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serpentwithfeet - DEACON Music Album Reviews

serpentwithfeet - DEACON Music Album Reviews
Josiah Wise’s second album is an eager, effervescent tale of romance, outlining a genealogy that stretches from gospel to the shiny, gossamer R&B of the ’90s and ’00s.

When Josiah Wise’s gothic gospel project serpentwithfeet first appeared in 2016, its atmospheres were decidedly dank. His debut EP, blisters, produced with the grim electronic composer Haxan Cloak, had the foreboding of a horror movie and the fearsomeness of scripture. The first lyrics we heard through his silken falsetto were hair-raising: “It’s cool with me if you want to die,” he cooed on “four ethers,” “And I’m not going to stop you if you try.” The production was similarly unnerving; the story of serpentwithfeet felt deliberately written with gruesomeness lurking around every corner.

Yet Wise has always been a romantic, mingling the exquisite with the sensual. On blisters, he imagined anointing himself with the humors souring in his lover’s belly; on serpentwithfeet’s first full-length album, 2018’s soil, he compared his devotion to that of an angel to a god. With his new album, DEACON, the focus is on joy rather than pain, and the ambiance is less creepy and more confectionary. Here, serpentwithfeet tosses out the phantasmagoria but brings the same imagistic instincts to stories with happy endings. A night shared with a lover in a club or a bedroom can feel supernatural, too, and Wise details these baffling encounters without dulling their wonder. The titular deaconship can be understood to mean that serpentwithfeet is our guide to forces that defy understanding.

Wise first experimented with using the gospel idiom to profess romantic devotion on soil, but lyrically and musically, the narratives remained blood-soaked. By contrast, DEACON is airy, even sunny. Over a tumbling blues piano figure on “Malik,” Wise preaches about the object of his affections: “Blessed is the man who wears socks with his sandals.” “Amir” is built on a tender harp sample that sounds like it could be a reprise to the harpsichord-driven “Angel of Mine.” The first half of the album is made up of these giddy dispatches from a relationship’s honeymoon phase. Especially on the hummable “Same Size Shoe,” Wise explores plain contentment with the same descriptive finesse he once dedicated to tragedy. Here, the “good news” is simply the bliss of a Black love that doesn’t require translation, where intimacy goes uninterrupted by misunderstanding.

Near the album’s midpoint, dark forces arrive to interrupt Wise’s reverie. In “Sailors’ Superstition,” he sees the beginning of the end on the horizon, bidding his partner to keep their love low-key, not to “whistle on [their] ship” and tempt the “rascals of the air.” Anyone who’s seen a horror movie knows this is the moment when something finally goes wrong. But then, in an inversion of classic serpentwithfeet style, the Nao-assisted “Heart Storm” arrives to split the sky open, dispelling the gloom before it gets a chance to take hold.

Musically, DEACON outlines a genealogy from gospel to the shiny, gossamer R&B of the ’90s and ’00s, sounds that Wise grew up on. When the tracks aren’t built around claps or snaps, the percussion is often squelching and organic, reminiscent of Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins’ productions for artists like Destiny’s Child and Brandy; both styles inject vitality into Wise’s lyrical imagery. His trademark serpentine runs capture the ecstatic improvisation of gospel, retaining both spontaneity and rigor. Every harmony carries the significance of a choir. Where Jesus Is King just barely had the gall to chop-and-screw gospel while leaving its textures conservatively intact, Wise reawakens the gospel influence already present in pop music, reasserting its sturdiness in conversation with newer sounds.

DEACON is a brief and light album, not leaving quite the impression of serpentwithfeet’s earlier work. The editing-down of the lyrical drama is a refreshing change, but some of the stark songwriting and compositional tenacity of Wise’s earlier work seems absent. Opener “Hyacinth” and later track “Old & Fine” feel unfinished, as if lacking a dramatic arc. There is, though, a distinct pleasure that comes from hearing the towering instrument of Wise’s voice wrap around these simpler songs.

Nowhere is that more true than on “Fellowship,” the album’s closer, where the vision of happiness sounds downright normie (“Christmas movies in July with you”), even a little twee (“our fascination with Prosecco”). But it pays off when, in a Sampha- and Lil Silva-assisted chorus, Wise surrounds the romantic and erotic love that drives the album’s narrative with a chorus of platonic support: “I’m thankful for the love I share with my friends.” Their soulful ad-libbing evokes the most comforting moments of choir singing; it sounds immediately like something you would skip to the end of a lesser song to hear. It’s a gesture of warmth more affecting than any literary allusion or gory image.

DEACON could use a few more awe-inspiring moments, but by celebrating simplicity, it enshrines the Black, queer love at its center as something blessedly uncomplicated and precious. Love doesn’t need tragedy to be great, and neither does serpentwithfeet. On DEACON, Wise proves his musicianship can stand on its own—no melodrama required.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
serpentwithfeet - DEACON Music Album Reviews serpentwithfeet - DEACON Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Monday, April 05, 2021 Rating: 5

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