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Irreversible Entanglements
Open the Gates Dustin Krcatovich , November 12th, 2021 10:10

With their third fiery LP, this righteous quintet continue to show that they’re more than just another excellent Moor Mother project, finds Dustin Krcatovich

The poet, singer, orator, and activist Camae Ayewa – better known as Moor Mother – has been remarkably prolific in the last few years. She’s got range, too, careening from gnarled noise-rock in Moor Jewelry (her collaboration with Mental Jewelry) to something more akin to underground hip hop on recent collaborations with Billy Woods, Pink Siifu, and others. Rather than feeling like the work of a dilettante, Ayewa’s confident voice and vision serves to make it all feel like part of the larger Moor Mother project.

One would imagine, based on her politics, that Ayewa’s approach to collaboration is reasonably egalitarian, but the strength of her personality can still paint much of this work as Moor Mother + [Insert Collaborator Here]. Irreversible Entanglements, the “fire music” ensemble she co-founded with bassist Luke Stewart and saxophonist Keir Neuringer in 2015, and which now also includes trumpeter Aquiles Navarro and drummer Tcheser Holmes, is different. The overall feeling is decidedly more communal, the musical co-nourishment more palpable.

The group’s first two LPs were adventurous, but still firmly in the framework of their forebears: the Last Poets, the New York Art Quartet, Archie Shepp, etc. Drinking from the same ancestral well that informed earlier radical Black music is integral to Irreversible Entanglements’ approach: after all, they are passionate and angry for many of the same reasons as the aforementioned, because far too many of the circumstances remain the same. The fight isn’t over.

Open The Gates stays on the same spiritual trajectory, but it’s also an exciting dilation of their sonic universe. At times, there is more of the playfulness and street corner danceability of prime Art Ensemble of Chicago; elsewhere, washes of synth and dubby delay invade the stage, recalling nothing so much as Dennis Bovell or Adrian Sherwood’s claustrophobic productions.

While more catchy at times, as on the brief title track, Open the Gates is also even more temerarious than their earlier albums. A brief mid-section of ‘Keys to Creation’ collapses somewhere between Muhal Richard Abrams’ Spihumonesty and Mercurial Rites-era Hair Police, before thumping into a double-time lope with Moor Mother skating atop with strident declamations on “blues and memory” and “Ella flying home at the Savoy”.

The extended workout ‘Water Meditation’ gets into even noisier territory, overflowing with arrhythmic synth blurt and leaving Holmes at his kit holding the piece together. When the horns come back in, they’re in full fight mode, circling around the edges of the beat like the perimeter of a wrestling ring.

Moor Mother’s voice is an essential anchor on Open the Gates, but the album is more exciting taken as a group work than just the next in a long line of collaborative efforts. If recent history is any indication, Ayewa won’t be running out of things to say and exciting ways to say them any time soon. Still, for whatever reason, Open the Gates feels a step closer to acting on those words. It’s righteous music, hopefully as a prelude to righteous action.