To nobody’s surprise, upon its February 3 release, Coin Coin Chapter Three: river run thee was met with widespread critical acclaim. Here’s a quick roundup of some of our favourites:

TINY MIX TAPES: “As a critic and as a listener, I can’t commend enough how exquisitely Matana Roberts masters sound on river run thee; her horn sounds as idiosyncratic and expressive as ever, her foray into electroacoustic improvisation and noise is not only brave but also physiologically stunning. COIN COIN Chapter Three’s greatest triumph, however, is that it also actively challenges how we interact with art, how we view authorship in a landscape made up of recycled sound objects, and how we view an entire continent’s history from our own positions. I don’t intend on providing a critical alternative here, and providing answers isn’t what river run thee was designed for. It does, however, provide a blueprint for conceptualizing sound (in all its traditional and deviant forms) as a form of expression and for making sense of future histories as intersections of voices, many of which still suffer from a history of laryngitis. It is for all of these reasons (and those yet undiscovered) that COIN COIN Chapter Three: river run thee is infinite and indispensable in its cultural worth and true-ly timeless and comprehensive in its scope. A masterwork of human history, still in progress.”

PITCHFORK: “Something of a one-woman opera, these 12 tracks plow through harsh noise passages and spring into sudden refrains, drift through halcyon field recordings and float through harrowing spoken-word passages… Late into river run thee, during one of the album’s more placid moments, Roberts declares, “I like to tell stories.” The admission might suggest an easy key to the world that Roberts is building with COIN COIN. But it seems too reductive, really, not unlike calling her a mere musician. She collects stories, analyzes them, and then transmogrifies them, aggregating bits of material until anecdotes become open-ended, elliptical histories. Roberts knows that any story, just like jazz, is only an initial approach to something much more broad and important. Three albums into COIN COIN, it’s now clear that Roberts isn’t just a storyteller, musician, ethnographer, historian, bandleader, arranger, improviser, or activist. She plays all of those roles, yes; collectively, they power one of the most provocative ongoing bodies of work by any American musician.”

THE WIRE: “Part three of Matana Roberts’ ongoing ‘Coin Coin’ series sees her reaching new heights of troubling majesty. Or rather, new depths, given the churning, oceanic feel that underlies these multilayered tales of slavery, courage, tradition, history and counter-history. The first two chapters in the series fell somewhere between, above and below free jazz. Her ‘panoramic sound quilting’, as she describes her method, created historical narratives with multiple instrumentalists, operatic incursions and the persistent reminder of musical and historical debts. But this third chapter sees Roberts in solitary, vocal-heavy mode, without an ensemble but producing looped music such sustained complexity it’s like a host of angels (or demons) attempting to express the entire history of everything all at once.”

THE QUIETUS:: “river run thee is an extraordinary sonic collage, constructed from loops, field recordings and live overdubs. As to whether this is jazz or not, who cares? What matters is the music – and it is remarkable, weaving together saxophone improv, folk fragments, poetry, accounts of the slave trade and personal testimonies in an approach she calls ‘panoramic sound quilting’. Working from an elaborate graphic score that incorporates photographs, archival texts and musical notation, Roberts layers her own sung and spoken vocals, saxophone and electronics into a rhizomatic work that disrupts linear narratives and maps points across time. Yet for all its openness of form, River Run Thee is not some amorphous piece of sound art. It’s a deeply compelling work, with a true sense of momentum… An astonishing work of history, memory and sensed experience, River Run Thee confirms Roberts’ place as one of the most important living artists in any field.”

ALL MUSIC GUIDE: “This is ghost music in the purest sense, because the spirits of those who were commingle with those who are, and both are disembodied and dislocated by the false notions of time and dimension. They inform a multi-linguistic conversation that shapeshifts in and out of the mythologies that America has, and does, believe about itself. All told, “other” histories speak with the same authority as official ones. River Run Thee ups the ante in Roberts’ project. It is initially elliptical, but its self-determination, unflinching courage, and intense focus and openness create an indefinable but living, breathing art.”