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Black Air Encyclopedia is the product of a rewarding unruly artistic spirit. Moor Mother, aka Camae Ayewa, is a Philadelphia-based poet, musician, artist and activist whose music inhabits various underground subgenres (experimental hip-hop, industrial noise, free jazz). She is also a member of Black Quantum Futurism, an art project that espouses Afrofuturism – a loose cultural movement that uses fantastic visions of history and the future to free the black imagination from past and present oppression.
Her new album finds her reciting semi-rapped and spoken verses in the company of a diverse cast of guest singers. The music is abstract hip-hop with bits of melody. The results are very different from the computerized pulse of today’s chart hits – “Android algorithm tunes” as Ayewa calls them in “Mangrove”. The song places her in a dystopian “Confederate landscape” where dreams are extinguished or turned into nightmares by Sandman-style boggers.
In her previous albums, she confronted this impoverished or threatening imagination through improvised acts of dissonance, notably the strident sounds of free jazz. Black Air Encyclopedia takes a more phantasmal approach. His voice and those of his collaborators dominate the debates, a mixture of raps, songs, chants and ghostly whispers. The music, performed with Swedish producer Olof Melander, forms a background haze of tingling percussions and tense chords.
The results deliberately lack structure, an effect that presents a different kind of challenge than the mismatch of other versions of Moor Mother. But this corresponds to the idea of the time of the album and to the tyranny of the measure. The final track “Clock Fight” brings together a litany of beat-poetry from imprisoned timepieces – working clocks, master’s clock, city clock, and more. .
‘Black Air Encyclopedia‘is published by Anti-