ALBUM: Moor Mother – ‘Black Encyclopedia Of The Air’

Following 2016’s Fetish Bones, Camae Ayewa – aka Moor Mother – has since been wowing fans with 2017’s The Motionless Present and 2020’s innovative project with Swedish musician Olof Melander, Anthologia, which raised money for disability justice. Now, following much critical acclaim, she is set to release a poignant new album – once again recorded with Melander. In short, Black Encyclopedia of the Air is a remarkably unique and absorbing collection, constituting a scattered and beguiling exploration of idiosyncratic ideas and reflections on modern life.

We open in a free-floating sound realm – ‘Temporal Control of Light Echos’ – which immediately lifts us off the sofa into an antigravity dream where space-time operates in an unfamiliar and unsettling manner. This sensation forcibly synchronises our sense of reality with that of Moor Mother, poet/activist/musician/(fortune teller?)/(sorcerer?) and co-founder of Black Quantum Futurism, a collective invested in rethinking our understanding of and interaction with the past and the future…

As soon as we begin to settle into the opener, we are thrust unceremoniously into the next. This album is full of fast cuts between immediate tunes, most of which nestle under the two-and-a-half minute mark. It feels like more of a collection than an album, with threads picked up and dropped with equal vigour. Rather than being an ‘Encyclopedia’ as the title proclaims, it feels like an open notebook; making synaptic flips between ideas, ranging from oblique sketches (see especially ‘Obsidian’) to striking candour (‘Race Function Limited’, ‘Made a Circle’). Where the latter perhaps were more of a feature on Moor Mother’s vitally charged debut Fetish Bones, it is generally the more mysterious elements that impress on Black Encyclopedia Of The Air.

As a whole, the album is possessed by murk – not in a lazily muddy or ‘moody’ way, but with a dedication to explore the world that darkness speaks of. Synth bursts choked by cut-off fall slow and sinuous like blood in water and swirl alongside breathy vocals and distant cries of jazz elements. Moor Mother proclaims the importance of free jazz to her approach as a writer, an influence that makes itself felt across her instinctive writing and disorientating music. This influence makes itself felt in particular on more rhythmically unconventional tracks like ‘Rogue Waves’ and ‘Iso Fonk’, two of the album’s standouts.

It really comes together on its second side, finding cohesion within its chaos. ‘Tarot’ stands out as the longest and most patient track, justified in its length as it stretches into drones and percussive rings backing what seem like oblique prayers to a strange god. From here, the album coalesces, the final three tracks streamlining into a powerful close, centred around ‘Zami’, which drills into your head and spins it like a fairground ride. 

As a whole, Black Encyclopedia Of The Air feels like its own unique universe of strange sounds and intimations. We are left to chase Moor Mother’s philosophy down sonic abysses and lyrical mazes, and if we could only catch them we might just be rewarded.

Black Encyclopedia Of The Air, the new album from Moor Mother, is set for release on 27th September via ANTI-. Pre-order here.

Lloyd Bolton

Photo Credit: Bob Sweeney

ALBUM: God Damn – ‘Raw Coward’

Hailing from the haunted Black Country, God Damn have mutated their uncompromising, genre-bending sound to conjure up something brutally ambitious. The resulting concoction, Raw Coward, is relentlessly noisy, unapologetic rock and roll – a collection of tracks working its cynical black magic until the feedback fades out.

Following the release of 2020’s self-titled third LP, God Damn have been working in the shadows – moulding, shaping, crafting a hyper-intense album that sinks its fangs into social issues; tearing into nationalism, capitalism, and the music industry with venom. After introducing their fuzz-drenched LP with ‘English Slaughterhouse Blues’, God Damn dive headfirst into ‘Yout’, an abrasive sludge anthem that foreshadows a repeated theme… A false sense of pride. “When he was just a baby / His mother told him, son / Be a good English boy / And sell the world their guns.” Only personal growth will lead to true identity: “Hey, youth / Thank fuck for attitude / When will you find yourself?”

The attack continues with ‘Radiation Acid Queen’ and ‘Cowkaine’; drummer Ash Weaver’s relentless big brash strikes piercing through the distorted chaos created by the disquiet quartet. Quickly try to catch your breath! ‘Shit Guitar’ is easily the heaviest track on an LP already threatening to buckle from its own weight – unleashing doom-laden hooks (courtesy of frontman Thomas Edwards and Rob Graham) and Vantablack humour on a canvas of deadened self-awareness. Lamenting capitalist slave drivers, Edwards’ voice becomes strained under the ferocity of his raw delivery: “There’s no such thing as rock and roll / There’s no such thing as god / So climb down from your crucifix and play it like guitar / Your idols are all paedophiles who sold you who you are.”

The hypnotic ‘Little Dead Souls’ (Pt.1) and its equally addictive sequel (Pt.2) are complemented by Hannah Al-Shemmeri’s spooky, aberrant key tones, which when listened to as a singular soundscape, becomes a behemoth pairing; monstrous, sinister and unabating. ‘Drop Me Off Where They Clean The Dead Up’ follows with an equally irresistible progressive groove before the title track, ‘Raw Coward’, rips open the fabric of space with obnoxious guitar riffs and visceral lyricism.

Closing with the revolting ‘Dogshit In The Autumn Leaves’, God Damn leave their shit-stained footprint on the DIY music scene. Breathe it in! After wanting to “do away with all the dick-swinging gear wankery elitism”, Edwards engineered and produced Raw Coward himself through lessons learned from working with the legendary Sylvia Massy. Raw, explicit, experimental and intelligent, the end result is a crucial album of rock and roll rebellion; a melding of ’70s/’80s doom metal with ’90s grunge and other off-kilter influences that both disturb and inspire.

Raw Coward is out now through One Little Independent Records, with art and design from Hannah Al-Shemmeri.

God Damn - Raw Coward - One Little Independent Records

Ken Wynne

ALBUM: Nun Habit – ‘hedge fun’

There is nothing about Nun Habit’s debut album hedge fun that would suggest it was recorded in a single hasty weekend between lockdowns. The band describe it as “a rejection of the corporate and mundane and a celebration of everything there is to love about queer DIY music”. They have absolutely lived up to that description in every beat of this record.

The album opens with the smooth, relaxed ‘Slip N Slide’. Deep, gentle notes ease you into the track, with burbling synths and warm vocals dancing around a rich bass line. This sets the scene for the rest of the album, which is constructed expertly out of the band’s signature synth and string combo playing over that rumbling bass. ‘Slip N Slide’ builds into a powerful climax, launching effortlessly into the high energy of ‘Marigolds’.

hedge fun fluctuates in terms of pace and energy. The tracks fit together comfortably, creating a vibe that ebbs and flows with a natural rhythm. Some tracks slow right down so that they feel more like beat poetry, with a gentle pace and cool beats. Others match the fast pace and high energy of ‘Marigolds’, with that raw screaming sound that sweeps you up into a chaotically wonderful whirlwind of synths and drums.

The real magic of this album is how much emotion is packed into every note sang – every vocal note is heavy with expression, whether it’s one of the more nonchalant tracks or the roaring impactful ones.

‘TinderHingeHer’ in particular takes you on an emotional rollercoaster just through its energy. It begins cool and laid-back, as you swipe aimlessly through dating app profiles, at first casual. But it soon ramps up into a raw, emotional cry as you go through the motions getting increasingly desperate to find someone to connect with.

Lyrically, the album touches on so many aspects of contemporary life and the feelings they inspire, both the happy and difficult. hedge fun captures that rare place where emotions intersect – where they clash and where they reach a fleeting sense of harmony, before you’re plunged back into the overwhelming cacophony of reality.

Finally, the collection ends on one of the more relaxed-sounding tracks – the poignant, short-but-sweet ‘One More’ – reflecting on the ups and downs of relationships with the band’s trademark honesty and wit.

hedge fun showcases all there is to love about Nun Habit and their knack for fusing together an eclectic mix of both musical genres and lyrical subject matter in the most uplifting of ways. A cheering sonic exploration that demands multiple listens, and will leave you looking forward with uncertainty but optimism for what this band are going to do next.

Listen to, and buy, hedge fun on bandcamp here.

Kirstie Summers

ALBUM: Eliza Shaddad – ‘The Woman You Want’

Desiring to be the best person she can be, in spite of not always feeling capable of accomplishing said desire, Sudanese-Scottish artist Eliza Shaddad challenged herself to create an emotionally honest album; unafraid of showing her true vulnerable self, to both herself and the listener.

Following the release of her debut record, 2018’s Future – and EPs, 2020’s Sept ~ Dec, 2016’s Run, and 2014’s Waters – Eliza’s sophomore effort, The Woman You Want is the culmination of a year-long self-reflection and reconciliation of her identity. A collection of nine deeply personal tracks that demonstrate resilience, insecurity, and raw emotion.

Opening with the jangling guitars of ‘The Man I Admire’, Eliza explores contrasting themes of intimacy and melancholy (“Darling I know you feel blue / But where is the man I admire?”), her soft vocals dovetailing into the compassionate folk-rock anthem ‘Heaven’, a poignant reminder that life can get better – “Yeah, I want you to keep holding on / I know life can be unkind / And you’ve got heaven on your mind / But I want you to keep holding on.”

Eliza wears her influences on her sleeve for ‘Fine & Peachy’, channelling nineties legend Alanis Morissette, and proudly sticking her middle finger up with brutally honest, sick-of-this-shit lyrics (“Fuck you just tell me what you want to say / Instead of screwing with my head for days”), complemented by the rebellious groove of guitarist Michael Jablonka and drummer Glyn Daniels, known for their work with Micheal Kiwanuka and The Staves respectively.

The ethereal guitar melodies and syncopated drum beats of the introspective title track, ‘The Woman You Want’, lead into shimmering distortion and electronic experimentation on ‘The Waiting Game’ and ‘Tired Of Trying’; beautiful, haunting, and reminiscent of Björk, post-1995’s Post. ‘In The Morning (Grandmother Song)’ follows as a delicate yet complex soundscape of soaring multi-layered instrumentals infused with Eliza’s mesmerising voice; a crescendo of emotion showcasing her impressive vocal range. Next, ‘Now You’re Alone’ starts off somber, lonely, but as Eliza’s initial near-whisper grows louder with intensity – an orchestral swell backing the heart-wrenching lyrics – the song becomes cathartic; one you will find yourself singing along to in those dark moments of isolation.

Closing the album is ‘Blossom’, a song that radiates positive energy and encapsulates the record’s central theme: growth.

Produced by BJ Jackson, and recorded at her home studio/bedroom in Cornwall, The Woman You Want is the evolution of Eliza Shaddad’s career and womanhood, an intimate insight into Eliza as an independent artist – a friend, a wife, a daughter/granddaughter. A self-proclaimed “ethereal grunger growing up”.

The Woman You Want is out now via Rosemundy Records/Wow and Flutter. Order here.

Ken Wynne