700 BLISS ~ Nothing To Declare

“I don’t like 700 BLISS… they’re always talking about the end of the world… it’s so dark… is this even music?” (700 BLISS, “Easyjet”)

“Is this even music?” is probably a comment you have heard in the past, whether it is from a friend, a parent, or an audience member. You may have thought it yourself, possibly around the time “Baby Shark” was taking off. It is possible, if you prefer our coverage of modern composition and ambient albums, that you may tear your headphones off after a preview of 700 BLISS and say the same thing. Producer DJ Haram takes no prisoners with her creations – sometimes it feels like she has cranked up all her instruments, so they live in the red rather than making the occasional visit for effect. It’s noisy and gnarly at times; the drums can feel relentless, the bass equally ferocious. There is a punk attitude to these tracks; Haram pulls in ideas from a myriad of influences – hip hop, noise, free jazz – to dazzle and bewilder the listener in equal amounts.

If the music seems designed to continually keep us off-balance, operating in short bursts (few tracks last over 3 minutes), it is a perfect backing for Moor Mother. Her lyrics and poetry over Haram’s productions do not make for comfortable listening, but they are impossible to shut out. We have mentioned Moor Mother in passing over the years, although as we are a predominantly instrumental music website, we’ve never previously reviewed her work. But we have the word ‘experimental’ in our site description, and Nothing To Declare fits that part of the remit. Some artists are just impossible to ignore, and Moor Mother is arguably one of the most vital voices in music today. She has collaborated across many projects, covering multiple styles – if this album doesn’t grab you, there are several other albums to explore.

Moor Mother has spoken previously about wanting to find a wider audience, which is why her work touches on many genres. Her exploration of Black history and experience should be listened to by as many people as possible, not just in the US. So, she gracefully pirouettes between collaborators and then unleashes her message. This project with DJ Haram began in Philadelphia in 2014, with the Spa 700 EP arriving in 2018 – the roots here run deep, and it is not a question of laying vocals over an instrumental backing: the music shifts in empathy, the voices are often processed and bent out of shape. Crucially, Nothing To Declare entertains and informs. “Anthology” pays tribute to Katherine Dunham, the matriarch of Black dance – by contrast, “EasyJet,” quoted above, sees the duo pre-empting any criticism via a dialogue between unconvinced listeners. It’s a moment of levity that shows 700 BLISS appreciate that an album’s worth of intense music and lyrics might need a break at times.

Nothing To Declare is an album with an intense rush, both musically and lyrically; the ideas fly out so quickly that it is impossible to catch them all in one listen. Each new play reveals elements that zipped by unnoticed on a previous spin. The message is vital, and the production dazzles. “Is this even music?” Yes. And it’s brilliant. (Jeremy Bye)

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