Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Matt Oliver, Mastered by Sam Patlove
For the past couple of days, my eldest daughter has held up one of her utensils, in the middle of finishing off a meal, and exclaimed something like, "Daddy, there's a tiny spider on my spoon," nonchalantly and without concern. We bend down to get a closer look to determine whether or not she's just making it up, or seeing things, and twice now, on different occasions, there on the rim of the spoon, a nearly imperceptible spiderling is tramping around. My wife has always been petrified by the idea that spiders are crawling into her open mouth while she's sleeping, ever since she heard some statistics somewhere about the number of spiders a person swallows without knowing it, on average, in a year's time. I'm thinking about spiders today because "An Echo From Hosts That Profess Infinitum," from Seattle outfit Shabazz Palaces' newest release, "Black Up," makes me. It's a song that sounds troubling, as if the brain is actually melting out of the ears, right in front of our face. Shabazz mastermind Ishmael "Butterfly" Butler makes music that forms an entirely new context all its own, reaching out for us like the darkest arms protruding out of a house of mirrors, or a carnival of spooks. It sounds as if it's walking with the help of a hundred different legs, splitting or pulling itself in the same number of directions, but always holding to a center point, or a pelvis. These are the thoughts of a genius or an amateur madman (or a madman who will never be successful, as there will always be too much intrigue and sanity in his madness) that fly out of Butler's mouth like little spiderlings, throwing a thread of silk into the breeze that catches a wave and takes the insect to a new fate. On "An Echo," there's a sample or a field recording that sounds like a distorted and manipulated bit recorded at an elementary school playground, a chorus of children chattering as they chase one another or play ball. The sound, like many of the affects created and used in Shabazz Palaces songs, feel as if they're being warped by the sun poisoning them, made woozy by radiation. Butler sweetly and menacingly delivers his words and they split us across the head, leaving us feeling as if we've just been taken over, as if we're no longer ourselves. He raps about what we're supposed to say to those people at the club, when things get a little too claustrophobic for their own good. We're supposed to say, "Clear some space out so we can space out," but the Shabazz modus operandi is to always have the space identified where a space out can happen at any time at all.
Shabazz Palaces Official Site