Tag Archives: Moor Mother

The Lasting Legacy of the Art Ensemble of Chicago

In May of 1969, a Chicago-based quartet of radically experimental musicians made two decisions that resonate to this day. 

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A Guide to Spoken Word on Bandcamp

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Tanesha the Wordsmith

In May 2018, The Last Poets celebrated their 50th year with a new LP, Understand What Black Is. Back in the late ’60s, the group used politically charged raps and militant rhythms to raise black consciousness and spread awareness throughout Harlem, Manhattan. At the same time, in a different part of the city, Gil Scott-Heron was using his own barbed verse to attack consumer culture, mass media, and systemic racism, setting spoken word poetry to steady-boiling free jazz. And while spoken word verse had been around for centuries—think back to the storytelling of 13th century griots in the Mandé Empire of Mali, West Africa, or even further back to the original wordsmiths of Ancient Greece—Heron and the Last Poets were among the first to see its value as a popular art form, and a way to comment on the turbulent world around them.

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Terminal Consumption: The Best Punk on Bandcamp, August 2017

Terminal Consumption

In this installment of Terminal Consumption, our monthly reviews column focused on the margins of punk and hardcore, Sam Lefebvre considers Ratskin Records’ ambitious Ghost Ship fire-relief benefit compilation, Mothercountry Motherfuckers’ posthumous final album, the withering piss-takes of Neo Neos, and the adventurous first full-length by American Hate.

American Hate, Our Love Is Real [Not Normal]

Oklahoma City hardcore foursome American Hate’s first EP, Dead Squeeze from 2014, is sickly and festering like an open wound, guitar leads and vocals occupying the same range of shrieking treble. It sounds reminiscent of the proto-crazy-mutant-punk of the Midwest, meaning Die Kreuzen as well as Devo, and the group’s covers EP from the next year, Greatest Hits, reinforces this sense of the band as students of the style. Mid-tempo dirge “The Best Advice” is typically indelible. When it devolves into teeth-gnashing despair, it reminds us that the highest purpose of the hardcore breakdown is to evoke a spiritual bottom. Lots of hardcore bands have a smattering of equally strong tapes and EPs, but few follow with an album as solid as Our Love Is Real.

Our Love Is Real, the group’s first full-length, brims with new ideas, featuring better articulated instrumentation to match more formally adventurous songwriting. Ross Adams’s voice, still wily, sounds fuller, and you’ll hear actual chords where the guitar on earlier records sounded like assorted power tools. Monosyllabic, chatterbox delivery enlivens the pouncing pogo of “Contagious,” while “Pissing” closes with a swelling, over-too-soon torrent of chains and saxophone. Guitars intersect on “Perfect Mantra,” before the blip of devotional singing, and “Lament” is a sneering-yet-sauntering ballad with humming gang vocals. Our Love Is Real is a rare step forward in a style of music where groups are prone to settle for sameness (and get away with it), all without compromising their mood of maladjustment.

Neo Neos, The Hammer of Civilization EP [It’s Trash]

A deceivingly-titled solo outlet for songwriter and instrumentalist Connie Voltaire, Neo Neos have released a slew of tapes over the last several year through Another Label, which serves as a clearinghouse for similarly scrappy Minneapolis acts. Voltaire’s sound—steeped in the charming, rush-to-publish eccentricity that seems common among regional punk bands—involves curdled low-end, a nasal yawp, infernal grooves, and hacksaw guitar. “No Dancing,” one of four songs on The Hammer of Civilization, typifies Voltaire’s withering piss-takes on underground trendies, while closer “Money Trash” has zippy-yet-unstable propulsion.

Mothercountry Motherfuckers, Confidential Human Source [Clean Plate]

Confidential Human Source is the posthumously-released debut full-length of Mothercountry Motherfuckers, a foursome that emerged on Bay Area stages in 2010 with masks, blood-spattered clothing, crypto-insurrectionary imagery, and a confident, muscular sound. The album credits are still stuffed with pseudonyms, except for vocalist and guitarist Sarah Kirsch. An activist and longtime scene fixture, Kirsch died in 2012 at the age of 42, and it’s difficult to remove this album, which was completed later, from that context. As one of her friends and collaborators told me for an obituary at the time, “She really embodied the idea that another world is possible.”

Confidential Human Source brings to mind the vivid, thorough punk production of the 1990s, as do the pick slides, blitzkrieg breaks, and raspy backup vocals. In the spirit of possibility that Kirsch’s peers remember in her, the album also courses with imaginative allegories for personal and community turmoil and reinvention. “Public Policy Paper” starts with “I am in the invisible hand / Of market myth and new urban plans,” and later asks, “Who remembers Yulanda Ward?” Ward was a 22-year-old activist gunned down in Washington, DC in 1980. Officially deemed a robbery-gone-wrong, many allies believe she was in fact assassinated for her role in uncovering a government plot to neutralize Black radicalism through housing policy, which is the sort of thing that Kirsch would want you to know.

Various Artists, Rogue Pulse / Gravity Collapse 10-CD Box Set [Ratskin]

Since the deadly Ghost Ship fire last December, which claimed 36 lives at an underground electronic music event in Oakland, several releases have emerged to benefit impacted communities in the Bay Area. Golden Donna, moniker of 100% Silk artist Joel Shanahan, who was scheduled to perform that night, dedicated proceeds from Carousel Hold to community fire-relief, as did former DFA Records manager Kris Petersen with his compilation Lives Through Magic. More recently, there’s Loose Grip Records’ Love Oakland compilation, which features Bay Area artists such as Nopes and Tony Molina.

But none of them are quite as ambitious, or seem as close to the tragedy, in terms of personnel and politics, as Ratskin Records’ 187-track, 10-disc mega-compilation Rogue Pulse / Gravity Collapse, proceeds from which support sex workers’ health clinic St. James Infirmary, Black Lives Matter’s national bail fund, and the Oakland Immediate Fire Relief Fund. The beneficiaries reflect Ratskin co-operator Michael Dadonna’s dismay that fallout from the fire impacted broad segments of the population in the Bay Area, not just a narrow cast of artists in warehouses.

Rogue Pulse / Gravity Collapse represents an expansive understanding of punk, one with a lot of truck in Oakland, that doesn’t necessarily involve guitars. To wit, locals include the splintering electronics of Cube, elliptical noise-rock of SBSM, the heaving might of Ragana, and skittish rhythms of Waxy Tomb, along with Spellling, Black Spirituals, Russell Butler, and Negativland. Marquee contributors from elsewhere include Moor Mother, Wolf Eyes, DJ Spooky, and John Bender. Several featured artists recently organized or performed at The Universe is Lit: Bay Area Black and Brown Punk Festival.

—Sam Lefebvre

Better Know a College Radio Station: University of Victoria’s CFUV

college radio cfuv

For many obsessive fans who grew up in the pre-Internet era, a passion for music was sparked in the dingy basements and dark booths of college radio stations. Despite sound boards that are decades out of date and rapidly-changing tastes, the collegiate airwaves tradition has endured. The best college stations remain dedicated to delivering music that fall outside the purview of Billboard-charting mainstream radio.

If anything, the shifting climate has caused student station managers and music directors to work harder at keeping their stations relevant. And with good reason: at the radio station, they find comrades with whom they can trade mixtapes and stay up late into the night raving about life-changing B-sides. Bandcamp speaks from personal experience: even if our first shows were at 4am on Tuesday nights, they were the best two hours of our entire week.

In our column called Better Know a College Radio Station, we spotlight the programmers, music directors, and general managers who make sure the “On-Air” light never burns out. This month, we chat with the staff at the University of Victoria’s CFUV: Siobhan Clancy, Communications Coordinator and Troy Lemberg, Music Director.

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On “Crime Waves,” Moor Mother and Mental Jewelry Fuse Their Philly Punk Roots

Moor Mother

Photo by Bob Sweeney.

There is a message, urgent and distorted, that Philadelphia-based artist, Camae Ayewa, who performs as Moor Mother, wants people to hear. On the stirring new song “Death Booming,” her voice peeks out of the quiet industrial patterns to say, “Death boomin’ out the projects, I know you feel it.” 

Moor Mother’s music is designed to remind the listener that, in the United States, whiteness is considered the default, and that taking up the banner of the marginalized can be a threat to the fabric of institutionalized oppression. She knows the listener can see what’s happened to Black bodies across the country, and she points that gaze back on itself. She took that message to a larger audience with 2016’s critically-acclaimed Fetish Bones, which was released on the New Jersey-based independent label Don Giovanni (and named one of Bandcamp’s Best Records of the Year).

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The Positive Energy of Punk Marching Bands

What Cheer Brigade

What Cheer Brigade by Tod Seelie.

For many progressive and radical activists who have been involved in political protest, the results of the 2016 elections were not exactly a shock. While they hoped that the White House would remain in the hands of the Democrats, there was also an acceptance that, no matter who won, the fight for a more equitable and sustainable world would continue. For sousaphonist Dan Nosheny from the brass band West Philadelphia Orchestra, the answer was the same as it had always been: get out in the streets, and don’t forget to bring your horn.

West Philly Orchestra

“The Wednesday following [the election], there was a giant march in Philly,” says Nosheny. “As soon as I saw that, I thought, ‘I really want to be involved with this.’ I mean, [the West Philadelphia Orcheistra] is a 14-piece monstrosity, so it’s been tricky. But I’ve just started bringing a horn to protests and hanging a sign on it.”

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The Best Albums of 2016: #20 – 1

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Collage by Valentina Montagna.

If there’s one thing we learned since we launched Bandcamp Daily this past June, it’s that the world of Bandcamp is enormous—encompassing everything from emo in China to cumbia punk in Tucson, Arizona to just about everything in between. So narrowing our Best Albums of the Year down to 100 choices was a daunting task. Here, at last, are our Top 20 Albums of 2016.

More “Best of 2016”:
The Best Albums of 2016: #100 – 81
The Best Albums of 2016: #80 – 61
The Best Albums of 2016: #60 – 41
The Best Albums of 2016: #40 – 21

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