Consider hacking into a deeper examination of the senses—visuality, audiology, tactility. Consider hacking into an observation of the world around us—geographically, temporally, contextually. Consider hacking into a scrutinization of socio-political issues—technology, leakology, trackology.
With his most current album, Saul Williams encourages us to do just that. Self-produced Encrypted and Vulnerable is the second in a three-part series, preceded by 2016’s MartyrLoserKing, but more importantly, Williams’ work is one more piece in a much larger metaphysical puzzle. The MartyrLoserKing project —a 3-part multi-media compilation of albums, a musical film and an upcoming graphic novel—focuses on governmental surveilling and silencing of global activists through the medium of Afrofuturistic performance. Of his current self-titled spoken word release, Williams describes it as “simultaneously a personal and intimately optimistic takedown on struggle, defiance, awareness, aloneness, and a takedown of heteronormative capitalistic patriarchal authoritarian politics in topics ranging from love, technology, religion, war, to migration.”Continue reading →
New Orleans based jazz trumpeter and composer Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah has just released his much anticipated project, Ancestral Recall. The album is meant to be a continuation of his concept “stretch music.” Introduced with his 2015 album of the same name, “stretch music” is Adjuah’s attempt to “stretch—not replace—jazz’s rhythmic, melodic and harmonic conventions to encompass as many musical forms/languages/cultures as we can.” Continue reading →
On January 29, poet and performer Saul Williams released what will likely be one of the most challenging records of 2016. Williams is as much a literary figure as a musical one, and MartyrLoserKing is as novelistic as it is musical, following the inner life of a hacker living in Burundi, who’s screenname “MartyrLoserKing” is the source of the album’s title.
Unlike many “socially conscious” musicians that end up doing what is essentially the musical equivalent of “slacktivism,” Williams uses this album as a place to paint a complex and ambivalent picture of the current state of the world. He addresses the prevalence of uninformed fear on “Down For Some Ignorance,” the potential for internet-spread misinformation on the song’s musical and thematic sibling “Roach Eggs,” while expanding to more explicitly political issues including police brutality and systemic racism. Williams, an American expat, writes about the world as a terrifying postmodern dystopia, perhaps nowhere more evocatively than on “All Coltrane Solos at Once.”
The musical soundscapes match this lyrical bleakness, with drum machines that sound far away and collages of electronic bleeps and samples that are alternately disorienting and threatening. All of this leads to the tremendous effect of MartyrLoserKing, which suggests that any remedy to the myriad problems facing humanity must necessarily start with people developing their individual, social and political consciousness.