Irreversible Entanglements

Open the Gates

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Open the Gates Review

by Thom Jurek

On Open the Gates, Irreversible Entanglements transcend the "free jazz" categorization. On their third long-player, the band's musical creativity equates jazz and vanguard improvisation with mutant funk, angular post-punk, and, in places, soul. Across seven tracks and 80 minutes, they move through global sounds, genres, and histories with urgency, spiritual militancy, and grit.

On the opening title track, Tcheser Holmes' skittering tom-toms, congas, and shakers bubble and roil with Luke Stewart's earthy bassline to set up Camae Ayewa's (aka Moor Mother) poetic assertion: "Open the gates, we arrive, energy time. Universal sound law, not guilty, not doing time, unbound. An offering for freedom..." Aquiles Navarro's bell-like trumpet and Keir Neuringer's saxophone fade in, swelling around one another in staggered harmonic syncopation, with resonant tones that seem to simultaneously channel Abdullah Ibrahim's African Marketplace and Sun Ra's Sleeping Beauty. "Keys to Creation" is introduced by synth chords and a funky electric bassline that gives way to a driving breakbeat snare-hi-hat groove. A muted modal trumpet opens the frame on Ayewa's chanting: "The blueprint of creation. A possible history..." before her image of Ella Fitzgerald leaving the Savoy while still inhabiting "the sound," emerges. Navarro solos amid squelching noise, overblown bass tones, and propulsive drums. In "Lágrimas del Mar" harsh electronic noise introduces the theme from the horns, which then begin soloing in tandem. Stewart's bass walks, wobbles, and surges around them. Holmes' kit encircles the vamp tautly before the horns bring up Ayewa. She traces Black music and cultures across geographies and the shadows of history. "Storm Came Twice" offers dramatic sonic assertions and textural palettes for improvisation. The rhythm section frames Neuringer's breathtaking sax solo.

The final three pieces here claim half the album's runtime. The 20-minute "Water Meditation" features a deep-blue solo from Navarro that's underscored by chimes and bells. Ayewa responds with insistent verses about spiritual, evolutionary, and sociopolitical themes. Noisy synths introduce Stewart playing arco before he delivers a meaty pizzicato solo. Holmes converses directly with Ayewa, creating a ledge for her words with his fluid polyrhythms. A distorted synth entwines the horns, which seemingly channel South African township jazz and '70s Eastern modalism (à la Old and New Dreams). "Six Sounds," alternates between close listening, balanced dynamics, and musical conversation about the spiritual character of sound. The latter juxtaposes the tragedies and blasphemies of racist history while exploring an unfettered Afrofuturism. Ayewa's poetry soars above the band, whose attack offers ancient-to-the-future sound narratives; they cross blues, free jazz, Caribbean grooves, and Afro-Latin folk with a universe of African rhythms. Open the Gates is a statement. It authoritatively signifies militant creativity as the only real language for expressing liberation and wisdom.

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