For those who maintain the more mutable dance music is, the deeper its impact on human evolution, RVNG Intl. presents We Are Not The First, an Epic conducted and deconstructed by Chicago artist Hieroglyphic Being and the J.I.T.U. Ahn-Sahm-Bul. We Are Not The First combines the musical forces of Marshall Allen, Daniel Carter, Greg Fox, Shelley Hirsch, Shahzad Ismaily, Elliott Levin, Jamal Moss, Rafael Sanchez, and Ben Vida in deep dialogue with each other and humans’ hidden sonic history. Tracked as different personale patterns over a week of studio sessions in Brooklyn, said syntax translates into mesmerizing sound forms as the ensemble excavates sonic folklore and ancient music, employing spiritual-jazz’s welfare and health as an agency for balance. An album with an active brain, We Are Not The First aspires to reprogram the mind, to transcend our expectations through bugged-out percussion, modular mayhem, flurries of free improvisation, and voices carrying through the air. Jamal Moss provides speech its due pulpit in in the opening piece, “Apes & Ages. “Forward… Backward… Evolution” intones Moss in “Apes & Ages,” setting an appropriately opaque stage for the album’s genesis. Shelly Hirsch exorcises ethereal vocals to subtly incomparable measure in “Civilization That Is Dying.” Hirsch’s vocal throw is near a Theremin’s: she controls sound that is deep within, delivering an operatic warble at full freak-uency while Ben Vida and Shahzad Ismaily take turns running textures up and down the acid washboard. “Fuck The Ghetto / Think About Outer Space” is an ecstatic, erratic anthem, navigating the fog to invite critical speculation on Humanity’s “Prison of Technology” and the digital documentation of Identity. Rafael Sanchez admonishes, in a way, scatting: “the ghetto” is “of the mind.” Language and meaning collide in “Root Of.” Sanchez speaks into the maelstrom of Marshall Allen and Greg Fox’s outer bound bond. In memoriam and in search of an end to the subjugation of persons, “Root Of” demarcates We Are Not The First – and its agents – into the album’s darker and lighter sides. On “Universe Is A Simulation,” Daniel Carter’s sax meanders on an improvised beat, almost melancholic but crucially conscious, merging with Fox and Moss in a frequency-haze not unlike the surface blur that sand makes vibrating on top a drum. At 18 minutes and 44 seconds, the final movement, “We Are Not The First,” is a celebration of struggle and the living art of noise. Here an almost complete Ahn-Sam-Buhl (get it now?) redirects a city street through the studio filling the air with an implicit interplay of blinking light in contrast.
Hieroglyphic Being & J.I.T.U.. Ahn-Sahm-Bul develop consciousness from primordial ooze. As in listening, the ooze intones an echo of our deep past, rendering the present ever focused. We Are Not The First is an 11-part Epic and each track is a movement therein that testifies: an ensemble’s vitality lives in its collectivity. When we ask the ooze, the ooze articulates:We Are Not The First.
"Interplanetary visitations from Jamal Moss and a crew of fellow travellers, including Arkestra leader Marshall Allen and vocalist Shelley Hirsch. We Are Not The First spanned solar flares of saxophone skronk, techno beats and analogue synth jams, meditations on language and cybernetics, with alien vocals recalling the original Star Trek theme. Chal Ravens said: “Jamal Moss rejects the term, but as Hieroglyphic Being he may be the truest torchbearer of Afrofuturism, and of the countless artists who today cite Sun Ra as an influence, few are so dedicated to his philosophy at its most visionary and esoteric.” TheWire Best Albums of 2015