Fetish Bones is not entertainment. This isn’t the record you put on to chill out or get people dancing. Fetish Bones is a record you put on to clear the cobwebs from your synapses. It’s a record that challenges you on so many levels. It’s a sonic confrontation challenging your idea of what music is. It challenges you on an intellectual level, forcing you to examine unsavory bits of history and current events. It challenges you spiritually to define where you fit into the matrix of modern life.
Fetish Bones is the latest effort by Moor Mother, the solo project of Philadelphia musician and activist Camae Ayewa. She describes her music as “slaveship punk and afrofuturist electronics.” In practice, that translates to a dense sonic stew that blends beats, samples, abstract electronic sounds, spoken word poetics, story-telling and noise. It’s a mash up of Last Poets with Throbbing Gristle and Silver Apples in a hotel room recording studio in the Mississippi Delta. It’s the future holding an uneasy conversation with the past while we try to come to grips with the present.
The disc opens with “Creation Myth”, that recounts over a century of injustice through a shimmying curtain of white noise and machine beats. “You’ll see my dead body at the protest,” Moor Mother chants on “Deadbeat Protest”. It’s a howl of pain that making lives matter is still not self-evident. Samples float in and out of the mix like ghosts unable to rest. Voices of street singers, news broadcasts and gospel singers link the tragedy of today to a long and unsavory history of exploitation and pain. The disc closes with “Time Float”, the prettiest song with the most conventional melody. The prettiness belies the chilling admonition, “use my dead body as a raft.” I’d like to read some hope into this message. Maybe we can learn from past horrors and make a better future for everyone.