Nostrum Grocers (ELUCID + milo) Nostrum Grocers

[Ruby Yacht; 2018]

Styles: neo-hoodooism, collectible, black liberation technology
Others: billy woods, Haj of Dumhi, Kenny Segal, s.al

The name Nostrum Grocers has been floating around forever it seems. Its surface meaning, painting ELUCID and milo as makers/sellers of mystical medicines and/or social schemes, might strike a chord with both longtime followers and casual listeners. But I for one can’t shake the feeling that it also sounds and looks a hell of a lot like Nostrand Grocers, as in grocery stores located along Brooklyn’s Nostrand Avenue, of which there are many. Right or wrong, I like this idea, because it localizes the duo’s esoterica, makes it folksy in a way, like I might spend an afternoon at the Nostrum Grocers in deep conversation with the wise-old shopkeeper or just pop in for a seltzer and be on my way, refreshed.

Both artists became fathers in the time between this album’s conception and arrival, with ELUCID writing all of his lyrics during the last month of his wife’s pregnancy. Perhaps accordingly, his voice, which might typically be characterized as gruff-melodic, conveys unaffected vulnerability and determination on the song “‘peace is the opposite of security.” The resulting tone complements the intimacy with which he writes, resulting in something less insular and abstract in delivery than might have otherwise been the case. Here, milo’s verse makes for a clever addendum, the noble poet willfully playing witty hypeman when warranted. Elsewhere, however, it’s he who pushes the discourse into new dimensions. On “medium,” for example, after ELUCID speed-snipes a seemingly impossible-to-follow rhyme pattern (A-A-B-B-C-C-C-A with like 64 internal variations?), milo surfs tempo changes with a maneuvering so weightless and fluid you might think it was a studio trick were it coming from anyone other than the road-horse and self-proclaimed guildsman. He makes the line “Celes King turns a bean into a bean bag/ Celes King turn a trap into a think tank” sound perfectly natural, even when the words don’t rhyme and you have no idea who that person is. (He was a civil rights activist.)

Soul Folks Records, the store opened by milo earlier this year in Biddeford, ME, has temporarily closed to the public and now functions primarily as a creative dock for the Ruby Yacht, his label/collective. (Update: Soul Folks Records recently resumed regular operations.) Also earlier this year, milo publicly lamented on the spiritual failings of a consumer society that demands buying and selling. He was also banned from a grocery store over some bullshit and, separately, expressed a dream to someday open his own. Nostrum Grocers is not quite that, but it’s close. There’s an insularity and a communality at work here, where creation, like life, happens for its own sake, sometimes planned, often spontaneous, but always necessary and with no off days.

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