One of our era’s most urgent voices...

Of all the projects 2020 has seen Philadelphia-based poet Moor Mother turn her hand to – she’s already set her verse to sound collage-style production and caustic noise rock – 'Circuit City' feels the most essentially borne out of the times. Assembled from recordings of a theatrical choreopoem produced last June with the aid of her Irreversible Entanglement bandmates, its four songs are a distressing peek out from between the blinds of a corporation-owned domicile which is both oppressive cell and grim workplace. Through its lens we are afforded a vision of a twisted technocracy in which life cannot be extricated from labour.

“Well that’s Circuit City!” rings the tagline to an imminent future, one stridently soundtracked by agitated free jazz and the rumbling hums of its own desolate functioning. The circuit Moor Mother describes is the closed feedback loop by which the elite downtread the marginalised into perpetual cycles of crime and death (“chalk line”) through the “red line” phenomenon of racial housing-based discrimination. “Chalk line. Red line. Circuit break”, she repeatedly intones.

The ‘big tech’ institutions which have assumed such monstrous proportions now constitute “a machine so big you can’t see it”, casting monumental, suffocating shade upon those whose individual dreams – be they start-up businesses or creative endeavours – they assimilate in the their all- consuming globalisation; these “invisible giants” wage “god wars” high above the heads of those they exploit.

The vision is bleak and compellingly evoked, but there is a prospect of escape from Circuit City. ‘No More Wires’ promises that “we finally getting out of here”; free jazz is the liberation technology, just as it was for Ayler, Baraka, Shepp, and Sun Ra before Moor Mother, whose own assemblage creates a spacey, bracing racket worthy of Afrofuturism’s forebearers.

Hers is a goal of severance from the wiry and intrusive tendrils of mega-corporations, severance achieved through reclamation of both beauty and ugliness “of our own design”. More than that, she aches for a “return to a time with no time”, a true home immune to and outside of the trail of history which has scarred so many generations with the black trauma she references at the album’s start. Circuit City carries its narrative intensity consummately from the stage to album format and represents the most conceptually accomplished project of 2020 from one of our era’s most urgent voices.

8/10

Words: Alec Holt

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