Today, New York based composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and poet JJJJJerome Ellis announces The Clearing, an ambitious and visionary double album releasing November 5th, 2021 via NNA Tapes, co-produced with the Poetry Project and released in tandem with a book published by Wendy’s Subway. The Clearing is a conceptual and musical tour de force that combines Jazz with the narratives of enslaved Africans, experimental electronics with historical accounts of Black rebellion. The album centers speech but uses it as a starting point to not only depathologize dysfluent speech but to build new tools to critique anti-Blackness, linear time, culture, and power in our society.
“Loops of Retreat“, the lead album preview out today and the first track on The Clearing, opens with processed saxophones leading us into a kind of sonic forest: dense, mysterious, and dynamic. Over the soundscape, Ellis speaks: “My thesis is that blackness, dysfluency [i.e. stuttering and other forms of disabled or non-normative speech], and music are forces that open time.” As Ellis reads, the forest grows into the pauses in his stuttered speech. A trap-inspired beat with stuttering hi-hats, crisp snares, and beefy kicks gradually builds as we move deeper into the forest. The track’s title references the “loophole of retreat” Harriet Jacobs describes in her book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. On this track, and on the album as a whole, Ellis suggests that the looping sounds of Black music, and the looping syllables and silences of the Black stutterer, resist linear time and offer new ways of being. The track ends with fire running through the forest, clearing ground for further growth.
JJJJJerome Ellis is a blk disabled animal, stutterer, and artist. Through music, literature, performance, and video, he explores blkness, disabled speech, and music as forces of refusal, possibility, reparation, and healing. His diverse body of work includes contemplative soundscapes using saxophone, flute, dulcimer, electronics, and vocals; scores for plays and podcasts; albums combining spoken word with ambient and jazz textures; theatrical explorations involving live music and storytelling; and music-video-poems that seek to transfigure historical archives. JJJJJerome’s solo and collaborative work has been presented by Lincoln Center, The Poetry Project, and ISSUE Project Room (New York); MASS MoCA (North Adams, Massachusetts); REDCAT (Los Angeles); Arraymusic (Toronto); and the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), among others. His work has been covered by This American Life, Artforum, Black Enso, and Christian Science Monitor.
Find more information and preorder The Clearing here.