Album of the Week: Moor Mother & billy woods – BRASS (Backwoodz Studioz)

Album of the Week: Moor Mother & billy woods – BRASS (Backwoodz Studioz)

Moor Mother and billy woods released collaborative experimental album BRASS at the tail end of 2020 – it’s our album of the week for 10 January 2021 and an enthralling experimental but meditative work you don’t want to miss. 
Moor Mother and billy woods - Brass album cover

Artists: Moor Mother and billy woods
Album: BRASS
Label: Backwoodz Studioz
Released: 24 December 2020
Find it: Bandcamp | Spotify

There is so much about this album I do no, cannot, understand. It attracts me and repels me. I want to sink right through its many layers absorbing all within even while it absorbs me. Each word is subtly scored into me, melodies with the structure of mist. It might be a record I can hear a million times and not fully know it, but I am utterly resigned to continuing to try.

A collaboration between avant-garde musician and poet Moor Mother, and rapper billy woods BRASS is at times abrasive, always kaleidoscopic, and altogether a visceral, darkly humoured, vital and non-linear experimental piece.

Coming out at the tail end of 2020 I don’t imagine I’ve even really begun to explore its true depths as yet, but even as I wade in I’m consumed by its dazzling tones, gut-held fury and patient teaching. Bringing out the best in both collaborators its hard-hitting, often uncomfortable, and while drawing on history and looking to the future its a perfect bleakly discordant yet meditative soundtrack to the increasingly dystopian present we are stuck in. Most importantly it’s a collection which draws your attention and demands immersion, an album in the truest sense, and further illuminates the brilliance of both parts of the pairing.

The project grew from Moor Mother’s contribution to woods’ release in his Armand Hammer partnership and their collaborative single Furies, put together for Adult Swim and sat here as the opener; a sombre trippy number with wavering but hopeful melody lines and flipped jazz samples build behind the flows. It’s a vibe which reappears throughout the collection, sometimes a clearer motif to pick out than at others (Gang for a Day feat. Franklin James Fisher) while elsewhere the scales tip toward darker, sharper-edged moods but more often the razor-sharp lyrics are balanced with enthralling shimmers of percussion and muted beats (Rapunzal, Arkeology feat. ELUCID).

The album nears its close with Giraffe Hunts, sounding like a lost ’80s film score distorted through insectesque chattery-clicks before culminating with the languid reversed melodies of Portrait. feat Navy Blue, again giving that chilled vibe for Moor Mother’s disturbing verse to cut through.

Describing the release on Bandcamp they write, “BRASS is a moment where two great artists in their own right tap into a new frequency together. Even for those familiar with both it’s an unexpected sound that, once heard, could never have been otherwise. It is both ethereal and utilitarian, timeless and timeworn. A cast-iron pot propped over a fire in the dark. A tropical beach shimmering with broken glass.”

And they list off an impressive list of collaborators across the tracks too: John Forte, ELUCID, Amirtha Kidambi, Franklin James Fisher (Algiers), Mach Hommy, Imani Robinson, Wolf Weston (Saint Mela), Navy Blue, and Fielded all lend their voices to the project. As if that’s not enough the project is further fortified with production by The Alchemist, Preservation, Moor Mother, Olof Melander, Child Actor, Navy Blue, Messiah Muzik, Steel Tipped Dove, and Willie Green.

Across BRASS the pair spar off each other, their own styles ricocheting through a soundscape of samples, static, or taking freeform melodic paths lined by more delicate instrumentation and shadowed in places by unexpected blasts of sound. Allegorical, historical, personal, political, and an eye-opening heart-searing catalogue which you absolutely must make the time to study and let yourself be fully challenged by. It’s an album which creaks and crackles with the weight of history and the ghosts of a future yet to come, freed from boundaries of genre or style it becomes something ephemeral, other-worldly and yet utterly pinned to the dirt of right now.

BRASS from Moor Mother and billy woods is out now via Backwoodz Studioz on digital and vinyl.

Find Moor Mother: Twitter | FacebookBandcamp | Spotify
Find billy woods: Twitter | Facebook | InstagramBandcamp | Spotify

If you have enjoyed reading this piece on Popoptica you can buy us a virtual coffee via Ko-fi – every donation helps us to do what we do. We’d love it if you shared on social media too – and do join the conversation with us on Twitter and Facebook.

We took a hiatus at the end of 2020 but put together a list of our Top 40 albums from the year – check it out here. If we’d heard BRASS earlier it would have definitely made the cut.

Find me...

Sarah Lay

Sarah Lay is editor of Popoptica.
A long-standing music journalist she's also co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an author of novels, and when not messing around with words and music, a digital strategist.
Find me...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *