The front cover of Paradiso is a passport handed out to citizens of NON—a prop in past performances—that underlines its theme of geography and belonging, and the placelessness that can come from being an immigrant. (Amobi lives in Richmond, Virginia, born to Nigerian parents.) The album begins with Elysia Crampton reciting poetry about a fictional city in the sea—setting a dramatic scene for the album to come—and ends with primordial groaning. In between is a hectic (and often wrenching) narrative of "a post-American wasteland."
Amobi's album has a few recurring sounds: industrial synth lines à la Prurient or Cold Cave, full-throated brass that fosters a funereal mood, hectic drum fills and explosive percussion. Nothing lasts very long on Paradiso, in which a few bars can't pass without some new jagged sample or a sudden break in the arrangement. The music is so dense that it can be hard to pick out individual tracks, nevermind highlights, but some moments stick out. There are the forlorn bells on "Nkisi (Edit)." A military march on "Negative Fire III," where experimental club music devices—martial drums, broken glass, sirens—sound fearsome rather than just aggressive.
The voices on Paradiso are as unstable as the music. On "The Failed Sons And Daughters Of Fantasia," a woman speaks of finding comfort in the water, where the only thing keeping her going is "whispers at the bottom of the Atlantic." On tracks like "Polizei," single words are recited slowly. The rapping on "Eigengrau (Children Of Hell II)" is breathless and angry. After the album's harrowing title track, there's the short but sweet "The Floating Wall Pt. 1," with unadorned electric guitar and a gorgeous vocal from an unnamed singer. It's a glint of beauty in the chaos.
Paradiso features artists whose identity isn't made immediately obvious. Presenting the album as a collective experience—there are no credits to indicate who's doing what on which tracks—is the most concrete manifestation yet of the NON ideology. The album's extensive cast is drawn from Amobi's musical sphere, including Crampton, Haleek Maul, Embaci, Nkisi and FAKA. On Paradiso, Amobi feels as much like a conductor as a solo artist. It's a hint of where NON might be headed as their work—and that of Amobi's—becomes increasingly multidisciplinary.
Paradiso builds a dense and detailed picture of a world that's scary, beautiful and overwhelming. It doesn't make for easy listening. But once you're in, it's hard to turn away. By moving past club music conventions into a more freeform sphere, Amobi allows the ideas at the heart of NON to flourish and become something unique, making the label's subtext explicit. Bringing all these themes, ideas and sounds into a towering whole makes Paradiso one of the definitive records of the recent explosion of experimental club music, even if, on the album itself, there's no club music at all.
Sat / 20 May 2017
01. Law I (The City In The Sea)
03. Blood Of The Covenant
04. Negative Fire III
05. The Failed Sons And Daughters Of Fantasia
08. Nkisi (Edit)
09. Eigengrau (Children Of Hell II)
10. Law II (Demolition)
12. White Mætel
13. White Mætel Narrative
14. Radical Zero
16. Law III (Adam)
17. The Floating World Pt. 1
18. The Floating World Pt. 2
19. Dixie Shrine
21. End (The City In The Sea)