Every time organ master and keyboard virtuoso Robert Walter reconvenes his 20th Congress, he delves deeper and deeper into the wellspring of his most formative influences: hip-shaking vintage soul, window-rattling 60s- 70s funk, and the sounds of classic organ jazz. However, for his latest outing, Spacesuit (due September 21st on The Royal Potato Family), Walter switched his source of inspiration from digging through the crates to gazing speculatively skyward, imagining new worlds rather than emulating classic records. The results lose none of the explosive funk and soul grooves that Walter has become known for (whether leading his own bands, as a founding member of The Greyboy Allstars, or touring with Phish bassist Mike Gordon) and it takes those sounds into outer space, blending inspiration from science fiction movies, comic books and art with wide-ranging influences encompassing everything from Dub Reggae to Krautrock to early jazz-rock fusion. I wanted to break myself out of writing music about music, Walter says. I remember when I was a kid I loved all the mysterious qualities about science fiction, comic books and movies. I started looking at those kinds of things, trying to find something to get influenced by other than musical genre worship. To venture into this more expansive sonic territory, Walter has assembled a new crew of brilliant improvisers and genre-bending virtuosos under the 20th Congress mantle. Drummer Simon Lott (Kool Keith, Charlie Hunter) is a longtime collaborator who brings a refreshing unpredictability anchored in deep-rooted New Orleans rhythms. Bassist Victor Little (Billy Preston, Charlie Musselwhite) started sitting in with the band on a series of west coast gigs and gradually became essential to the evolving sound. Guitarist Chris Alford (Cassandra Wilson, Mike Dillon) has worked extensively with Lott in New Orleans, bringing a baked-in chemistry that has mutated into the infectious sound of this incarnation of the 20th Congress. The quartet s exploratory ethos was honed on the road and the combination transformed Walter s earlier material in unexpected but always thrilling ways. When we started playing the old tunes on tour, the guys would really depart from what was on the record, Walter says. Things started to go left and really stretch out so I figured I should write in a way that doesn t force people into a box. I tried to create launch pads for us to go somewhere. A brilliant improviser with a gift for riveting hooks and unstoppable grooves, Walter set out to create songs that blur the line between the composed and the spontaneous; an album with a narrative arc that isn t tethered to concrete ideas. He uses a full arsenal of keyboards, synths and electronics and draws together the varied aspects of his career, from his film soundtrack work with Michael Andrews to his free-ranging improvisational excursions with the likes of genre jugglers like Marco Benevento, Skerik and Mike Gordon.