Listen to samples from album tracks “always say your name” and “nema, nema, nema” (edit)
Matana Roberts is one of the most acclaimed, socio-politically conscious and aesthetically intrepid avant-jazz practitioners of the 21st century. Her multi-chapter Coin Coin work, which Constellation began documenting in 2011, has placed her at the forefront of stylistic innovation and radicalisation, while confirming the deep substance and soul that guides her compositional agenda. Following the critical accolades that the first two Coin Coin chapters have thus far received, the past year has been marked by further career-defining recognition for her body of iconoclastic work: Roberts was a recipient of both the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts and the Daisy Duke Impact Award in 2014.
Roberts has long employed the phrase “panoramic sound quilting” to describe the process surrounding her Coin Coin work. The third chapter in her Coin Coin series finds Roberts implementing this metaphor most explicitly, constructing a sound art tapestry from field recordings, loop and effects pedals, and spoken word recitations, alongside her saxophone and singing voices. Coin Coin Chapter Three: river run thee could arguably be considered first and foremost a vocal work, and notwithstanding its experimental and esoteric structure, a deeply narrative work as well. Not unlike 2013’s Coin Coin Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile, the new chapter unfolds as an uninterrupted album-length flow, this time in what Roberts calls “a fever dream” of sonic material, woven in surrealist fashion. Fragments of traditional song act as the main touchstones on the album, with Roberts’ singing voice riding atop waves of radiophonic texture, layered spoken word and an often dislocated, wandering horn.
Working once again with engineer Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, and returning again to Montreal’s Hotel2Tango studio (the location for her Chapter One recording in 2010), Roberts ran the river run thee tape back multiple times, adding new layers in real time, from start to finish (as opposed to calculated, isolated overdubs). The result is a visceral audio document that combines structure and improvisation in the fullest sense: not just in the playing and performing, but in the very marrow of the work’s compositional DNA. It is also, for the first time in the Coin Coin cycle, a solo work, emerging from a lengthy solitary road trip Roberts took through the American South in early 2014, amassing historical and documentary information through interviews, site visits and field recordings.
Coin Coin Chapter Three: river run thee signals yet another highly adventurous and socially engaged definition of what Jazz can mean in this day and age, and a fascinating extension of the Coin Coin cycle, where rather than surfacing and reactivating through the group dynamics of a musical ensemble, history is inhaled and exhaled through a solitary practice seeking to evoke and echo its tangled thicket of febrile strands.