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Moor Mother
Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes Bob Cluness , November 25th, 2019 08:39

Moor Mother's latest album, Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes offers a highly politicised journey through time and space, finds Bob Cluness

When I recently reviewed Wrecked by ZONAL featuring Camae Ayewa, aka Moor Mother, I noted that her visceral yet wholly articulate delivery is what truly made the album, giving Wrecked flesh and soul to its abyssal heart of darkness. I described her words of being full of “seething sci-fi afro-pessimism” in the way that they articulated the ongoing violence and trauma of black people, from the days of slavery through the Jim Crow segregation to today’s culling by the police and prisons. The sentiments of Wrecked are explored further by Moor Mother in her new solo album, Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes, an incredible statement of black culture, aesthetics, and defiance against a white supremacist apocalypse that has been ongoing to black and indigenous peoples for nearly four centuries.

From the opening track “Repeater,” Moor Mother lays out this world in stark terms, one of enslavement, murder, and repression: “Over our head, repeater, deceiver… by nation, by parliament, by ritual of wealth / You hold death over our head / you hold life over our head / I hope you get what you’ve been giving out / I hope you choke on all the memories. No light, just insecurities, false hope and enemies.” These words are accompanied by brooding strings and ritualistic incantations that create a heavy, sulphurous air of invocation that launches the album out on its journey and reckoning.

And at times Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes is a brutal and unsparing listen. It would be easy and reasonable to listen to and read this album in in the same light as being one of outright pessimism. But in a recent tweet, Moor Mother directly rejects such a position, stating “I’m not Afro pessimistic never never no”. So, if Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes, should not be seen as an album of pessimism, then what and how should we describe what we’re hearing? In a word, it is an album of Escape – both of the body and mind. Instead of shutting off the possible paths towards transcendence and redemption, Moor Mother instead calls to escape the never-ending cycle of “looping trauma” uttered of in ‘The Myth Hold Weight’. To achieve this, she dons the cloak of Afrofuturism, becoming Kodwo Eshun’s “Sonic Archaeologist,” sifting through the cacophonous fragments of various deleted, corroded, and suppressed cultures and histories of the black diaspora over the past two centuries. Auditory ghosts from the archives of black cultures, be it Paul Robeson singing ‘Nobody Knows’, spirituals, or a blues singer howling, “I can feeeeel you,” are entwined and jerry rigged to the howling scream of collapsing industrial synths, electronic experimentation, hip-hop disruption, and thudding beats, creating uncanny, blood chilling transmissions.

Moor Mother also veers back and forth between various points in black history, from the cotton and sugar plantations of the US south, to the Tulsa and Chicago race riots and massacres of the early twentieth century, to Rodney King and the 1992 LA Riots. This comes together in ‘Shadowgrams’, one of the album’s highlights and a damning indictment of the current situation as being built on the backs of black and indigenous peoples, connecting the life and bodies and herself and others to that of the structural narratives of European colonialism in Africa (and its current US and Chinese descendants), global capital, wars as resource extraction, and a white-led cultural homogeneity, under the guise of neoliberal freedom and diversity, which appropriates and dresses “in the flesh of our past”.

But this revisionism rage and catharsis, has a point and benefit. The mixing of sonic and material temporalities, and of the personal and historical by Moor Mother in Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes creates a form of aesthetic time travel, where time is not an endless loop but rather a Möbius strip. There are returns to the apocalypses of the past of slavery and genocide, but these returns are twisted, re-routed. New myths are generated and weaved into the structure, thereby changing how the present is seen and creating quantum speculative futures. A myriad of possibilities erupt and break free from the dystopian capitalist norms of white supremacy.

In this new ameliorative vision, a track such as ‘Passing of Time’, becomes a gospel of hope as Moor Mother, accompanied by a West African rhythm, tells of how her mother and grandmother picked enough cotton that “they saved the world all by themselves.” The escape alluded to in the ‘Black Flight’, is both literal and figurative, a feeling and impulse that evolves from the desperation and fear to escape the slave master and the plantation, to innovation and revolution in breaking free from earth and entering the space race, as guest vocalist Saul Williams lays out a vision of black mystic science that transverses the edges of time and space.

As a statement, Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes should be seen as an exercise in intervention, a project of reality-hacking through music and language. Re-working black histories through both a personal lens and the structure of modern technologies, Moor Mother has created an album as a mythos of possibilities, a cartography of hope.

While the contemporary social reality is to complete what she calls “the erasure of black people, the erasure of poor people, the erasure of black women, the erasure of women,” the present, and therefore the future, is not irredeemable. The idea of a science-fictionally mediated difference in Moor Mother’s work is a profound one, one that encourages roots to grow, seeds of resistance to germinate, bonds to form between otherwise alienated people, and ist effect and traces to linger looooong in the shadows after the event.

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