Abstract Black – In Circles with Self

Before embarking on listening to In Circles with Self from Abstract Black, you must prepare yourself for a bit of a meditative experience. These are longform, looping, compositions that build upon themselves through saxophone, clarinet, bells, percussion of various varieties and repetitive vocal clips.

The history of the record is revealing of this intentionally focused experience:

After witnessing the Sun Ra Arkestra in Memphis October 2018, I used the month of November to create these compositions, quick mantras really, which focus on using the sound circle (loop), to reimagine an ensemble, in the tradition of Great Black Music ensembles like the aforementioned and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, yet comprised of self solely. This recording stands to document my adherence to the practice of sonic improvisation in the out of doors.

It’s a refreshing break from the world of rock, indie rock and pop structures. Clearly there’s a bit of Jazz Thinking underlying some of this but the influence goes back much further. These songs, at their most skeletal, harken back to drum circles and communal music making experiences but the usage of modern instrumentation, samples and the occasional squelching keyboard (see “E(WI) Ring“) make for a more contemporary experience.

Speaking personally, albums like this can be a hard sell with the blinders I generally wear for the rock world but it’s an enjoyable experience to step outside of that realm and immerse yourself into a world of slower, building, changes.