haile supreme’s epic debut ‘liquid temple’ blends acid jazz and trip-hop with incisive social commentary #soundcheck

December 4, 2013

An album title can be a name borrowed from the best song on the record, or maybe a description of the artist’s state of mind while writing it. But rarely is there an album title as perfectly descriptive of the music as Haile Supreme’s latest Liquid Temple. Mashing Tricky beats with Justice production and Motown arrangements, Haile Supreme’s songs are a temple to smoothness.

By Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor

The liquid vibe doesn’t make for easy listening, instead it’s the sugar to swallow Haile Supreme’s stories of addiction, heartbreak, and searching desperately for the easy moral answers we’re given when we’re young. After opening with an impeccably arranged “Prelude,” the album launches into “Mama Told Me.” Benign maternal advice repurposed as daggers, it charts with parental disappointment the ways modern society fails to live up to our supposedly benevolent ideals. It would be an arrogant move if Haile Supreme didn’t play the role of disappointed parent so cooly, his fluid voice saying in effect “I love you, but this is fucked.”

Elsewhere, the upbeat acid jazz of “PTSD” masks a brutal song about warfare and death. “I can’t forget what I’ve seen / I won’t forget what I’ve done / And I can still hear the screams / Of those that couldn’t run / They weren’t fast enough.” The specter of death haunts this album. From the gunshots that close out “Southeast” to the overdose at the heart of “Dear Patricia.” The danceable arrangements keep the album from wallowing in the existential sadness at it’s core. It’s a temple to wanting to move forward, but not being sure if you can. There’s hope here, but it’s a defiant hope in spite of experience.