Acoustic Sounds

André 3000

New Blue Sun



New Blue Sun André 3000

Label: Epic

Produced By: André 3000 and Carlos Niño

Engineered By: Ken Oriole

Mastered By: Andy Krawitz

Lacquers Cut By: Wes Garland (tracks A, B), Nashville Record Productions

By: Jan Omdahl

April 17th, 2024



André 3000’s Long, Strange Trip of Flute Discovery is Dopalicious in Triple LP Version

"New Blue Sun" offers Time Out of Mind.

You probably know the story by now: True Rap Genius picks up flute, becomes viral phenomenon playing it in public, goes solo with ambient instrumental album that proves he wasn’t just fooling around. Or, rather: that he was fooling around for real.

New Blue Sun, released digitally in November last year and after a delay of a few months, out now as a triple vinyl set, spearheads one of the more radical creative departures taken by a major artist in recent memory. It didn’t come entirely out of the blue, though: With his collaboration with partner Big Boi in Outkast on seemingly indefinite hiatus, signs that 3000 (real name André Benjamin) was exploring entirely new directions started appearing back in 2018, with several tracks appearing online featuring him on bass clarinet and James Blake on piano. One track, "Where’s The Catch?" even made it to Blake’s 2019 Assume Form album.

With its strict “no bars” policy proudly displayed as a timely consumer warning sticker on the shrink wrap and back cover, New Blue Sun doesn’t just contain no rapping, it is almost completely devoid of melody, groove or compositional structure in the convenitional sense. Instead you get slowly and organically evolving soundscapes, largely improvised and recorded live in the studio, ebbing and flowing with some repeating themes and intertwining structures. The music is rich, complex, soothing, with what feels like an intuitive mix of inspiration from various folk music tonalities. Other stylistic points of reference are ambient music, so-called new age, spiritual jazz and myriad forms of “world music” and its modern hybrids. If you follow a line through the musical space-time continuum from Alice Coltrane to Brian Eno, you might encounter André 3000 swaying somewhere on that line, whistling his tunes like a trippy, little songbird. 

André 3000He is perhaps reinventing himself more than he is reinventing music. Still, the result feels genuinely original. There is something about 3000s exploratory, almost hesitant playing as a self taught flutist, the chemistry between him and his collaborators, the richness of the tapestry, the openness of expression, the sense of improvisation based in curious discovery rather than technical virtuosity, that gives the music a feel all its own.

If the term "new age" gives you hives, I hasten to add that this feels much more like timeless tribal music, or some form of analog electronica, or even like a slow-moving lava flow of free jazz, than like something you'd encounter in facial yoga class.

The long and perhaps somewhat contrived song titles tell their own stories though wordplay, as on the opening track: “I Swear, I Really Wanted To Make A "Rap" Album But This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time”. 3000 plays cedarwood flutes made by the flute maker Guillermo Martinez, in addition to his frequent use of a Digital Wind Instrument. In earlier incarnations this was known as an Electronic Wind Instrument, or EWI, taken to great creative heights in the 1980s and beyond by the late Michael Brecker, among others. The make and model isn’t mentioned, but it appears to be a Roland Aerophone Pro AE-30. In interviews, 3000 has stated that what we hear is literally the sound of him exploring the instrument for the very first time, twenty minutes after it was taken out of the box, discovering the possibilities “like a child seeing bubble for the first time”. 

The first two of three LPs are the best; it seems like the group is slowly running out of ideas towards the end. The album, recorded at Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La studio in Los Angeles, is billed as a solo album, but seems very much a group effort. Composer, producer and percussionist Carlos Niño is a key collaborator and co-producer, helping 3000 find direction for the project. Other key figures from the L.A. new jazz and experimental music scene include keyboardist Surya Botofasina, who studied with Alice Coltrane, as well as guitarist Nate Nercerau, drummer Deantoni Parks, and vocalist Mia Doi Todd.. The list of collaborators goes on. 

The vibe is kind of trippy, even druggy, most explicitly on “That Night In Hawaii When I Turned Into A Panther And Started Making These Low Register Purring Tones That I Couldn't Control ... Sh¥t Was Wild”. The slowly flowing, flute- and percussion-driven track, complete with 3000 making hissing panther noises, evokes his experience with the South American psychoactive brew ayahuasca during a ceremony in Hawaii.  As a listener, you're very much tempted to bring out your own intoxicant of choice.

André 3000Photo: André 3000's Instagram

New Blue Sun is also something of a sonic trip. Not in the audiophile "bells and whistles" or soundstage pinpointing sense, but rather rich, enveloping, lush, warm, dreamlike, with sporadic bursts of low frequency sound best heard on a full range system. Rarely does the term “organic” feel more pertinent, even though electronic sound plays a key role.

The album comes with a copy of a hand-written letter from the artist, outlining how he wishes the listener to experience the music ” real stereo. We recommend a left/right speaker configuration or headphones for optimal representation of all the sounds. We suggest playing at a low to mid volume in a quiet, no distraction interior space or in nature.” 

Records were flat and mostly quiet, although two of six sides on my copy had a bit of crackling noise on the first tracks that thorough cleaning on my Audio Desk Pro couldn’t get rid of. Hardly ideal on this kind of music. I know opinions are divided on the issue, but I don’t hear this particular kind of pressing artifacts on any of my old records. 

The records come in a matte white cardboard non-gatefold cover. Inner sleeves are in thick white paper, with small hand drawn illustrations. I dug the illustrations, but rued the lack of protective lining. A collection of postcards with lovely illustrations by the artist, and a poster, was also enclosed. 

André 3000In August, André 3000 will bring his flutes to the excellent Øya festival here in Oslo, Norway. It goes without saying that it will be a strictly no bars event. I’ll be out there in the green, purring like a panther, not shouting for “SpottieOttieDopalicious”.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: 19658814751

Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 180 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Presentation: Multi LP