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Hieroglyphic Being
The Red Notes Euan Andrews , February 23rd, 2018 14:10

Deep joy, beatific wisdom and, big fun from Jamal Moss for Soul Jazz.

There is deep joy, beatific wisdom and, yes, big fun to be found within the grooves of this latest LP release from Jamal Moss under his Hieroglyphic Being moniker, his second under that name for Soul Jazz. Whereas 2013’s The Acid Documents was a raw and almost brutal statement of house music in its most undiluted and uncompromising form, The Red Notes reflects on the considerable heritage of Moss’s Chicago background and pays tribute to the classic Blue Note jazz sound. In doing so, Moss has composed a modern afrofuturist suite as though in a state of perpetual grace. If there are far reaches of the cosmos where highly advanced civilisations await first contact from this battered blue planet of ours, we can only hope they somehow hear this deeply felt recording and overlook the sports car blasted up at them with all the spiritual intent and inner meaning of a poorly executed Top Gear skit.

While jazz stylings have previously played crucial roles in Moss’s unique sound, it was 2015’s We Are Not The First (credited to Hieroglyphic Being & J.I.T.U. Ahn-Sahm-Buhl) which expanded on the links between cosmic jazz methodology and acid house. Live players such as Daniel Carter and Marshall Allen seamlessly applied decades-old practice to Moss's electronic circulation and the whole vibe of the record felt akin to what Sun Ra might have brought out in our present day had he not been called away from Earth. On The Red Notes, however, Moss’s sonic template is recognisably that of classic acid house but filtered through jazz’s interstitial phrasing and exploratory dynamics. As you’d expect from Moss’s considerable body of work, this is no exercise in fusing electronics with virtuoso hyper-noodling so as to enable a soulless vacuum. In terms of sheer uplifting joy, the nearest comparisons I can make for The Red Notes are with Alice Coltrane’s spiritual music or Laraaji’s sun-eyed exhortations.

‘Youth Brainwashing and the Extremist Cults’ opens the record seemingly mid-jam and reminiscent of how Miles Davis’s On The Corner suddenly kicks the door open to a seething electric jungle of sound. Bleep and squelch accumulate in escalating patterns forming a rhythmic matrix constantly shifting under foot and brain, over which solo instrumentation surges turbulently like a finely honed ensemble coming together. Then ‘The Melody Lingers’ centres itself around delicate chiming chords and cyclical manoeuvres which bring to mind Evan Parker applying circular breathing techniques to software and circuitry. ‘The Seduction Syndrome’ and ‘The Emotional Listener’ take the classic house piano break and invoke its original designation as live player part prior to repurposing as well as evolving it into a fractured and stuttering phrase looping out into eternity.

The near 15-minute title track is the deserved centrepiece of this outstanding record, an arkestral mini-symphony which effortlessly displays the spliced yet integrally linked DNA and joint ancestry of jazz and house. Yet, for me, the highlight of the album is the almost ambient watercolour of ‘The Red Notebook’ which evokes the heightened and blissfully free mental states of The Art Ensemble of Chicago or 1970s’ Pharoah Sanders. As with these musicians’ work, there is a sense of standing on an elevated plateau high above sea and cloud level and feeling, somehow, safe. This is not an angry record. It’s better than that. Like the best jazz, it can tear you apart but it will also heal you. The Red Notes is a celebration of having once been lost but then found again when you least expected it.

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