Black Spirituals Of Deconstruction

[SIGE; 2014]

Styles: electroacoustic improv, studio entropy, rhythm
Others: Talibam!, Albert Ayler, Zs, Flower-Corsano Duo, Yellow Swans

In unceasing repetition, Of Deconstruction extracts understanding from a system stripped temporally bare. An auditory nude in descent, the radiant black body of Black Spirituals’ debut album bridges subconscious desire with studio-savvy free-improvisation. By the constant reiteration of small impressionist figures, Zachary James Watkins (bass, electronics) and Marshall Trammell (trap kit) form uniquely modular, non-linear sound roles. Although it’s of no surprise that a duo with roots in electroacoustic improv would incorporate nontraditional elements, Black Spirituals live-compose a musical identity unlike any other.

“Radiant” begins with what sounds like cables plugging in and out, a spotty melody bisected by random silence, and moves through slow evolutions of tension and release over its 20-minute playtime. Bassist and composer Watkins employs a distinctly Aylerian approach to his instrument: like the brassy refrains of “Spiritual Unity,” Watkins starts with a deceptively simple melody, then gradually erodes and reassembles its aspects. When Trammell’s kit enters the fray, it further complicates things with unconventional, skittering fills, drawing away from the perfect groove at the album’s hypothetical center and toward a place of vague creation.

But then a blast of static overtakes it, a bitter slight against tonality; the song swells pregnant with a grey wash of undesirable sounds and quashed transients. Trammell’s aggression surfaces against the waves like fighting a current, pushing forth with sloppy fills, his Vijay Iyer-inspired aesthetic mapping style allowing for reinterpretations of rock drum patterns without any of their contexts and habits — an abstraction of what he calls “cultural DNA.” This section grows increasingly more engorged with hissing, caustic noise, as Trammell’s beats grow louder and more pitched, until he is striking against the noise itself, sidechaining it with the volume of his impact. Watkins’s impressionist influences, meanwhile, take on a new role as they adjust the headspace of the record to create an entropic system of glowing monolithic noise. This decidedly unmusical accompaniment expands with each successive pulse of the drum, making the song appear refractory; it is listening to itself.

It is a call-and-response maneuver, which compounds several times over and capitulates to shrill distant sines before reforming as a chunky non-groove. “Black” forms an exquisite corpse with the tail ends of “Radiant,” adding a slight pitch phase to its bass to suggest the wavering speech patterns of singers in a spiritual chant; drums scatter off cumulative patterns of worry and distress. These drums grow scarcer in “Body,” a meandering collage of clicks and chords, the stems of a much larger song reduced to its most essential motions. The duo refits the call-and-response time to split seconds, sticking blasts of warm parallel distortion into long stretches of silence, a peculiarly unyielding closing statement.

Like the name suggests, Black Spirituals are interested in the trajectories of black music, past and present, so this dispersion and dissection of rhythmic interplay speaks to a reclaimaint desire for historically black music forms in nascent musical spaces — maybe like those imprecisely referred to as “new music.” By disassembling the structures behind genres long co-opted and interred, turning out warped loops of bass, noise, and rhythm unhindered by a lockstep rhythm or a studio orthodoxy, the duo educes new possibilities in real-time on practical applications for digital dissonance, using the studio as an instrument, and the artful defiance of expectations.

Links: Black Spirituals - SIGE


Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

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