Music Review: Blacks’ Myths – I (Atlantic Rhythms, Reissue, 2020) & II (Atlantic Rhythms, 2019)

This tape is the first tape I have wound by hand after it got gnarled up in the tape deck in DECADES. I also bought a dual cassette deck and pure tube amplifier just to listen to this! As a result, I now collect tapes again and I am also going to be making my seasonal playlists into custom mixtapes you can buy.

Blacks’ Myths is multi-instrumentalist and very active show promoter in DC, Luke Stewart, on bass and electronics and Warren “Trae” Crudup III on drums. It is a project which takes Afrofuturistic grooves and rends them through with feedback dissonance and unpredictable seismic shifts. While they are listed as a jazz band, I must say they exist very much on the outer edges of free jazz which overlap heavily with post-hardcore and with noise; it’s a really marvelous zone. The greatest examples of this to me are “Stand Your Ground” and “Free Land,” from their second record, II. Blacks’ Myths sound like a cymbal opening into the future driven by the eternal howling of history and the reverberation of every moment in time. This record also includes for the first time some spoken word components which add a lot of concentrated, specific depth to what I was picking up from the purely instrumental music on their first record. I have gotten a lot of interesting looks while walking down the street blasting the opening track, “The Big House,” and the closing track, “The Gideon.” There is a lot more of a narrative structure imposed on this record, and the opening and closing work to communicate what Blacks’ Myths are as a project in sound, color, and mythology.

Their debut, I love the minimal and abstract album art they’ve consistently put out.

Their first record begins off quite hypnotic and jazzy with “Upper South.” Crudup’s soft and incessant hi-hat patters keep me moving through the mesmerizing bass work of Stewart. “Lower South” is a quiet, brooding storm…somehow supple and fierce at the same time. “Black Flight” continues this zone, but there is more space and it is more somber…people are disappearing. “The Spear” gives us a few minutes of uncompromisingly hard rhythm before it takes off abruptly in a departure which sounds like an arrival.

On the debut, it feels like they were still sort of nurturing their sound. It is a wonderful record, but now that I have been spending a lot of time listening to their more recent effort, it showcases them really coming into their own power as a duo. I am very eager to look further into Luke Stewart’s large body of work–the II tape came with this cool zine, as well:

“Stand Your Ground” is included in my spring quarantine playlist.


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