Georgia Anne Muldrow

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Umsindo Review

by Andy Kellman

Involved with so many recordings since the 2006 album Olesi: Fragments of an Earth, avant-R&B/hip-hop queen Georgia Anne Muldrow could be accused of spreading herself thin. There was Pattie Blingh & the Akebulan 5 (very nearly a one-woman show) and G&D (with Dudley Perkins), smaller-scale collaborations (highlighted by Erykah Badu's "Master Teacher"), and several productions (most recently showcased on Eagle Nebula's Cosmic Headphones and the Ms. One compilation). Released the same day as Perkins' Holy Smokes, an equally lengthy disc for which she also served as producer, Umsindo is a sprawling and somewhat disjointed 74-minute album. Placing an exclamation point -- or maybe an interrobang -- on Muldrow's creative energy, it is a prime example of the new school rhythm & blues where progressive soul, experimental jazz, and organic hip-hop are indivisible. Even if you're up on the Zulu terms, like the album's title (which means "Sound") and "Nsamanfo" ("Ancestral Spirits"), or know that there is more to John the Conqueror than the root of the same name, a vast and complex volume of information is thrown in your direction. Production-wise, this is the most varied set of tracks Muldrow has made. Tribal hand percussion clashes with piercing and haunted synthesizers, lurching breaks dance with cobwebbed pianos, tangled funk guitar contends with fuzz-bass slabs and blunt drum thumps -- and that covers only the first three tracks, one-eighth of the album. Though much of her time is divided between honoring her lineage, castigating irresponsible and ungrateful parents, criticizing foreign policy, and dishing out wisdom that belies her age, the relatively lighter moments are just as affecting. Just as Roy Ayers could effectively place something as carefree and simple as "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" beside deep and thoughtful material like "The Third Eye," Muldrow mixes it up with "Roses" (reprised from Mos Def's The Ecstatic, albeit without the MC's contribution), where her swooping, off-center voice sings of the simple therapeutic joy that comes with doodling. Even that song turns out to be deceptively substantive, alluding to a level of resilience that might be required for the sake of remaining sane.

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