Boomkat Product Review:
Avant folk-jazz-blues visionary Matana Roberts braids American and African-American history and music in a remarkable 5th chapter to her epic, ongoing 12-part cycle - co-produced by TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone, overseen by the spirit of Jaimie Branch (RIP), and performed by her 11-piece ensemble.
Four years since Chapter 4, NYC-based reeds player, composer/improvisor and bandleader Matana summons her consummate strengths in collaboration to spearhead a sprawling, riveting narrative centring American history through “ancestry, archive and place”. Now 21 years since she starred on Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘Yanqui U.X.O.’, and a dozen since she committed to the ‘Coin Coin’ odyssey, Matana draws upon an inimitable reading of links between folk music, jazz and blues, avant garde concrète and hip hop collage to realise a uniquely immersive style of musical storytelling. The 16 parts mazily oscillate and elide instrumental and spoken word parts with experimental classical techniques and staging according to a finely honed instinct and politicised logic that highlights the plight of her ancestors who died from illegal abortions, and how that issue remains relevant at a time when reproductive rights are once again under attack.
Where previous chapters have leaned into free jazz and post-rock (Chapter One), or noise collage (Chapter Three), Matana’s 5th instalment hustles a new ensemble, steeped in post-rock, improvisation, new music and avant-rock, for a record that sees all her circles bleed. Matana’s vocals guide the album, mostly in spoken word form, but reserving the right to rage when combined with her own horns, harmonicas, and percussion, plus her ensemble; fellow alto saxophonist Darius Jones, violinist Mazz Swift (Silkroad Ensemble, D’Angelo), bass clarinettist Stuart Bogie (TV On The Radio, Antibalas), alto clarinettist Matt Lavelle (Eye Contact, Sumari), pianist Cory Smythe (Ingrid Laubrock, Anthony Braxton), vocalist/actor Gitanjali Jain and percussionists Ryan Sawyer (Thurston Moore, Nate Wooley) and Mike Pride (Pulverize The Sound, MDC).
Fixed in place with synths and coproduction by Kyp Malone, found miles away from his pop-rock with TV on the Radio, ‘Coin Coin Chapter’ sees the story grow in scope and intensity. Additional inspirations ranging from Cage and Fluxus to the holistic practice of Maryanne Amacher’s otoacoustic compositions prompt Matana as much as the palpable influence of Mississippi fife & drums blues that perfuse the record from ‘we said’ to its closer ‘...ain't i. ...your mystery is our history’. The results are intricate and engrossing thanks to Matana’s discipline and liberating spirit, most poignantly in her adaptation of plantation song ‘but i never heard a sound so long’ and her ability to wrest a quizzical optimism from dark subject matter on album denouement ‘for they do not know’.
Rare earth materials, not to be treated lightly.