Tag Archives: Hieroglyphic Being

Lifetime Achievement: Hieroglyphic Being’s Experimental Acid House Mythologies

lifetime_achievement_award-1244To hold a cursory conversation with Chicago native Jamal Moss, the mind behind experimental acid house project Hieroglyphic Being, is to strut through Chicago house history. Having come up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Moss attended shows and raves at clubs like the Muzic Box, where legendary producer Ron Hardy DJed. Moss has done a bit of everything concerning the music industry—starting by dancing out at clubs, becoming a promoter, DJing at clubs and on the radio at WNUR, making music under many aliases, and having his own label (Mathematics Recordings). Over the course of a two-hour chat at Evanston restaurant the Peckish Pig, he mentions working in robotics, academia, at a financial firm, and even as a gigolo. And that’s without even touching Hieroglyphic Being, his prolific project which melds a number of styles—free jazz, industrial music, New Age, and acid house—into a sound entirely his own.

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A Guide to 15 Years of RVNG’s Artfully Curated Electronics

RVNG

Ask Matt Werth to reflect on the past 15 years of running the New York label RVNG Intl. and he’ll quickly, but kindly, shift the attention to other people. Not because the Madison, Wisconsin native is too busy or wary of writers; it’s because RVNG is more of a tight-knit art collective than a traditional record company.

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Greg Fox: Keeper of Time

Greg Fox

Photo by Ebru Yildiz.

There’s an old saying that goes, “a great drummer is hard to find,” but New York drummer, composer, and artist Greg Fox seems to have taken it upon himself to single-handedly pick up the slack. Over the past nine years, Fox has gone from in-demand kit mercenary to legend-in-the-making. Though he’s not exactly a household name, his stack of invitations to new projects and collaborations seems to grow by the hour. Fox first turned heads as the drummer for NYC black metal group Liturgy, and he’s spent the past three years working with everyone from free jazz luminary Milford Graves, to Chicago tech house underlord Hieroglyphic Being, to Sun Ra Arkestra member Marshall Allen, and routinely with the preeminent Colin Stetson Ensemble, the exuberantly holistic Zs—to say nothing of his own expanding body of solo work.

Watching Fox hammer away in transcendental focus welcomes the usual comparisons (“Dude is a machine!”), but to stop at his pure instrumental prowess is to ignore Fox’s status as an insatiable music scholar. Starting with the early blast beat vernacular of metal, Fox has gradually expanded into increasingly ambitious stylistic terrain, from jazz to classical to New Age. His technical chops are obvious, and his ability to quickly shift gears is an indication of his skill and range as an artist.

This month, RVNG releases Fox’s latest independent endeavor, The Gradual Progression, a maximal follow-up to 2014’s Mitral Transmission. Though both records are technically of Greg Fox solo, similarities are otherwise few. Mitral Transmission was built from a highly unusual, highly unique series of “recording sessions” that allowed Fox—with the assistance of friend and mentor Milford Graves—to map the rhythms of his heartbeat and extrapolate the results via a MIDI output file. While Mitral Transmission represents a pure corollary to Fox’s electronic heart sessions via virtual instrumentation, The Gradual Progression—as its title may suggest—swells to a nearly orchestral degree, with layers of guitar, drums, tenor sax, upright bass, vocals and a deep cache of sampled sounds. If there’s anything to be learned from Fox’s bio-sensory experiments, it’s that Fox’s heart is wildly expressive, ebullient and relentlessly free of formality.

Though The Gradual Progression takes center stage as Fox’s freshest offering, we’d be remiss if we didn’t seize the opportunity to round up our favorites from his constellation of projects. The following list comprises some additional records handpicked from Fox’s catalogue, a sort of crash course in the Lord of Crash.

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Album of the Day: Hieroglyphic Being, “The Disco’s of Imhotep”

We’re just now turning the stone on Chicago’s Jamal Moss, aka Hieroglyphic Being. He’s starting to get the critical acclaim he deserves, despite a prolific career that spans 20 years. The Mathematics Recordings founder and electronic producer released two painstakingly-crafted LPs in 2015: the stunning The Acid Documents on London’s Soul Jazz Records, and the chilling large-ensemble spiritual expression of We Are Not the First, which featured Liturgy’s Greg Fox and members of Sun Ra’s Arkestra. A groundswell of verbose press clippings followed, a WIRE cover, a Resident Advisor film feature, and so on.

On The Disco’s of Imhotep, Moss’s fever-streak resumes with a brief 9-track consolidation of what feels like a bookend to The Acid Documents. What it lacks in length it gains in directness; while The Acid Documents was prone to leftfield passages of experimentalism, Disco’s feels poised and charged for attack. Punishingly raw bass drum blasts, laced with bleak synths, resound in a spiritual matrix. The clanging hardwares and industrial tones relent very little, but it reveals a strangely soulful and sinewy kind of emotional viscera.

Moss is an inspiring, consummate force in experimental music, a rich human spirit seeking emotional solace through his work. Dance and movement offer emotional healing, and Moss’ arrival at such a dynamic hybrid of ideas on The Disco’s of Imhotep is a great gift, but also a compelling cause for working back to the beginning.

Joseph Darling