Moses Sumney

Black in Deep Red, 2014 EP

Jagjaguwar

Aug 17, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


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Moses Sumney was once a mild-mannered singer. On his early EPs and singles, he accompanied his delicate falsetto with looped harmonies and softly-plucked guitar for songs which were understated and mysterious. But, as his star has risen, so too has the scope of his music widened. Black in Deep Red, 2014, his first notable release since last year's Aromanticism debut album, has a lot in common with his early work; it still has moments of quiet beauty and detailed arrangements. But, it is also a more violent and wild record, inspired by Sumney's first and only experience of protest.

Although he keeps it briefthe EP clocks out at under 10 minutesBlack in Deep Red, 2014 is a successful experiment in finding new menace in his sound. The opener "Power" sets the tone, beginning with a protest chant"Power to the people, the people have power"which is slowly consumed by a robotic voice. The follow-up, "Call-to-Arms," opens in more familiar territory with Sumney singing over finger-picked chords before morphing into a jazz-rock instrumental.

However, as interesting as these experiments are, the album's clear centerpiece and driving force is "Rank & File." Sumney has often been politically vocal on social media, but his music has tended to lean towards personal emotions. On this song, he recalls the sound and urgency of Hail to the Thief-era Radiohead to tackle police brutality over skipping beats and a rumbling synthesizer. Lyrically, it is the EP's most substantial song but Sumney's writing remains minimalistic, focussing on starkly aggressive imagery over political solutions. As a document of tension and fear, it is strikingly effective.

For anyone who has previously found Sumney to be too cerebral, Black in Deep Red, 2014 may be a good opportunity to re-evaluate his work. The characteristics which made Aromanticism so successful are still here, but on this EP, there is a new sense of drive and purpose to his music. Although the path from acoustic singer/songwriter to political activist is well-worn, Sumney does a good job of carving out an original route for himself. Black in Deep Red, 2014 is a worthy experiment and an indication that Sumney has the talent to continue surprising his fans. (www.mosessumney.com)

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