Reviews Matana Roberts COIN COIN Chapter Three: River Run Thee

Matana Roberts

COIN COIN Chapter Three: River Run Thee

The meaning of the word “personal” does not even begin to describe what the COIN COIN works must signify for Matana Roberts. Through the chapters of COIN COIN, Roberts narrates the story of her family as far back as it can be traced. Roberts herself has said that it would probably take her a dozen albums to finish recounting this story, so we are in for one hell of a journey. For the latest installation in this ambitious opus, Roberts is working again with Radwan Ghazi Moumneh and is back in the Hotel2Tango studio where the origin of the COIN COIN anthology is found.

The music itself has been layered by recording over and over the work, something that becomes quite noticeable due to the density that this works encompasses. Chapter Three has a more ambient approach that its predecessors, especially Chapter One, with the addition of samples in parts of the opening song, “The Land Is Yours” and “JP” having a tremendous input on the music, and even more so in the case of the closing track. From simple spoken parts to babies desperately crying samples, that side of Roberts’ work brings much more depth to her music and her personal viewpoint. The outcome of all this is of course a strong ambiance that embraces the listener, with moments that sound mysterious and menacing, as is the case with the opening track, and parts full of tension, as is the case of “JP.”

The suffocating atmosphere of Chapter Three is further enhanced with the addition of more elements such as certain effects and noise. The repetitive drones in “The Good Book Says” give the music its idiosyncratic aspect, with the changes in speed being particularly enticing and engaging. The beam-like effects in “Dreamer of Dreams” augment even more the distress that Roberts’ concept can cause and the drones present in the album take you far away into the story of COIN COIN. The noise input is also very intriguing in the album, with parts where it is just acting as an underlying part, complimentary to the music, as is the case with the feedback in “Nema, Nema, Nema,” while at other times they can have a more intimidating effect, as happens in “A Single Man O’War,” or even a menacing outlook, for example in “Come Away.” The flexibility of Roberts’ is able to mold the different aspects of the sound in a fascinating way, resulting in a work that manages to be very interesting and enthralling and at the same daring and unconventional.

Through the hazes and fumes of avant-jazz Roberts delivers one of her strongest performances in Chapter Three(not that she had many weak ones from what I recall.) Even though in this case the saxophone is not the focal point of the album, its playing is as strong as ever. From the emotional performances in the start of “All Is Written” it puts a hold on you. The more sweet tones of “A Single Man O’War” and the unbelievable melodies of “This Land Is Yours” it reveals the more straightforward face of Roberts’ music. With the other side of course being intense improvisation. The adventurous playing halfway through in the opening track and the intensity in “Dreamer of Dreams” continuously show to what extent Robert’s playing can travel, with fascinating moments of improvisation in “Always Say Your Name” to brain drilling parts, as in “Nema, Nema, Nema.”

The other part which is even more powerful in the case of Chapter Three is the delivery of the vocal lines. Roberts does not stop her improvising there of course, but drags the vocal lines in a spectacular dance of complexity. The addition of narrative vocals alongside the main singing, in conjunction with the placement of the voice in the center of the album just show how much thought has been put into the performance. And they are also methodically layered with multiple vocal parts to achieve the maximum impact. With chants in moments of “A Single Man O’War” and the plethora of vocals in “As Years Roll By” to the mystical aura of “The Good Book Says” there is no moment where the performance might seem dull or losing its edge.

With the inception of the COIN COIN work it was quite questionable how Roberts could continue to draw inspiration from a source without repeating herself. I think we can surely say that this is not the case with Matana Roberts’ latest offering, and now it is even more exciting to see what the next chapter of this story will bring.

8.1 / 10Spyros Stasis
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8.1 / 10

8.1 / 10

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