Coin Coin Chapter Five: In the garden...
The Quietus • Albums of the Year 2023
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CST170 2x10" • CD • DL
Release Date: 29 September 2023
Finest Vinyl (DE)
Konkurrent (NL) LP/CD
Norman Records (UK)
Piccadilly Records (UK)
Juno Records (UK) LP/CD
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South Records (UK)
Spindizzy Records (IE)
"Each of these tracks effortlessly conjures the swirling feeling of needing to make a decision – and questioning your own being – never quite settling, always moving." - Vanessa Ague, The Quietus
"These recordings qualify as an event: epic tale, sound collage, historical document, societal unmasking, art experiment, philosophical reverie—Roberts’s Coin Coin series is more than just a collection of albums. They relate a story (and subsets of stories) that eschew conventional forms of delivery. Avant-garde, jazz, blues, art rock, spoken word, minimalism, so much more. And, really, it’s counterintuitive to give names to the components of a project that transcends categorization in the first place." - Best Jazz On Bandcamp, September 2023
“Another musical landmark by Roberts.” - Best Folk On Bandcamp, September 2023
“Matana Roberts’ music resembles a patchwork quilt: a stitching together of spirited free jazz, harmony singing, simmering electronics and raucous fife-and-drum blues that feels both artfully constructed and loaded with personal significance.” - UNCUT
“Combines composed cacophony with folk spirituals and free-improv. [Their] jazziest yet, expressive alto-sax and hypnotic spoken words ladle emotional gravitas onto its fevered meditations and splintered storytelling.” - MOJO ★★★★
“Roberts is adept at creating song cycles that have a highly theatrical if not cinematic quality, almost like a distillation of Bertolt Brecht and Julie Dash, in addition to an arranging style that hints at major avant-garde heroes, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Julius Hemphill and Amina Claudine Myers…striking in its evocation of visual image amid a daringly-crafted sound world.” - Jazzwise ★★★★ Editors Choice
"An excursion into everyday politics, a contextualisation that is more than a call to discourse. Too much has gone awry in the corridors of power." - Rolling Stone DE
“... sees Roberts’ poetic composition at its most gripping as the spoken word spirals from gently drifting hope to a manic world of delirious staccato violin, clattering drums, thumb piano shamanism and other-world scatology. All these twists and turns intensify the events being told but with more definition than mere backing music… looks back in time in order to understand, reflect where we are now and point towards a restorative future.” - Backseat Mafia 9/10
"With every passing year it becomes clearer that doubting the vision, fortitude, and creative potency of Roberts is stupid. Even without considering the formidable body of work they have amassed outside of Coin Coin, the first five chapters of the endeavor are so substantive, original, and resonant that it’s undeniable we are witnessing a different kind of history in the making." - Peter Margasak, Nowhere Street Substack
"Matana Roberts’ Coin Coin series is one of the great works of art of the 21st century... [Chapter Five is] a heartbreaking record, but it’s also deeply inspiring, a tale of thwarted but nevertheless undeniable resilience and determination.” - Phil Freeman, Stereogum
Coin Coin Chapter Five: In the garden… is the latest instalment in composer, improviser, saxophonist, and visual artist Matana Roberts’ visionary project exploring African-American history through ancestry, archive and place. Weaving together elements of jazz, avant-garde composition, folk and spoken word, Roberts tells the story of a woman in their ancestral line, who died following complications from an illegal abortion. At a time when reproductive rights are under attack, her story takes on new resonance. “I wanted to talk about this issue, but in a way where she gets some sense of liberation,” Roberts explains. By unpacking family stories and conducting extensive research in US public archives, Roberts has created a rounded portrait of a woman who is, as their lyrics put it, “electric, alive, spirited, fire and free.”
Each part of Coin Coin explores radically different musical settings, from the free jazz and post-rock eruptions of Chapter One to the solo noise collage of Chapter Three. Featuring a new ensemble steeped in jazz, improvisation, new music and avant-rock, helping to expand the project’s existing sonic palette, Chapter Five is no exception. Roberts is joined by fellow alto saxophonist Darius Jones, violinist Mazz Swift (Silkroad Ensemble, D’Angelo), bass clarinettist Stuart Bogie (TV On The Radio, Antibalas), alto clarinettist Matt Lavelle (Eye Contact, Sumari), pianist Cory Smythe (Ingrid Laubrock, Anthony Braxton), vocalist/actor Gitanjali Jain and percussionists Ryan Sawyer (Thurston Moore, Nate Wooley) and Mike Pride (Pulverize The Sound, MDC). The late, great trumpeter jaimie branch, who was due to play on the album, receives a credit for “courage”. The album is produced by TV On The Radio’s Kyp Malone, who also contributes synths.
As a composer, Roberts draws upon strategies associated with the post-war avant-garde, including John Cage and Fluxus member Benjamin Patterson’s conceptual approaches to scoring and performance. The immersive work of Maryanne Amacher, in which “sound and the body almost collaborate” is another key influence. “That is the foundation for me of the Coin Coin work,” they explain. “It’s not just the alto saxophone as an instrument placed in the jazz canon, it's the alto saxophone as an instrument that can be utilised to affect the body.”
Listeners will be struck by Roberts’ ability to mould diverse sounds into a cohesive whole. The spoken word passages are accompanied by driving modal jazz on “how prophetic”, minimalist synth loops on “enthralled not by her curious blend” and cantering folk forms on “(a)way is not an option”. These are interspersed with instrumental pieces that range from avant-garde abstraction and squalling free jazz, to solo saxophone reflections and Mississippi fife and drums blues. There’s a further evocation of American roots music in the powerful group vocal arrangement of “but I never heard a sound so long”, adapted by Roberts from the plantation lullaby “All The Pretty Horses.”
While this new chapter of Coin Coin focusses on a female-identified protagonist, others haven’t (Chapter Three being from the perspective of a male ancestor) and Roberts intends for future chapters to continue to cover the breadth of the gender spectrum, as well as their Native American heritage. “I'm proud that people say that the Coin Coin work speaks of a woman's story. But I want to make sure that it retains its inclusivity, because what we look like is not always what you see.” This reflects Roberts’ own experiences as a queer person of colour. For the remaining chapters of Coin Coin, Roberts will continue exploring identity and ancestry. “Expect it to keep heading towards a liberation of the human spirit.”
Vinyl edition is a double 10" pressed at Optimal (DE) packaged in a wide spine 350gsm jacket with colour flood inside, 300gsm printed inners, and 170gsm 500x250mm fold-out artwork/liner notes insert. Includes DL card. All printed on uncoated papers and boards, featuring mixed-media collage artworks by Matana Roberts.
CD edition comes in a mini-gatefold paperboard jacket with printed inner disc sleeve and fold-out liner notes insert. All printed on uncoated papers and boards, featuring mixed-media collage artworks by Matana Roberts.
Mike Pride (drums / aux percussion / vocal)
Matt Lavelle (alto clarinet / pocket trumpet / tin whistle / vocal)
Stuart Bogie (bass clarinet / clarinet / tin whistle / vocal)
Cory Smythe (piano / vocal / tin whistle)
Mazz Swift (violin / vocal/ tin whistle)
Darius Jones (alto sax / tin whistle / vocal)
Ryan Sawyer (drums / aux percussion / vocal)
Gitanjali Jain (text collage)
Kyp Malone (synths)
Jaimie Branch (Courage 1983-2022)
“but I never heard a sound so long” arranged by Matana Roberts from “All the Pretty Little Horses”
a traditional African American plantation lullaby, author unknown.
Produced by Kyp Malone.
Recorded at Bunker Studios in Brooklyn by Nolan Thies.
Mixed at Thee Mighty Hotel2Tango in Montréal by Radwan Ghazi Moumneh.
Mastered at Grey Market in Montréal by Harris Newman.
Album artwork by Matana Roberts.
Recording made possible in part by the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition at the University of Chicago.
Please donate to the National Network of Abortion Funds and the Black Mama's Matter Alliance abortionfunds.org blackmamasmatter.org.