Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Nicole Mitchell-Xenogenesis Suite

Visionary. Nicole Mitchell's flute calling has been the sine qua non of contemporary new music across America. If not the world in general. Coupled with a rigorously astute compositional aptitude and sheer ambition, the year 2007 entering '08 has found her stardom soaring - pitched at the preface of an assure fame. Suffice it to say 'hard work' has paid off as nothing else can.

Entering it's tenth year her Black Earth Ensemble is well seasoned, armed to the teeth with even newer music that doesn't hardly disappoint. Unprecedented music that plants seeds of forward motion. Attribute her musical lineage through the AACM for this flowering flourish. For she nestled neath the feet of many a master. She's had features in both Downbeat and Ebony magazines this year alone. It is truly her time as the new Xenogenesis Suite (Firehouse 12 Records), firmly establishes.

The woefully undervalued work of science fiction writer Octavia Butler is Mitchell's palette of offering. Butler's sui generis prose, oft times bizarre and profoundly ubiquitous even for science fiction writing, Mitchell valiently approaches the setting through her own lens of recognition. If anyone could make Butler's work palatable through music Mitchell can. And shes does! This is perhaps the best achievement on CD of the Black Earth Ensemble output thus far.

Mitchell states, "fascination with the unsettling nature of Butler's literary work led me to compose Xenogenesis Suite."

The music is weighty yet does not alienate. For the sake of artistic interpretation of Butler's prose Mitchell's track note narritives of each composition provide a penetrating saga of humanity's other worldly condition. The music augmented by the brazen luster of Mankwe Ndosi's vivid vocal tapestries (referring to her vocalise as merely 'vocalise' doesn't really capture the true essence of her abilities), is a wunderkind. The only other vocalist even approaching this parameter of uncharted territories could be Elizabeth Kontomanou. Ndosi's sorceress wail on the track, 'Smell of Fear' is eerily hypnotic and historically congers up the forlorn cry of African chattel in the rotten, stinking holds of a slave ship. However Mitchell's insightful track liner notes put things into perspective as to her musical intentions. This is the sort of music that can take you to just about any universe it will. The listener is hurled up in its might and power. As on the track 'Oankali' Ndosi shifts into sound vectors of almost unimaginable human capabilities. Darting and spreading landscapes of tension and daring. And Mitchell's writing makes for an even more mystical venture.

Mitchell also tells us in those liner notes that, "the process of writing this music allowed me to face the feeling of fear head on- to enter and explore it."

The Black Earth Ensemble is a living breathing whole. Organic and full of life Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble has created a celestial cosmos while fashioning a new music lingua franca. Extraterrestial or earth bound this music will ultimately take you on a journey even Sun Ra would heartily enjoy.