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Friday, June 24, 2022

I AM (Isaiah Collier & Michael Shekwoaga Ode) - BEYOND (Division 81, 2022)

By Nick Metzger

I AM BEYOND is another must-listen from Isaiah Collier and Michael Shekwoaga Ode, who had me completely gobsmacked last year on “ Cosmic Transitions ” with Mike King and Jeremiah Hunt. The duo recorded these platters at Chicago Recording Company, again in collaboration with producer Sonny Daze, and again the results absolutely smoke (h/t rod j). It’s an exceptionally tasty manifestation of spontaneous musicality, whetted chops, and good ol’ fashion ecstatic abandon.

The Bandcamp info notes that one of their goals was to revisit some ideas from an exchange during “Mercury’s Retrograde” from “Cosmic Transitions” and to explore their spiritual consciousnesses more deeply through sound. And to these ears it sounds like that’s what they’ve managed here: two young, crazy talented musicians channeling urgent and soulful music. Daze selectively highlights portions of the album with echo and reverb, working to enhance the galactic sentiments by spilling over boundaries and dissolving lines, resulting in some wildly psychedelic phantasms at the just the right moments. The sax-drums format has been fertile ground for some great free jazz albums and I count this among the best I’ve heard in the last decade. Really just excellent music all around. Collier and Ode dial in the sweet spot between melody and bedlam then go to work with an eagerness and passion that makes it all wholly convincing.

It begins with an extended, ambient introduction subtitled “Take Me Beyond”. Daze invited the poet and sound healer Jimmy Chan into the studio for an initiation, or perhaps invocation is the right word. Ceremonial sounds - shakers and singing bowls, gongs and world instruments - envelope Chan’s croaks and growls. On “Suns of Mercury (Storms of Revelations)” Collier paints in broad, reedy strokes while Ode pushes the intensity with his wild, albeit hyper-controlled grace. It’s a sizzling wind-up of jagged shrapnel that directly counters the billowing haze of the introduction, serving as a right cross after the left lead, softening the listener up for what’s next.

Melody seeps in on the (initially) understated theme for “Confessions of the Heart'', a piece that gets wilder as it progresses. When the duo really gets it going - acknowledging the production - they let no light pass. This density eventually diminishes and the first quivering notes of “Bend the Universe (Trust With All Your Heart)” are let loose. The tendrils contort into intense undulations of glissando and heavy handed percussion that the duo leave unresolved, building tension.

On “The Vessel Speaks” all the momentum built up over the preceding tracks finally takes the roof off and the duo detonate in joyous musical invention. It begins with an illuminating riff that leads the listener on to further golden chambers of rapturous squall before violently collapsing into silence. From this silence comes the skronking split tones that initiate “Omniscient (Mycelium)”, maybe the most buoyant cut herein. When Ode’s drums roll up under Collier’s bouncing vamp it’s just perfect, and I could honestly listen to these two all day. The album closes to the bugle-like calls of “Hymn: Love Beyond Compare” which distend into contemplative tangles of melody snaking among a rough fauna of percussion then finally coagulating in an exigent coda - resolution.

I’ll note that the double LP sold out shortly after the pre-order began, but as with “Cosmic Transitions” I would speculate that a second pressing may be necessary to satiate the demand. It’s also worth noting that “Cosmic” was vinyl-only initially but is now also available on compact disc as well, so to lovers of physical media I would advise patience and perhaps a slight vigilance. In the meantime I AM BEYOND is available digitally through Bandcamp. While you’re there grab “ Lift Every Voice” (if you haven’t already), a digital single released in February which was recorded during the same sessions at Van Gelder that produced “Cosmic” and is a stunner in-and-of-itself.


rod j said...

Holy sheet he's done it again! This time dude's added the soul to the fire and the fury.

And that drummer wow. 2 musicans sounding possessed

Anonymous said...

Agree! Just heard these guys live and it did indeed smoke.