It’s sometimes said that artists who choose a December release date do so at the expense of their showing up on best-of-the-year lists. While it’s true that the reverse can be argued, DeForrest Brown, Jr. need not worry about timing. He’s produced one of 2019’s most exceptional records, under the name Speaker Music.
Exceptional not just because it is miserably beautiful. Of Desire, Longing stands apart. Its bleak industrialism is balanced by a poignant saxophone, treated vocals and an attention to compositional detail that holds on tight to our attention.
The work is presented in two parts. The first half is “with empathy.” It rumbles to life like a train in the distance. What’s immediately clear is that this is a complex recording, even in its quieter moments. There is a marvelous intricacy to it, some of which is pure ear candy. But it’s never just that. When the above-mentioned saxophone arrives, it lifts the piece to a genuinely emotional height.
Part two is more abrasive. It opens with high-pitched electronics accompanied by a similarly shrill vocal drone. Where “with empathy” is softened by its electronics, “without excess” is a more challenging listen. Besides the vocals, this piece’s main counterpoint is a repeating percussion line. It serves as a much-needed alternative focal point.
You may be familiar with Brown’s campaign to “Make Techno Black Again.” He is a contributor to FACT magazine, a curator, visual artist and more. In 2017, Brown was the first to be appointed the Suzanne Fiol Curatorial Fellow at ISSUE Project Room in New York.
Speaker Music is reportedly inspired by urbanist philosopher Henri Lefebvre and his essay collection Rhythmanalysis. Brown also references “considerations of vibe, momentum and the ‘chronopolitical’ in black music as defined by British cultural theorist Kodwo Eshun.”
Brown will celebrate his new recording with a curated event he’s calling “drape over another.” That’s Dec. 13 at Artists Space in New York.