Formed in Cleveland, OH by producer/activist Ra Washington, Mourning [A] BLKstar is a multi-generational, gender and genre non-conforming amalgam of Black Culture dedicated to servicing the stories and songs of the apocalyptic diaspora.
In keeping with the pace that the collective that is M[A]B set since 2016, Washington presented a series of song sketches during the summer of 2018 -- one per week -- while the group practiced and toured their debut records, BLK Musak (Glue Moon Records, 2016) and The Possible (2017). The result, Reckoning, will be released on April 6th, 2019 in collaboration with Don Giovanni Records.
Reckoning represents a deep dive into the M[A]B vaults -- a dizzying array of styles, big boy reverb, the heat transversing through love won and love lost, and the tensions that go with living in a world that is increasingly hostile to POC futures and wholly locked in on its disgusting treatment of the poor.
Led by producer RA Washington, Mourning [A] BLKstar features a trio of dynamic singers—James Longs, LaToya Kent, and Kyle Kidd—and an indeterminate number of musicians. The ensemble traffics in a gritty strain of DIY Afrofuturist soul music, balancing hip-hop production techniques with lo-fi experimentation that bathes sultry grooves in darkness, either in scratchy samples or washed-out synth tones.
-- Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader
CATCH MOURNING [A] BLKSTAR LIVE
2.22 - Wooster, OH @ College of Wooster
2.23 - Cleveland, OH @ Brite Winter
3.13-17 - Austin, TX @ SXSW
Photo: Emanuel Wallace
Out March, 29th on Don Giovanni Records, The Big Freeze is the long-awaited fifth album by New York-based songwriter Laura Stevenson.
If gravity is strong enough, at the end of time our universe will collapse, pulling all of existence back down to infinitesimal size, like before the Big Bang. But if expansion outpaces gravity, eventually the universe will be cold and empty--all light, heat, and connection will be gone. That possibility is called The Big Freeze.
Recorded in her childhood home during the dead of winter, The Big Freeze
represents a pivotal step for Stevenson. Despite her pedigree in the
punk and indie rock scenes, and the occasional inclusion of a backing
band (like the sprightly, C86-inspired pop track “Dermatillomania”), for
the first time on record Stevenson’s voice and guitar are in clear and
highlighted focus. It is a natural aesthetic choice for the musician,
who has often toured as a solo act and who pulls influence from the
great American songbook, and a choice that plays to the core strength
and organic beauty of her writing. And though it is easily the darkest
and most emotionally-devastating album of Stevenson’s career, it is also
without a doubt her most powerful.
Stevenson builds on her own private worlds with choruses of multi-tracked voices, swarms of cellos, French horns and violins; orchestration that blooms and swells throughout each intimate performance. Exploring thematic ideas of distance and misconnection; worlds pulling apart, aching loneliness, and attempts to drive out hibernating dormant demons.
In the opening track Stevenson’s voice insists the listener “lay back with arms out, all-in, unfeeling,” to allow themselves to sink into a flood of instrumental sound that thrums between dissonance and resolution. From waves crashing in an abandoned waterpark on the haunting “Value Inn”, to the last leaves trembling before winter sets in on “Rattle At Will”, a creeping sense of isolation and anxious beauty surrounds every song. And yet there is also warmth, and hope. The album’s third track “Living Room, NY” tells of an intercontinental love and longing which seems to have the strength to thrive despite even the most trying and impossible of circumstances. Across ten tracks, the listener will travel through the cold night, following after a small but powerful flame burning from the other side.
Stevenson is a songwriter whose strengths have gone unsung for far too long, but The Big Freeze is likely to change that. At times you will be reminded of classic songwriters from both the mainstream and the fringe, whether it’s Jason Molina, Judee Sill, Harry Nilsson or Dolly Parton. But always you will be reminded of the power of the human voice (and a single guitar) to invoke the universe. Or in this case, it’s end.
LAURA STEVENSON ON TOUR
2.7 – Gainesville, FL @ Changeville Festival
2.9 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom (sold out)
3.14 – Austin, TX @ SXSW
5.3 – Washington DC @ Black Cat
5.12 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
5.14 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore
5.15 – Seattle, WA @ Vera Project
5.17 – San Francisco, CA @ Bottom Of The Hill
5.18 – Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theatre
5.22 – Boston, MA @ Sinclair
5.23 – Philadelphia, PA @ PhilaMOCA
5.24 – Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
5.25 – Burlington, VT @ Arts Riot
5.29 – Chicago, IL @ Beat Kitchen
5.30 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Pyramid Scheme
6.3 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
6.5– Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater
6.6 – Madison, WI @ Memorial Union Terrace / University of Wisconsin