Hieroglyphic Being The Disco’s Of Imhotep

[Technicolour; 2016]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: cubist house, cosmic bebop
Others: Actress, L.I.E.S., Steve Poindexter, Terrence Dixon, Innsyter, Sun Ra

The Disco’s Of Imhotep is a binaural record. A free cosmic bebop buried within house loops, it swirls and subverts perception, leaning heavily into dissociative habits and completionist patterns while shaping a canopy of immaculate noise frequencies around the periphery. Swirls of over-burdened melody stew in reverb, aimlessly plummet and return without care, securely harnessed to the pulverizing stomp. The waveforms are bright, vibrant bodies, pinging high notes and percolating bass tubes with an alien disconnect from real instruments. All the while, though, a surprising, clever subtext infiltrates, a healing sonic wave, a free-jazz spirit, a cohort of pure energy.

Jamal Moss’s machines form cartwheeling melodies on songs like “Sepulchral Offerings” with an expressionistic, playfully curious tendency that nearly resembles automatic drawing — cycles made mildly, but crucially musical, layers of connect-the-dots melody strung up piece by patient piece across octaves with indulgent sweetness. Noncommittal in completion stage and vague in modulation, it resonates as a hollow musical skeleton, displaced and unresolved — “free.” As a result, my mind is only half-occupied by this empty, irreverent melody and leaves space for a search around the fastening stomp of the kick drum for something else to latch onto, which is when a weird kind of second text emerges in the form of these “Hemi-Synced” binaural waves, a wiry dance partner that moves in sleek striations between sounds making unusual disruptions.

This is where Moss’s abilities, his analogy of himself as a cubist, emerges. The split perception of these two competing forms produces a system in which our ears constantly redefine the same naive, sketched melody in an awkward, forced perspective, refreshing its contours but remaining still in essentially the same pose, consciously “dusting off” the sound item we’re presented with again and again, more and more dust gathering still by way of Jamal’s fragmenting high sonics and spliced breaks.

Surprising characteristics emerge as a result: iciness, seduction, spirituality, contained brutality, all of which brood quietly behind the brashly chosen beats, defined in immutable ways by minute stylistic particles. Opener “Shrine Of The Serpent Goddess,” for example, swirls in cool effervescence and abstract invocations, a brief demonstration of the premise. Elsewhere, songs like “Crocodile Skin” push it to more distressing, harshly cleansing timbres, releasing streaks of noise that grind in the eardrums like biting baby cries. This, strangely enough, does remind me a bit of Sun Ra, which Moss has endured comparisons to before, not for its evocation of any traditional ideas of jazz instrumentation, but for how, in every broad stroke Sun Ra would cast against his piano, dissonant and overly expressive, his soul shined through — the excess would gather and cluster, and amidst all that clutter a pure personality was shaped in relief.

Moss does this in a house scenario, against that vacuuming, stabilizing 4/4 that scrapes the detritus away on a tightly wound sidechain. Like on “Nubian Energy,” which turns a resonant, grinding bass onto a mealy-mouthed sample (“motherfucker”), making caustic reactions sound darkly seductive, a strange ellipse of lost groove, uncanny displacement and porn VHS. Or the title track, disorienting the kick fully under a vibrant, vast scope of crisp sounds that start to crash like ocean swells, an endless dance etched into memory. “Each song has its own signature, its own harmonics, its own vibration,” Moss told The Quietus, “and if you’re sitting there dulling that sound when you’re blending that so smoothly, then you can’t properly transmit the energy that song is supposed to.” It could be the faintest register of an idea, but multiple layers of unique process elevate these scraps to their fullest potential, help submerged meanings surface and breathe.

As healing music goes, Hieroglyphic Being can be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s also a powerful one. To say The Disco’s Of Imhotep has rough edges is a vast understatement: every second of this “outsider house” record is a melange of collided surfaces, like broken stained glass glued together, with wide, unaltered swaths of color clashing at overlapping points of reason and streaks of white noise coloring the far channels in a daft mist. It’s a cosmic cubist painting, a sublimation of faint visions under a blanketing hyper-personal brush technique, every trailing sight line an unseen utility, kiting the distant promise of melodies while sneaking a robust and expressive aesthetic. For an artist who has released as prolifically as Moss, having a “defining solo album” is a hard choice. But this is an excellent primer for Jamal Moss’s singular ideology, and deserves our dual attention.

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