Matana Roberts returns with the fourth chapter of her extraordinary Coin Coin series - a project that has deservedly garnered the highest praise and widespread critical acclaim for it's fierce aesthetic originality and unflinching narrative power. The first three Coin Coin albums, issued from 2011-2015, charted diverse pathways of modern/avant composition - Roberts calls it "panoramic sound quilting" - and ranged sequentially from large band to sextet to solo, unified by Roberts' archival and often deeply personal research into legacies of the American slave trade and ancestries of American identity/experience.
Roberts also emphasizes non-male subjects and thematises these other-gendered stories with a range of vocal and verbal techniques: singspeak, submerged glossolalic recitation, guttural cathartic howl, operatic voice, gentle lullaby, group chant, and the recuperation of various American folk traditionals and spirituals, whether surfacing in fragmentary fashion or as unabridged set-pieces. The root of this vocality comes from her dedication to the legacy of her main chosen instrument, the alto saxophone.
On Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis, Roberts convened a new band, with New Yorkers Hannah Marcus (guitars, fiddle, accordion) and percussionist Ryan Sawyer (Thurston Moore, Nate Wooley, Cass McCombs) joined by Montréal bassist Nicolas Caloia (Ratchet Orchestra) and Montréal-Cairo composer/improviser Sam Shalabi (Land Of Kush, Dwarfs Of East Agouza) on guitar and oud, along with prolific trombonist Steve Swell and vibraphonist Ryan White as special guests. Memphis unspools as a continuous work of 21st century liberation music, oscillating between meditative incantatory explorations, raucous melodic themes, and unbridled free-improv suites, quoting archly and ecstatically from various folk traditions along the way. Led by Roberts' conduction and unique graphic score practice, her consummate saxophone and clarinet playing, and punctuated by her singing and speaking various texts generated from her own historical research and diaristic writings, Coin Coin Chapter Four is a glorious and spellbinding new installment in this projected twelve-part Gesamtkunstwerk.
Says Roberts: "As an arts adventurer dealing w/ the medium of sound and it's many contradictions I am most interested in endurance, perseverance, migration, liberation, libation, improvisation and the many layers of cognitive dissonance therein as it relates to my birth country's history. I speak memory, I sing an American survival through horn, song, sadness, a sometimes gladness. I stand on the backs of many people, from so many different walks of life and difference, that never had a chance to express themselves as expressively as I have been given the privilege. In these sonic renderings, I celebrate the me, I celebrate the we, in all that it is now, and all that is yet to come or will be... Thanks for listening."
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