This dense, incredible LP blends jazz, modular synths and spoken word in a document of time travel as a conduit for black empowerment.
Ayewa has admitted to her "obsession" with collaboration, which often finds her in several joint projects every year (just last month, she featured on six songs on an album by Zonal, AKA Kevin Martin and Justin Broadrick). Each of her collaborative and solo projects reveals a wide range, as she naturally dips from haunting Mahalia Jackson-influenced gospel, experimental club, dubby cuts and charged grime to utterly jarring orchestral backings that recall an ambitious Alice Coltrane. While some works cast off into the vague yet unabated genre of "political music" can fall flat as self-righteous or esoteric, Ayewa's tracks unfailingly carry the organic, freeform presence of her interviews and spoken-word performances. In her latest album, Analog Fluids Of Sonic Black Holes, she relies on a reconfiguration of negro spirituals, scattered jazz and roiling punk vocals to embark on an arresting travel through time with lucid narratives of black protest.
Analog Fluids Of Sonic Black Holes opens with the shuddering sounds of a spacecraft, haunted by an ominous chorus of wailing. As on her previous works, Ayewa assumes various characters not bound by the confines of time or geography. In "After Images," she dives into a gritty punk anthem, snarling, "After they come for me, they gon' come for you!" cautioning against the dire consequences of inaction. "LA92" references the tumultuous Los Angeles riots of 1992, detailing two pivotal events that incited communal outrage—Rodney King's beating by police in 1991 and the death of Latasha Harlins, the young black girl who was murdered just weeks after. Bellowed with the startling cadence of a nursery rhyme, she chants, "LAPD on PCP / Body bag, body bag, for you and me!" over foreboding horror-film synths. "Shadowgrams" resembles a poignant spoken-word performance, supported by a jumbling of freeform jazz and wavering vocals. Controlling the narrative of black people as "marginalized" and without historical autonomy, Ayewa breathlessly announces, "I used to live here, this used to be my home / Before the queen, beyond language, before English, before Columbus."
As the album moves forward, the futuristic crinkle of grainy modular synthesis, countered with ancient protest songs, sets an uneasy foundation for Ayewa's poetic storytelling. While preserving the erratic nature of an arresting live set, her productions appear clearer and more controlled than on previous albums. Tracks like "Engineered Uncertainty" and "Sonic Black Holes" are transmuted entirely from manipulated negro spiritual samples, layered in a disjunctive, DIY fashion reminiscent of similar sound collage work by avant-garde producers Klein and Matana Roberts. This album doesn't indulge Ayewa's previous leanings towards distorted R&B, but rather sees the artist drawing from her extensive spoken-word background. Ayewa's concluding track, "Passing Of Time," soundly articulates the artist's clear-eyed direction here. A soothing comedown from the turbulence that marked the previous 12 tracks, the reflective piece sits coddled by African rhythms and sugary reflections. Pondering on the fervent continuance of black ritual and resilience, Ayewa reminds listeners of the mobilizing potential in retelling these histories. In the tradition of the most enduring negro spirituals, Analog Fluid Of Sonic Black Holes channels the potent rage and disquiet of current times, assuaged by glints of hope.
Thu / 7 Nov 2019
02. Don't Die
03. After Images
04. Engineered Uncertainty
05. Master's Clock
06. Black Flight feat. Saul Williams
07. The Myth Hold Weight
08. Sonic Black Holes
11. Private Silence feat. Reef The Lost Cauze
12. Cold Case
13. Passing Of Time