Since audacious, multi-layered 2011 debut Black Up, he’s explored the outer reaches of the genre with smart production techniques and cosmic poetry. So it is with Diamond Dreams (even the title seems part psychedelic, part David Bowie) but some of it is sounding quite familiar these days.
The stand-outs are like George Clinton’s mothership remodelled for the 21st century, whereas before they seemed to be referencing Sun Ra. Think the cheekier, more self-aware side of Funkadelic, with the usual consciousness-raising flow.
Fast Learner, featuring guest Purple Tape Nate, even dips a toe into Frank Ocean, a nice and woozy stoner slow jam. Wet at times just feels parodic, a squiggly synth meditation. I couldn’t help but see Old Gregg and his watercolours.
The reverb heavy funk excursions are by far the best things here: the murky Ad Ventures and absolutely batshit brilliant Chocolate Souffle remind the listener what they do best: hypnotic, future hip-hop with intelligent vocal zingers.
Sadly, though, the dreaded vocoder is deployed more than is tolerable, like on the self-conscious Thanking The Girls. Surely, Butler knows they are better when he eschews the clichés of lesser artists?
It’s not vintage Shabazz then, but there are still enough diverting moments to return to. Space was always their place. Beam me up, Butler.