CIRCUIT CITY: ALBUM REVIEW
“It’s been so much trauma, I don’t even know where to start… Like I don’t even know what year.”
This is how noise musician and poet Moor Mother opens her newest project, Circuit City. When Moor Mother talked to “The Q” a couple of weeks ago, she told us that when she first heard the recording of this album, it brought her to tears. It’s easy to see why. Circuit City is a sprawling epic that pushes all kinds of artistic boundaries.
Moor Mother has dipped into a lot of different genres this year, but Circuit City is clearly a free-jazz album. As she says, “you can’t time travel / seek inner and outer dimensions / without free-jazz.” Circuit City definitely seeks those outer dimensions. It’s an album of asking for more from the universe, in a similar way to how John and Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Saunders, and countless others pushed to reach a higher power in their free-jazz oriented works. For example, in “Act 4 - No More Wires,” you can hear the beauty of the late-Coltrane's influence. It almost feels like he is directing the band from beyond the grave. Steve Montenegro on electronics, Luke Stewart on bass, Keir Neuringer on sax/percussion, Tchese Holmes on drums, and Aquiles on trumpet provide this beautiful backing for Moor Mother and allow her to push her art to its limits.
Circuit City conceptually centers around the topic of housing discrimination. As she says on the second track, Circuit City is about “the way they house us.” This “they” that Moor Mother refers to is a powerful and colonizing force. “They” feels both dangerous and inevitable, while often operating in incredibly subtle ways. The album begins with the track “Act 1 – Working Machine.” Here, Moor Mother tells us in detail how the machine is always working towards oppression. Throughout this track there’s a feeling of hopelessness; the machine feels inevitable and all-powerful.
On “Act 2 - Circut Break” Moor Mother speaks at length about the power that gentrification and housing discrimination have to erase memory. The entire project feels like a eulogy to memories lost due to housing inequality. Each break in the chain of housing and ownership has the power to break the circuit and throw the world into darkness. On this track Moor Mother chants “break, break, break” as the instruments around her get nosier and sound more broken themselves. The chaos effectively drives home the message of the track and the album: the brokenness of the system we live in.
Intertwined with Moor Mother’s discussion of housing is the concept of time. Time is a major theme in all of Moor Mother’s work. She often talks about the idea of time being an oppressive force, and this project perfectly conveys that sentiment. On “Act 1- Working Machine” she says, “That’s why we don’t age, got all those years up inside of us confusing each other.” And on “Act 3 – Time of No Time” guest singer, Elon Battle, sings, “We will return to a time with no time.” Time is the force that has accelerated gentrification, and thus, time no longer represents a future of hope. The only way to break the system is to buck time itself.
Moor Mother is a once-in-a generation-type of artist. The power she has with words, like when she describes gentrification as “the forever destruction of what was already here,” is immaculate. She has already released three mind-blowing albums this year and she just keeps on hitting us with more.