Chicago’s Black Monument Ensemble announce its sophomore release NOW (International Anthem), set for release April 9th digitally, and July 9th physically. The group shares the new ingle/video, “Now (Forever Momentary Space).” Originally conceived as a medium for Chicago-based multimedia artist/activist Damon Locks’ sample-based sound collage work, Black Monument Ensemble has evolved into a vibrant collective of artists, musicians, singers, and dancers making work with common goals of joy, compassion, and intention. Galvanized by Locks’s conceptualizing, poeticizing, and guiding vision, the contributors come from all facets of the diverse wellspring of Black artistic excellence in Chicago, bringing their unique perspectives and experiences to uplifting, anthemic, and highly animated musical performance.
BME is a genuinely multi-generational collective; with members ages ranging from 9 to 52 years old. In addition to Locks, current and consistent BME members include musicians Angel Bat Dawid, Ben LaMar Gay, Dana Hall, and Arif Smith; singers Phillip Armstrong, Monique Golding, Rayna Golding, Tramaine Parker, Richie Parks, Erica Rene, and Eric Tre’von; and dancers Raven Lewis, Cheyenne Spencer, Mary Thomas, Bryonna Young, Tiarra Young, and Keisha Janae.
NOW follows up the group’s debut album Where Future Unfolds, created in the final throes of Summer 2020, following months of pandemic-induced fear and isolation, the explosion of social unrest, struggle, and violence in the streets, and as the certain presence of a new reality had fully settled in. Set up safely in the garden behind Chicago’s Experimental Sound Studio, the music was recorded in only a few takes, capturing the first times’ members of BME had ever played or sang the tunes. For Locks, the impetus was more about getting together to commune and make art than it was about producing an album. In his words: “It was about offering a new thought. It was about resisting the darkness. It was about expressing possibility. It was about asking the question, ‘Since the future has unfolded and taken a new and dangerous shape…what happens NOW?’”
For the lead single “Now (Forever Momentary Space),” Locks was inspired by “a short story by writer Cadwell Turnbull called, ‘Jump.’ The story is about a couple who experience something seemingly impossible and the lengths one of them would go to control that. It ultimately is an investigation in acceptance and imagining what is possible and taking a leap towards it. ‘Now (Forever Momentary Space)’ is about the moment outside of the timeline where everything is possible. That moment is Now.” The video combines Locks’ artwork, documentary footage and photography shot by Brian Ashby at the outdoor recording session, and animation by Rob Shaw. The video blends the visual world of Locks’ art with the very present documentary footage of recording in the heat of the late Summer 2020. “The video captures the artistic otherworldliness that can be invoked through sound and visuals, yet the reality of the present danger of COVID can be seen in the masks everyone has,” says Locks. “It is my hope that the video feels rooted in our reality but suggests that we have the materials to manifest something new in the immediate.”