If what they say is true, music is derivative and Moor Mother is no different, the only thing is though, she’s derivative unto herself. Today sees the release of The Encyclopedia Of Air, her new album, dropping today digitally as we wait for LP & CD versions this coming October. There truly is no one like Camae Ayewa, the musician/poet who’s also half of the Black Quantum Futurism collective. To say Moor Mother is adventurous would be an understatement, and her new release transcends sole images of Hip-Hop as it also embraces a variety of genres, incorporating them within the context of the release. Also featured throughout are an assortment of collaborators like Pink Siifu, Elucid, Nappy Nina, Black Quantum Futurism, Antonia Gabriela, and much more. Moor Mother truly is on some next-level shit and there are only a handful of artists we can truly say have that special ingredient in the way this educator is able to deliver.
This one actually comes as a surprise this week as Atlanta trio The Coathangers and Los Angeles’ L.A. Witch take a couple of covers to an entirely new level calling this release One Way Or The Highway. The Coathangers dissect and restitch its cover of Blondie’s “One Way Or Another,” giving it a fresh make-over, and really, it hasn’t sounded much better in the past couple of decades. Still present is that unrelenting melody that’ll get stuck in your head and dare I say vocally, it’s just as good – if not better than – Debbie Harry’s take? Am I reaching? I don’t think so as the song closes in a whirlwind of vocals and noisy effects. L.A. Witch on the other hand takes on The Gun Club’s “Ghost On The Highway.” The group’s urban psychobilly sound remains intact but no one can replicate Jeffrey Lee Pierce, although L.A. Witch comes close. The track here is more refined as the trio of ladies careens through the track with ease. Easily, these tracks are two of the best covers heard since Low’s take on Joy Division.
Free Jazz. The subgenre still exists, and its fluidity continues to show why it continues to be so viable in the 21st century. Most recently, the film Soul only touched on it and although I was expecting much more, it seems it was only in passing. But this is why we still have artists like Sun Ra Arkestra, William Hooker, Zorn, and Peter Brötzmann. But always remaining relevant are William Parker and Matthew Shipp, bass and piano respectively, lending a helping hand to drummer/percussionist Francisco Mela. For Music Frees Our Souls Vol 1 (577 Records), while featuring just three tracks, the release is over 30 minutes in length. The trio opens with “Light of Mind” which is more than enough to captivate ANY audience. Each musician joins in, allowing the music to take on a life of its own as the three gravitate towards melodies & rhythms they all grab hold of. It literally is fantastic, Shipp’s nimble fingers find tones I never thought could exist, while Parker’s bass is subtlety around Mela’s cymbals and rolls drift in and out. There’s more here that’s just as riveting which should be shared with generations to come. Tell all your friends, because they need to REALLY listen to this.
Is there ever a moment one searches for answers but just can’t find them anywhere? This isn’t one of those moments, and that question has nothing to do with Nik Freitas because putting a bead on his music is what we have our laser sites on right now. If you’re unaware of Freitas, he’s been a touring member with one of Conor Oberst’s projects and has collaborated with an assortment of artists, from the Shins and Jenny Lewis to M. Ward. Not that it’s necessary for Freitas to spout off his resumé, but it helps.
Nik Freitas has been releasing his own works since 2013’s The Asterisk, and throughout the years we can all understand why he’s always being tapped for either his instrumental prowess or songwriting talent. Throughout the years, his music has gradually gotten better but using the word “gradual” might be a misnomer because how does one go from great to better? Eh, humor me here. With his new Searching For Device EP (Park The Van), Freitas isn’t looking for anyone’s acknowledgment but for some relief. He’s been forthcoming regarding the opening “After The Fire,” written in the midst of last year’s wildfires out west searching for light after the fire, and within the song juxtaposition between music & lyrics, he may have found it. The song’s urging is grandiose and just fucking spot-on as he sings, “Saw the smoke darken the sky/ashes in the air falling like snowflakes in the night” as he wondered if anything around him was worth even keeping. It’s easy to fall in love with his voice circling around his composition. There are semblances throughout the release of Beatles and Beach Boys influences but it’s never made very clear, which allows Freitas fluidity, moving from track to track.
“Good News (Waiting For You)” is a clever song filled with mountainous tones and punk sensibilities smothered within candy-coated pop delivery. It’s infectious and easily one of the greatest songs written this year. “It’s So Obvious” though, takes a different more acoustical approach with its guitars but the song bursts midway through with a cavalcade of soaring harmonies. It gorgeously maneuvers back to where it began before again flying high until its ultimate end. Freitas closes things out with the pop gem “Time Of My Life” and it’s clear in the way he manipulates his instruments, he’s a master at his craft.
We can go on about these five songs making up this release but it’s clear, Searching For Device is perfect in every way. The confections sprinkled throughout is more than enough to soften the hardest of hearts. L.A.’s Nik Freitas is about that songwriting.
Have you ever been taken aback at times by something that’s on the precipice of falling away, drifting even, expecting it to blend away into a background into nothingness? It’s an odd descriptive I’m aware but trying to get ahold of Lizzie Loveless, the Brooklyn artist who cut her teeth in TEEN along with her sisters Katherine and Kristina for the better part of a decade, and her sound proves a bit challenging. At first anyway. Her solo debut, You Don’t Know (Egghunt Records), moves in familiar territory. The first couple of tracks, with her cooing voice, pleasant and alluring, rings of nostalgia, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, the quick & lazy may be swift to make unflattering comparisons. But occasionally, one needs to dig deep. For instance, “The Joke” opens with guitar and Lizzie’s doubletracked vocals, and for just over the first minute she does share similarities with someone you may not think of. Elliot Smith’s 1995 self-titled release revolved around vocal interplay this way, and while the song here morphs into something much more enticing, as bass, drums, and what sounds like a humming keyboard laced on the track with a much more dance-oriented pop vibe. The turning point for the album seems to have come pretty quickly here.
Lizzie doesn’t steer away from a straightforward delivery here as her soft voice contrasts nicely against the background of her “Memory.” It’s sweet and easily captivating as keyboards eventually take the lead overall instruments. But it’s “Eyes Of Man” where musical notes flawlessly blend with her voice, becoming one, creating an ominous musical calligraphy through a kaleidoscope of sound. This in of itself is entrancing. If it all ended there we’d probably be ok but the ride continues and we’re all the better for it. “Loveless” bounces on a repetitive low-end bassline as she quickly overlays keyboard notes that haunt every available sense. The song revolves around repetition and that’s fine because the more that’s given, the bigger the bounce. Lizzie Loveless isn’t what anyone would consider a one-trick pony, because You Don’t Know is rife with a variety that it seems only she is capable of creating, while firmly holding onto her own identity. The atmospheric & hypnotic “Window” lingers ethereally as its funky rhythm attempts to move it in another direction. It’s seamless though and works as both don’t seem to fight for control, instead, they mesh together as if it was always supposed to be.
You Don’t Know is right, you don’t know! Lizzie Loveless never moves in one direction, always opting to let the song take her into the unknown, the unexpected. She demands a lot from her listeners but she shouldn’t expect any less because she gives so much of herself. If you’re not intrigued, you should be.