Moor Mother - Black Encyclopedia of the Air

2021 CD release

Back Ordered - Use Notify Me

Calculate Shipping

Express Post Parcel - Standard Service - $12.00
Delivery Australia Wide
Free pick-up from store - $0.00
I'll collect my order from #3, Level 4, 428 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000

Camae Ayewa, aka Moor Mother, has spent the better part of a decade becoming the poet laureate of the apocalypse. So it’s strange to hear the Philadelphia sound artist say, “I ain’t got to fight no more.” Threaded through rolling drums and the squealing upward climb of a violin, the phrase that weaves Black Encyclopedia of the Air closer “Clock Fight” together seems to contradict a ferocious legacy of blurring past, present, and future into hissing indictments of history that still left room for hope. After years of chronicling the advent of armageddon, could the war really be over? She’s joked about calling this album her “sell-out” record, and it’s true that the collection of beats and soundscapes that she’s assembled with collaborator Olof Melander is her most accessible yet, but could Moor Mother really be hanging up her sword?

Ayewa has been locked in combat against the oppressive ideology of linear time for years, and she knows how to punch through the pain. To her, time travel is a birthright. Every tick of the clock flattens the spirit, surrendering our naturally fluid understanding of time as we march along—mindlessly, without empathy—in service of capital. Make no mistake: The battle has left her weary. Opener “Temporal Control of Light Echoes” wastes no time letting you know how it felt to “fight through crowds of humiliation,” only to find herself in a “gathering of bones,” and the smooth rhythms of “Mangrove” do little to cushion the blow of realizing that she “no longer see[s] the shadows of what made me strong.” But when she leans into a venomous groan on “Clock Fight,” rattling off her struggles against “the master’s clock,” “the rich clock,” and “the clock of democracy,” what you hear isn’t resignation or defeat. It’s a catalog of vanquished foes, an ever-expanding list of victories. Black Encyclopedia of the Air is another withering salvo in Moor Mother’s lifelong war of attrition, expertly disguised behind the shadow of a white flag.

For an artist who consistently drapes her work in the language of astronomy, it’s surprising how little space Ayewa has indulged on previous albums. Moor Mother records are typically dense affairs: Crowded with samples and harsh noise, shot through with jazz and body horror, they pound the psyche into a malleable putty. Here, she takes her time, touring through soft interstellar clouds before the inevitable turn into a sonic black hole.

After “Temporal Control of Light Echoes” straps you in, a looping sample of the word “respira” reminds you to breathe. Heed the warning: Though the album drifts into an eight-song stretch of dreamy beats and languid bass, Moor Mother condenses her grim symphony of voices into bite-sized movements that fly by at a satisfying clip. Expanding into the newfound void, Ayewa pulls off a remarkable transformation by sidestepping the abstract and rooting herself firmly in rhythm. It’s no secret that Ayewa can dance around a beat, but her laser focus on rap and R&B phrasing here pays off. Listening to her slide in effortlessly after Elucid’s opening verse on “Mangrove” is thrilling. Witnessing her construct an honest-to-god pop hook on “Shekere,” bouncing through the title’s syllables with a disarming lightness, is even better. That Ayewa sounds just as fluid trading rapid-fire verses with Nappy Nina and Maassai on “Made a Circle” as she does solemnly conjuring the memory of ancestors in a healing spell one track later, on “Tarot,” is mesmerizing.

These more hospitable sounds only heighten the vertigo that occurs when Ayewa lets her well-honed experimental chops take over in the album’s third act. Soundtracked by a churning, hallucinatory beat that squeezes around the mix, “Nighthawk of Time” flashes the alarm: “The clock is for watching you/Not the other way around.” Album highlight “Zami” slams the brakes, crashing directly into the kind of distorted bass drum and grinding synthesizers that could have kicked off any of her previous albums, but arrive now with a chilling sense of finality. She drives a knife into the heart of temporality, pushing it deeper with every screamed “What the fuck you say?” before collapsing into a vacuum of silence. As “Clock Fight” enters with fiery percussion, it feels like the dramatic revelation of a hero surviving a confrontation with their archnemesis.

Black Encyclopedia of the Air’s bold theatricality is perhaps a natural outgrowth of Ayewa’s work creating the 2019 multimedia play Circuit City. There, she activated the “liberation technology” of free jazz to unpack the ongoing urban housing crisis, meditating on capitalism’s ultimate sin of hoarding not only material resources, but time itself. Black Encyclopedia of the Air extends and deepens her commitment to unmasking the surreal forces operating within and around us. Though she’s found a way to make the pill a little easier to swallow, Moor Mother re-emerges from her DIY time machine offering nothing but the bitter truth: Everything must change.


SKU 8714092783827
Barcode # 8714092783827
Brand Anti Records

Be The First To Review This Product!

Help other Birdland Records users shop smarter by writing reviews for products you have purchased.

Write a product review

More From This Category