Nothing To Declare
Four years since their explosive debut "Spa 700", DJ Haram and Moor Mother return to the 700 Bliss project with sharpened claws, hacking together East Coast delivery, genre-collapsing airlock beats, whipsmart pre-apocalypse politics and raw, breathless funk energy. Psycho-surrealist industrial noise-rap genius.
Listening to a Moor Mother album is like hearing decades of musical development cave into a faultline as the poles shift and the world takes its last gasp. Alongside New Jersey-raised club vet DJ Haram, Camae Ayewa's frayed pre-apocalyptic doomsaying is set to a pulse. "I feel dancing, like really dancing," she gasps on 'Anthology', listing diasporic dance hubs like Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti over Haram's taut, pneumatic 4/4. Woodblock clacks begin to trip across the hardcore throb, while Moor Mother reminds us of the roots of their sound: the matriarchal Black dance. Lafawndah lends her voice to 'Totally Spies', cooing cybernetically over Haram's minimal inverted grime clicks and ritualistic hand drum patterns alongside Moor Mother's spell for the end times. On 'Nightflame' Mother sounds deadly serious as she states "Imma walk ballroom, bitch make room," before Philly talent Orion Sun gently murmurs a dripped soul chorus; it's between Kelela's icy minimalism and the grunged NYC concrete rot of Cannibal Ox: heavenly, urgent and terrifying simultaneously.
At its heart, "Nothing to Declare" is a rap album, stitched together with in-jokes, features and skits to fill it out as if it's a classic Wu-Tang tome. 'Easyjet' is a one-minute bit where the duo skewer their doomy public perception, and drags us into album highlight 'Candace Parker', a seething DHR-esque punk-rap rattle assisted by Palestinian producer Muqata'a. Across furious squashed breaks and death rattle tablas, Moor Mother growls ferociously: "Imma spit it to their face, 'til they feel the fuckin' bass, 'til they feel the embrace." DJ Haram burns her beat to a digital cinder on 'Capitol', leaving malfunctioning computer bleeps for filmmaker and performance artist Alli Logout's barbed nursery rhymes and Moor Mother's rasping poems. And by the time ‘Seven' drops, Haram dissolves any semblance of a beat, leaning into white noise, foley clanks and deranged soundscapes - it's an ideal backdrop to Ayewa's most dextrous rhymes, and she contorts her voice from a deranged news feed thru East Coast rap classicism and into industrial dream logic.
'Nothing To Declare' is a weighty volume, a dense listening experience that takes multiple spins to unravel properly. It's that rare gemstone: a rap record that absorbs club production elements without ever dipping its toe into anything resembling the mainstream. DJ Haram and Moor Mother have a clear message, and you can absorb it as you move in time like it's the end of the world.