Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble – Where Future Unfolds

 

Title: Where Future Unfolds
Artist: Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble
Label: IARC
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: June 14, 2019

 

Recorded live last November at the Red Bull Music Festival in Chicago, Damon Locks’ new release with his 15-piece Black Monument Ensemble may quite literally capture Where Future Unfolds. This forward looking project began as a sound collage piece incorporating samples from Civil Rights era speeches and grew into an epic, avant-garde oratorio. While the album can’t capture the full spectacle of the live performance with dancers from Move Me Soul, the recording still conveys the powerful message of Locks’ music. Likely influenced by the theatricality of Sun Ra and the aesthetics of The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Locks’ magnum opus also bears some resemblance to albums released during the Black Power and Black Arts Movement eras. This is clear from the opening “Statement of Intent/Black Monument Theme,” which is primarily a spoken word piece over the African-rooted percussion of Arif Smith and Dana Hall. The dense lyrics conclude with the call to action: “So we choose our next move / The time is now, it has always been / Respond anew / Pass the guard and get through, because some things never change.”

The choral work “Sounds Like Now” has an “age of aquarius” feel. Grounded by a mbira ostinato, the choir sings of crumbling infrastructure, the high cost of living, and “power of the government, never to the people.” In contrast, “Rebuild a Nation” oozes positivity, reinforced by a child’s innocent voice. The back to back tracks “Which I Believe It Will” and “Which I Believe I Am” retain the elements of Locks’ original electronic sound collage. The work reaches an intense climax with the no-holds-barred “Power,” as the repeated phrase “the struggle is not empty” shifts to the final question, “Is there a time for love?” Concluding with “From a Spark to a Fire,” Angel Bat Dawid’s clarinet weaves through the dense percussive fabric as the singers encourage us to move from “indifference to devotion…there is power in emotion.”

Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble’s Where Future Unfolds is the embodiment of genre-defying music. Looking to the past as well as the future, they encourage listeners towards engagement, empowerment, and participation. Indeed, “the time is now.”

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss