date: 08/06/09 Website: Ancient Astronauts Myspace Buy: Amazon The name ‘Ancient Astronauts’ is a curious juxtaposition, an oxymoron even, evoking as it does the dreamy future and the mystery of the past. It is a perfect accompaniment to an album as downtempo as it is eclectic, as melodic and ambient as it is hip-hop. The range of sounds, of moods and grooves on We Are To Answer is really quite staggering. I’m not talking about massive water changes, like cross-genre straddling madness, just a fantastic ear for shifts in dynamic and hooks. Vocals are used incredibly sparingly, often passed over for entire tracks (sometimes at a time) to focus on the heady break-beats and swirls of ambience. The track openings are also almost uniformly dramatic, hinting at greatness with effortless ease. When the female vocals enter sultrily on ‘A Hole To Swallow Us’ the album hits a definite peak worthy of the band name; spacy, soulful and brilliant. Hip hop production melds with old-skool funk and dub-step elements and the result is consistently compelling, despite the generally relaxed pace. There are points when the flow threatens to stagnate, the loops and wistful samples becoming if anything too soporific, but cleverly written and well executed rap rapidly snaps you from your reverie. Then, the eastern sounds are introduced, sparse sitar notes punctuating a truly mesmerising soundscape on ‘Lost in Marrakesh’. Two tracks later and ‘Everybody‘ has introduced brass, plenty of wah and massive (dare I say phat?) bass. Ancient Astronauts are, as their Myspace so eloquently sums up, ‘Kabanjak and Dogu hailing from Cologne, Germany . . .via outer space!’. As a huge but generally quite ignorant hip-hop fan, I’ve yet to encounter great German hip-hop, but I can rest easy now. With the ambience of TM Juke, the beats and vision of Deltron 3030 and occasional moments of inspiration echoing Subtle, you’d be forgiven for concluding that Ancient Astronauts are derivative as opposed to going boldly where no man has gone before. They are however, much more akin to Borg, assimilating whatever sounds good for their own nefarious ends; and by golly do those ends justify the means. Rating: 8/10