André 3000: New Blue Sun Album Review

November 20, 2023 - Music

About those titles: Yes, they are long. They are playful. He misspells Gandhi’s name, yes. There is something to be said about how André can’t help but use language to both say and obfuscate what he’s feeling. It’s tempting to map some kind of narrative onto instrumental music, particularly something as gauzy and obviously personal as this. You can read the beatific sigh of New Blue Sun as a comment on the relief of anonymity André must feel, or how the safety of a group of like-minded people allows you to take a closer look at the darkness outside. If you don’t look at the tracklist, you can do that. But those song titles deflect your gaze, keep you from taking this stuff too seriously, from reading too much into it. Call it a feint, but it feels like a way of keeping the music light and exciting, of protecting the exploratory spirit that went into its creation.

Despite his lyrical virtuosity, André has always sought out what a song needs; consider the way the back half of “B.O.B” is given over to gospel rave, or how “SpottieOttieDopaliscious”’ ineffable hook is a wordless trumpet line. Here, he’s doing the same thing, moving carefully and only asserting himself when it feels right. He tests “The Slang Word” out for vulnerabilities, teasing at its fabric with his flute, picking lightly lest he rip the seam. Armed with his contrabass flute in “That Night In Hawaii When I Turned Into A Panther And Started Making These Low Register Purring Tones That I Couldn’t Control … Sh¥t Was Wild,” he’s much more confident. He slurs like Rahsaan Roland Kirk, tweets like Eric Dolphy, sets up a melody, then liquidates it and lets it simmer against the muted vibration of Deantoni Parks’ drum.

Parks, like the rest of the ensemble, is a full participant in the creation of this music, and throughout New Blue Sun, the other instrumentalists show off their ability to spontaneously birth new sounds. In “Ninety Three ’Til Infinity and Beyoncé,” Matthewdavid scrapes and smears crusty grains of noise thick as wheatpaste across the track and Botofasina brings to mind Laraaji’s Vision Songs, Vol. 1 with his homey basement organ in “The Slang Word.” Then there’s Diego Gaeta, whose slowly turning piano runs in “Ghandi, Dalai Lama, Your Lord & Savior J.C. / Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, And John Wayne Gacy” are the rotator in the gyroscope, a counterweight that keeps everything from tumbling. He flirts with dreamy realization, pumps a bit of gospel, then slides into a resigned darkness, barely touching the keys; the way his playing sits like a glass turned over the buzzing fly of André’s melody brings New Blue Sun closer to the tragic experiments of Tim Hecker’s Ravedeath, 1972 than jazz or new age.

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