Bob Sweeney


moor mother’s ‘analog fluids of sonic black holes’ captivates

November 11, 2019
81 Picks

It’s been three years since Moor Mother (Camae Ayewa) dropped her debut album, Fetish Bones, but the prolific multidisciplinary artist and activist has stayed busy. 2019 was a particularly fruitful year; she debuted a new work, “Red Summer,” during New York’s Red Bull Music Festival and performed collaborations with artists as varied as the London Contemporary Orchestra, Armand Hammer rapper Elucid, and master jazz saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell. Her new album, Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes, isn’t even the only major piece of music she’s dropped this past month. She was the vocalist on Zonal’s debut album, Wrecked, a music project made up by influential metal musician Justin Broadrick(Napalm Death, Godflesh, Jesu) and acclaimed electronic producer Kevin Martin (The Bug/Ming Midas Sound).

As a project, Moor Mother studies white supremacy’s atrocities against the African diaspora (both historical and current) and with a stark confrontation of those crimes. It is less concerned about healing through the forgiveness of the oppressor (which in itself is a form of abuse) but exploring how through the confrontation of pain a people can process the collective trauma and heal for their own sake. Moor Mother meticulously builds these musical pieces to give the subject matter the respect it deserves; rather than continuously pummel the audience with noise for the sake of noise, there’s a nuanced control in sound and how Moor Mother creates the soundscapes in her work.

Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes, builds on the groundwork of Fetish Bones, but sounds more self-assured and complete. The third track on the album, “After Images,” is built around a recognizable four-on-the-floor house music stomp. It wouldn’t take much tweaking to make it work in a club mix. But the distorted drums and sampled blues in the background give it a sad and seething edge, it is comforting and discomforting all at once.

The sampling of classic African-American songs on top of modern production is a motif that she’s done well on both of her albums; pitting futuristic protest driven production against the original music of social discontent: blues and Negro spiritual. With Analog Fluids … she makes a more seamless and effective blend of old and new.

In “Engineered Uncertainty” she takes Paul Robeson’s “Nobody Knows The Trouble I Have Seen” and lets it disintegrate into electrified static before letting the track settle into an ominous pulsing synthesized sound. “Shadowgrams” is a take on witch house with a chopped and screwed up jazz track haunting its halls. On the King Britt-produced “Black Flight” Moor Mother and fellow experimentalist Saul Williams trade verses over an ominous drone powered by a driving industrial no-wave beat.

Because of the nature of the medium, most experimental extreme music acts have the issue of the vocalist fighting against the sonic onslaught to be heard clearly. With Moor Mother it’s the opposite; the hardest aspect of the project is how starkly the vocals lay down the arguments, “Nightsticks, ice picks, nice on horseback cracking whips, I guess they think it brings back the magic.”

Afrofuturism is a term that gets trotted out for artists like Moor Mother who take a more experimental approach than what the establishment expects from African diaspora artists; its often a lazy description. If there’s anything futuristic about Moor Mother is that despite the cruelty happening in the world today the project gives the affirmation African diaspora will persevere. “Against the backdrop of sirens, a mother’s crying, daughters and sons had their hands up but now they dying, (but) we still multiplying,” she says on “Private Silence” while an old blues sample plays in the background. It is a mix of the old and the new into one voice; Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes shows that generations of adversity can’t stop Black art from thriving.