Saturday, April 17, 2021

Spiritual, cowardly escape of the Demon Locks and the Black Monument Ensemble

During the summer of 2020, protesters were taken to the streets after their deaths George floyd, Ahmad Arbari And Bryo taylor, And the United States once again trusted with fierce racial and ideological divisions, Chicago-based singer, producer and sound artist Damon Locks found himself in a creative deadlock.

“Future Unfolds,” His 2019 album as the leader of the 18-member Black Monument Ensemble, expressed the pain of killing black people without adequate justice. Should – and can – gather ensemble during the locks epidemic to record new music in response to what was happening around them?

“The challenge was, ‘What shall I say now?” “And when breath is the most dangerous thing around, how do you record six people to sing?”

He emailed a local studio engineer about the recording with a condensed version of the group in the building’s backyard garden. Two obstacles made themselves clear. One, it was hot. “I think it was like 93 degrees on the first day, which is a lot,” Locks said. There were sobs then; They were tweeting so loudly that you must have thought they were in the band.

“He was seriously right on the beat at times,” said the clarinet angel Angel Bat David, who plays in the ensemble.

The Undertaker, Locks and Ensemble called in Experimental Sound Studios in late August and recorded that the band’s new album would become “Now” on Friday. Where the group’s 2019 LP clashed racially in a solemn celebration of blackness, the new record imagines an alternate universe of boundless possibility. “The ‘moment’ is no longer accounted for,” Locks said. “So anything can happen, you know?”

Partly inspired by sci-fi shows like HBO “Janitor” And “Lovecraft Country,” Where Black people literally extricate themselves from dangerous situations, “Now” uses up-tempo electro-funk and lyrics to turn into optimism that furthers socio-despair. The album – and Locks’ music, in general – explores the concept of “black node”, or the unspoken mode of communication between black people in public spaces. In turn, Lox’s ensemble work – with all its spiritual jazz arrangements, lively drum breaks and esoteric film clips – feels highly communal, much like a private conversation between those who understand the nuances of black culture.

“To me, Node speaks to this volatile landscape in the United States and accepts that you are here,” Locks said. “I understand that this is crazy, so I see you.” Locks, who also teaches art in Chicago public schools and the Stateville Correctional Center, a maximum-security men’s prison about an hour outside of Chicago, said he was encouraged by the activism he saw in the wake of protests and epidemics. “I asked people to check in, people tried to get money from one place to another. They tried to find ways to get food for people who had no food,” he said.

Silver Spring, Md. Locks grew up in and was introduced as an eighth-grader. A year later, he began going to punk and hardcore shows just down the street in neighboring Washington, DC, where he saw now-stalwart bands such as Minor Threat and Bad Brain.

As a nascent musician and visual artist, he loved the freedom these groups practiced on stage. This inspired him to create works based on his feelings, no matter which was popular. In 1987, as a freshman at the School of Visual Arts in New York, he became a fast friend by the name of a classmate Fred armisen, Who went to college only to form a band. (“Because all of my favorite bands were art school bands,” Armisen said in a recent interview.) Armsen couldn’t really get anyone to play with him until he met Locks, who had a Spikey Red- There were end-black dreadlocks.

“Damon had a jacket with damned paint on it and I loved Damn it, ”Armisen remembered. A year later, the locks were transferred to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Instead of saying goodbye, Armen exited the SVA and moved much further. Bastist Wayne Montana, another friend and bandmate, followed. “That’s how much I believe in him,” Armen said. He started the experimental rock band Trenchmouth in 1988.

The band ran for eight years, during which Locke earned acclaim as a powerful singer, performer and visual artist. He created intricate sketches and printed drawings in the band’s flyer, the Collagalic Drawings, which he photocopied Kinko. “This is the first place I was like, ‘Oh, this guy is just a genius,” Armen said. “It’s a brilliant person who cares about everything that looks and resembles something.”

After the Trenchmouth division, Locks and Montana were formed Eternity, An amorphous outfit with a sound rooted in reggae and jazz. Trenchmouth was scanned as a punk and hardcore aftermath, where Ertonles also tried to be awkward. “We let that free openness overtake music,” Montana said. “We started using some samples and clips of films in Trenchmouth, but as we got older and bought more equipment, it allowed the tonal things to happen that we were reaching forever.”

Locks was doing a studio residency at Hyde Park Art Center in 2017, when he had the idea of ​​putting singers together to expand the sound of his performance. He contacted Josephine Lee, director of Chicago Children’s Choir, who sent him a list of five adult singers who could liven up their songs. The first performance was at his art center studio, where “I just opened the doors and put chairs in the hall,” he said. The band landed a gig at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The protesters Arif Smith and Dana Hall agreed to do the show. Cornist Ben Lamar Gay, a friend of the Locks, also joined.

The band’s breakthrough performance came in 2018 as part of the Red Bull Music Festival at the Garfield Park Conservatory, where dancers were brought in, some new singers and davids, who filled in for Gay. The black commemorative ensemble was born; “Where Future Unfolds” is a live recording of a Garfield Park performance. Laux said the group’s membership, and size, is fluid: “Some singers have changed over time, but I consider it a family and possibly people can show up again,” Locks said.

“Now” on the album, Locke is intentionally left out to underline the band’s kinship. (Listeners can experience the joy that comes after the session is complete, such as Melody Fade and Ensemble Tech.) “It’s such a hard time right now, and it’s time for us to record it. Is for. Very beautiful, “said David.” We were grateful to see each other again. “

Locks said his art is designed to speak one-on-one with the receiver. “I’m just trying to communicate as a human being,” he said. “The idea is to talk to students in classrooms, talk to artists in Stateville who are disorganized, trying to get their voice out of there.” And with collective agony coming to an end this past year, he hopes “now” can bring some positivity: “I’m talking about the things that inspire me and pass along.”

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