Pretty much a straight jazz album from Madlib - and quite possibly the best thing he has ever done.
As the title (of both the album and Madlib's 'band') suggest, "Miles Away" seems to be influenced by Miles Davis' post-Bop late '60s/early '70s "Electric" period. That said, it is definitely not "Bitches Brew", but rather a kaleidoscope of rhythms, sounds and textures reminiscent of artists such as Larry Young, Roy Ayers, Harry Whittaker ("Black Renaissance" - oh my word) and Pharoah Sanders from the same period. Maybe it's my imagination but I can also hear the spirit of Can's "Tago Mago" bouncing around in there too (check the Larry Young track).
Remarkably, as with his other excursions into jazz (e.g. as Yesterday's New Quintet) in reality there is no such band as The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble. Madlib is not just a Hip-Hop DJ and producer, he is also a talented multi-instrumentalist. These sounds are not samples of other people's music - all of it is created by one man in a studio with a bunch of instruments.
However, the really clever and original bit about "Miles Away" is that unlike "Bitches Brew", "Big Fun" or "On The Corner" (or even "Tago Mago") you won't find yourself having to sit through hours of experimental, improvised sound to experience their fleeting splashes of psychedelic pop genius. Applying his Hip-Hop principles, Madlib has stripped away the indulgent and impenetrable bits and spliced together all the peak elements - those rhythms, stabs and riffs, the bits which work for a hungry pop fan like myself - and created ten short tracks that deliver that radical Electric jazz sound without ever once disappearing down a musical cul-de-sac. For somebody who loves the idea behind "In A Silent Way" and "Dark Magus" but is usually far too impatient to listen to them in one sitting, this is a very beautiful thing. The result is joyful and infectious in a way that jazz rarely (or probably never) is. As if to underline the broader appeal this record may have, I was alerted to it after reading a gushing review by Paul Morley (Paul Morley!!) in The Observer.
Oh and, just as with some of Mile's '70s work, the cover art - the whole package in fact - is fantastic too!