AMN Reviews: Irreversible Entanglements – Open The Gates (2021; International Anthem)

Irreversible Entanglements has been referred to as a free jazz band, but pigeonholing these five musical explorers is ill-advised. Born out of socio-political necessity, Moor Mother (vocal, synth), Keir Neuringer (sax), Aquiles Navarro (trumpet), Luke Stewart (basses), and Tcheser Holmes (drums, percussion) are collectively becoming an iconic force of the 2020s. Their use of jazz as a base – free but also groove-oriented – serves as a hopping-off point for excursions into other musical forms as well as concerns of social justice, Afro-futurism, and our relationship with the greater universe. Comparisons to Sun Ra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, both musically and spiritually, would not be off the mark.

Moor Mother’s lyrics are spoken-word poetry. It is not clear to what extent they are pre-conceived or stream of consciousness. Regardless, the listener need not initially follow the semantic threads of her passages – meaning becomes clear through her choice of words. You feel what she is saying before you even have the opportunity to apply cognition. And her stories and observations are knife-sharp representations of current events and reflective histories.

Musically, Irreversible Entanglements cover a wide range of structures, from free-form blowouts to dense rhythms. In addition to the aforementioned influences, there is a touch of soul, funk, and fusion as well. But Open The Gates – a double album – gives the group an opportunity to explore its spacious and psychedelic side, with longer tracks including atmospheric movements. There is also a form of exhilaration herein, whether it is Neuringer’s and Navarro’s contemporaneously soaring and discordant horns, or Stewart’s and Holmes’s refusal to sit still or play in a conventional manner.

Whether they asked for the role or not, Irreversible Entanglements has become a culture bearer, throwing up warnings of past, present, and future inequity. Their music paints a picture of dark Americana – where hope is fading but not lost…yet.

Open the Gates was released on November 12 by International Anthem.

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