Review: Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble – Intergalactic Beings

Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble - Intergalactic BeingsThe album is totally rife with inner conflict. Even when a melody declares itself with the assertion of full-bodied diaphragm projectiles from brass and woodwind together – like a thought rendered with the clarity of a physical sphere, like a snooker ball held in the hand – there are scuffling disturbances happening in and around: scrapes and dissonances of doubt, timpani rumbles of gut-born unease. Moves manifest and then instantly retracted, as the mercurial gush of improvisatory thought twists a right idea into one that feels utterly wrong; the record is a perplexity cyclone contained to the width of the mind, spinning and jerking within a stranded exterior. Deep, restless cello incisions prise apart synapses and disconnect streams of thought, while flutes flit back and forth like eyes alternating between two entities, trying to comprehend their co-existence.

It’s cinematic, and there is always a whole landscape of happening at any one time. And yet, there is an eco-system dependency rustling through the Black Earth Ensemble, causing the instruments to veer toward mutual change in spite of their explicit difference – the tumbling, rhythmic cylinder of “The Ooli Moves” causes a raucous outbreak of sudden swerves and fierce clarinet glottalstops, while “Dripping Matter” sounds like a ceiling of syrup giving way in viscous, drooping strands of overlapped glissando. The record is driven by a jazz mystique that curls upward like smoke – awash with those suspended platforms of unresolve, peering over the edge of silence – yet there is a deliberate and tumultuous confusion at work that causes the group’s vision to buckle and spill over into all kinds of places: babbling Tourette explosion, earthly percussive hypnosis, prisms of luminous modern classical noise. Intergalactic Beings is a narrative of volatility and absent consequential foresight, and the Black Earth ensemble are unflinchingly willing to follow it anywhere.