Kevin Beasley: A View of a Landscape Album Review

Four years later, Beasley continues to explore the collaborative possibilities of the installation. His debut album, a double LP also titled A view of a landscape, brings together artists from her initial Whitney performances, as well as a sprawling network of poets, musicians, and performers including L’Rain, Laurel Halo, Kelsey Lu, Moor Mother, and Jason Moran. “I wanted all artists to consider the questions surrounding the sound of the engine, its history, and how a sonic experience could be created with it,” he wrote in a statement. Along with a 300-page monograph containing essays, photos, and other documentation, the multimedia project is both a look back at Beasley’s career to date and a conscious effort to reframe his practice in terms of the community it fosters.

The album opens softly with a resonant metallic drone, followed by Fred Moten’s vocals. The poet, critic, and theorist has spent decades writing about the lingering traumas of history, and here, Moten returns to a piece that also appeared on his 2022 jazz album with bassist Brandon Lopez and drummer Gerald Cleaver, putting into dialogue the existing poem. with Beasley’s work. “All that blood is the engine,” he says. “That is a computer?” bringing Moten/Lopez/CleaverIn the closing track on his own album cover, Beasley suggests a continuity between the two projects that goes beyond thematic overlap. Approximately two minutes later, a sterile kick drum kicks in to a slow thump as the loud mechanical hum intensifies and industrial percussion loops sync up and out of sync. The piece sets the stage for a series of collaborations that situate Beasley’s source material in new environments, delving deeper into the harrowing soundscapes that define his artistic practice with rigor and grace.

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Much of the album is subdued and instrumental, with soothing ambient patches punctuated by moments of focused tension. On “Resin,” songwriter/producer Laurel Halo considers the textural qualities of simple synth and organ tones, decoupling each element from the original instrument to construct an organic assemblage reminiscent of her 2018 album. Raw silk uncut wood. Pieces by L’Rain and Kelsey Lu layer looping keyboards over rumbling noises likely taken from Beasley’s installation, bending and pitch-shifting the audio like every other sound on the album. Towards the end of Lu’s “Lines,” the hard-hitting kicks and screeching synth are overtaken by a knotted string arrangement that leads into “Face the Rock,” the sole contribution by jazz pianist-composer Jason Moran. The high-pitched noise peeks out from behind a wall of carefully arranged piano lines drawing inspiration from minimalism, impressionistic film composition, and free jazz. It’s a standout moment where the hectic mechanical beat present throughout the album feels not just atmospheric, but as essential as anything else.

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