PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Darius Jones: The Oversoul Manual

Jazz saxophonist Darius Jones has composed before, but you’ve never heard him make anything like this.


Darius Jones

The Oversoul Manual

Label: AUM Fidelity
US Release Date: 2014-10-14
UK Release Date: 2014-10-13
Label website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

I admit to being completely bamboozled by this release. Like many other writers who got to hear saxophonist Darius Jones's collaboration with Matthew Shipp and his latest release with the avant-jazz group Little Women, I thought I had the guy reasonably pegged. Four releases deep in his mythical god-man Man'ish Boy compositional series, Jones has gone completely vocal. The Oversoul Manual features nothing but the human voice for close to 53 minutes. Specifically, it's the female voice. More specifically, it's a quartet called the Elizabeth-Caroline Unit. If all of this strikes you as a bit odd, it's about to get weirder.

The story takes place on a planet named Or'gen. On Or'gen, if you want to procreate, three or more humanoids need to enter a spiritual agreement. This "Unit" follows a sacred text known as The Oversoul Manual written in the language of oe∫. Only after performing these 15 pieces of music will a child eventually take shape. Each mother then has a turn to "impart her wisdom, experience, and deepest desires for the child". This is a process you need to keep up for years at a time, and the Man'ish Boy took seven. And when he appeared, it was an alleged watershed for the Or'genians, the "awakening of a cultural and spiritual development that this planet had not seen before".

The tracks are titled, but not in any way that's familiar to me, you, or anyone else. When listed from top to bottom, they form two funneling shapes. Track one is named "o o o o o", track two is "o o o o", and on down to line to track five where the circles turn solid: "•". They increase in number up through track nine. Ten is named " Δ ••••• Δ". The dots in the middle decrease until track 15 is named "Δ•Δ". The English translation is as follows: "Os/M-pt. 1", "Os/M-pt. 2", and so on. Amirtha Kidambi, Sarah Martin, Jean-Carla Rodea, and Kristin Slipp make up the Elizabeth-Caroline Unit, and Darius Jones recruited them based not only on their musical talent but also because none of them knew one another. And these ladies do some strange things with their voices. Jones doesn't waste any time in letting you know that this project will not be 100% "pretty". In the first track, one of the vocalists is on the verge of frying her voice. But in no time at all, the music will take a sublime turn with Freddie Mercury's four angel mothers singing in tongues. Sorting one movement from another feels like a fool's errand. How can I get across the feeling that "o o o" sounds better than "Δ••••Δ"? Or is it the other way around?

Honestly, The Oversoul Manual is a long string of musical "moments" rather than "movements". Within the tracks are germs of profound harmony and dissonance. The four voices will sometimes line up perfectly and other times they will be at odds with one another. You may find yourself mentally tuning out when suddenly the most iridescent piece of music will float from your speakers and stun you in believing that there is an Or'gen, there is a Unit and there is a Man'ish Boy hatching in our midst. Or maybe Darius Jones is completely nuts. Objectively speaking, I think it would be nice to be just a little crazy, don't you?

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.