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.


Mike Ladd: Father Divine

Stefan Braidwood

Infesticon, Nostalgiagator, poet, MC and producer goes semi-conceptual and ends up between destinations. He's still smart and funky, but it's not really enough.

Mike Ladd

Father Divine

Label: ROIR
US Release Date: 2005-11-15
UK Release Date: 2005-11-21
Amazon affiliate
"She had a ass that was on gyrate"
-- "Barney's Girl"

"Matter is music"
-- Ladd guesting with the Youngblood Brass Band

The last time I wrote a review about Mike Ladd's music, I enthused about In What Language: a collection of vignettes on the subject of international culture, origin and airports that drew together a multitude of colourful characters into a startling and subtle whole. Since then he's released Nostalgiagator on German label !K7 (collector of downtempo gems and assorted oddities, as well as the renowned DJ-Kicks series) and brought out the highbrow critique of black music and the treatment of blacks that was Negrophilia, this time on Thirsty Ear and backed up by the Blue Series Continuum. Everyone seemingly hated the former album, and although most of the critics loved the latter it was ridiculously scarce for ages, so I'm afraid I haven't heard either. Mike hasn't just been busy musically, either; half way through recording this album he upped sticks to Paris (for how long, I'm unaware), got married and had a child. My warmest congratulations go out to the guy... I just hope my indefinite stay in Paris goes as well.

At any rate, Father Divine will sound familiar to anyone who's heard Ladd's earlier Infesticons project or the seminal Welcome to the Afterfuture, if you can call a rough and dusty collection of international samples nailed into ramshackle grooves that waft back from a stoned sci-fi future only months down the line "familiar". Things aren't as dystopian lyrically as they were, and this mostly instrumental collection is generally mellower and warmer than his past work; marriage and fatherhood have taking a little of the edge of his anger, it would seem. Ladd remains alone on the mic for about a third of the tracks here, but is joined behind the boards by friend Gymkhana, an analogue electro obsessive who supplied the studio for much of the work done on the album, as well as past collaborator Vijay Iyer on piano and ex-Anti-Pop Consortium/Airborn Audio man High Priest on synths.

The supposed religious concept behind the record is only really evident in the song titles, as on those tracks where Ladd drops lyrics things seem to be on a not-totally-abstract-association tip; the music scene, celebrities and mundane modern life washing into each other over references to what might or might not be Ladd's own existence -- as usual with this man, you might not always be absolutely sure what he's talking about, but his worldly intelligence, eloquence and earthily oblique sense of humour shine through, and you somehow get the feeling that he's wittily capturing a small part of contemporary life's essence and sharing it with you in appreciative celebration. You might call him a beachcomber stranded on the junkpile of modern urban existence, surviving on faith and the odd find, like the woman he fondly gives life to on "Barney's Girl", punked and hip-hop'd up yet still smelling "of spring time" (a line he's already used on a collabo with Edition:Terranova). Musically, "Crooner Island" is the pick of the crop, ambling along on wandering keys and sunny synths for its first half before dropping out, then surfing back in on a mad organ riff (High Priest on the synth?) and going utterly beserk in a partying style that will make every hip-hop cell in your body bounce up and down with joy.

Overall this is a rather disappointing collection of diary scribbles from the mind of a man caught between places physical and imagined, content to play with the dirt and the dust of his existence and occasionally pull out something sexy, fresh and new. Not a great album, but an enjoyable and varied one nonetheless -- and that's not counting the two tracks on the release copy that aren't on my promo. If they're anything like as good as "Crooner Island", you should definitely give this a listen.


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.





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.


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.


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".


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.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


'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.


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.


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.


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.


'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.


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.


'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.


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.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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