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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Angel Bat Dawid - The Oracle (International Anthem, 2019) ****

By Lee Rice Epstein

Independent record company International Anthem has become an incubator for philosophical, political, and visionary creative artists like Ben LaMar Gay, Makaya McCraven, Jaimie Branch, and the Irreversible Entanglements collective of Keir Neuringer, Moor Mother, Luke Stewart, Aquiles Navarro and Tcheser Holmes. Each has approached universalism from a different perspective and tuned their thrilling music to an often biting frequency. Add to that list Angel Bat Dawid. As a fairly recent convert from 9–5 clock-puncher to full-time artist (as detailed in a fantastic Chicago Reader feature by Leor Gali l ), it hasn’t taken long for her reputation to grow: In addition to her own groups, Dawid has performed with LaMar Gay, Branch, Matthew Lux, and Roscoe Mitchell. For her debut, The Oracle, she took a Mitchell-esque approach towards performance that stretches beyond a simple solo album and presents a holistic concept of Dawid as a singular artist.

On “What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black? (Dr. Margaret Burroughs),” Dawid sings lines from Burroughs’s essential 1963 poem, "What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black? (Reflections of an African-American Mother)."A decade later, Burroughs revisited the poem with a look at the violence of capitalism, oppression, and faith. "What Shall We Tell Our Children? An Addenda, 1973" features something of a guiding principle for Dawid’s music (and, perhaps, International Anthem as a whole):

We shall tell them
​To keep the belief that the purpose of life
Is to continue to grow and create
And to contribute to growth and create
And to contribute to growth and
Creativity toward a better life
For people now and for generations to come

Throughout The Oracle, Dawid circles back to themes of growth and creation. Tasking herself with performing, recording, and mixing, Dawid began many of these as sketches for her main group, Tha Brotherhood. Recording at Radcliffe Hunter mansion and in London and Cape Town, Dawid’s songs communicate musical ideas, as well as states of time and place. Both “Capetown” and “London” catch her in improvisatory contexts, capturing the state of a mind in transit. On “Capetown,” Dawid is joined by drummer Asher Simiso Gamedze, and their duet is lengthy and relaxed. The shining center of the album, “We Are Starzz,” is an incredible melange of voice and clarinet, expertly intertwined and luminescent. The Oracle runs the gamut from cosmic to brittle, but it’s Dawid’s sincerity and dynamic performance that make it so memorable.