The ever-ubiquitous Moor Mother—the dynamic Philadelphia poet, sound artist, and composer who’s a founding member of the mighty Irreversible Entanglements—is driven to collaborate. She’s an exceedingly agile artist who brings her words and sounds to countless projects. In addition to a duo with flutist and improviser Nicole Mitchell and another with Swedish producer Olof Melander, she has a burgeoning project with Belgian electric bassist Farida Amadou. Her 2022 solo album Jazz Codes functions as an extended celebration of community, with guest turns from a dizzying array of collaborators including Melanie Charles, Jason Moran, and Mary Lattimore. In most of those situations she privileges the art of improvisation over locked-in jams, but when she participates in another one of her groups, 700 Bliss, with DJ Haram, she unveils a muscular connection to hip-hop.
As heard on the duo’s debut full length album Nothing to Declare, that connection is complemented with all kinds of sharp stylistic U-turns. There are comical, self-effacing skits like “Easyjet,” a bitchfest directed at themselves, while “Anthology,” a gut-punching sprawl of jacked-up Caribbean beats, arrives as a think piece on the legacy of choreographer, dancer, and anthropologist Katherine Dunham. While there may be some straight-up bangers like the title track, the righteous indignation of Moor Mother shines through not only in the thick layers of noise pummeled by in-the-red kicks, but also through tight-jawed phrases she spits on a track like “Bless Grips.”
As Pitchfork wrote of the record, “In order to fit her indignant raps into DJ Haram’s blasted, bass-heavy productions, Moor Mother has written with more impactful concision than ever. The best poetry on the record comes on “Crown,” in which one cutting line speaks to the damaging effect of political inaction: “A silence is killing us.” Perhaps this is where that air of paranoia comes from; their response is a chilling noise, a din meant to re-balance the current power dynamics of the world.”