“Unfortunately for you, RED WALL is not a rap crew,” insists the opening track on the debut collaboration from milo (Rory Ferreira) and Safari Al (Alexander Kollman of the Dilla Gents). The duo make clear from the outset that they’re here to subvert all expectations we may have of them. “RED WALL is an anti-band focused on documenting moments,” the liner notes explain, “a poet’s guild offering protection.” This first EP from milo and S.Al is sonic poetry even before we can process the semantics of it; though the lyrics are shattering in their own right, it’s their sound, and the sound of the instrumentation, that’s the guiding force.
Delicately intermingling electronic and acoustic aspects, (Boyle) and Piles finds a groove that seeps with affect. Beginning with the rumble of an electric bassline and the twinkle of what sounds like the high end of a toy piano over Milo’s blunt vocal track and a narrative from Open Mike Eagle, it digs its way into weirder spaces, some lush and others jarringly minimalist—manipulating archived conversations and improvised saxophone with equal artistry, and stretching the bounds of the instrumentality of the human voice. On “‘Maybe I Like Owls,’ Said Sun Ra”, heavy jazz improv slides into the overlapping of resonant vocals that fray at the edges before their conversion into percussive instrumentation; next thing we know, we’re hearing a steady beatbox over the clean ringing of that toylike keyboard. The closing track on the record brings in the crisscross of two bass-heavy guitars’ bumbling, protracted notes, tenderly recalling Dave Holland’s 1971 Music for Two Basses.
All the while, the vocal tracks alternate between smoothness and roughness, and the flow is mature and compelling. The declaration that this isn’t a rap group holds, given that milo and S.Al are constantly transforming the verbal into the visceral; the emphasis is on the way it all feels. But the words themselves hit hard too, deadpan remarks that have a necessary undertone of dead seriousness. On the saucily titled “Two Men Repeatedly Suggest Something Is On The Low”, over a windy, whirring electronic scape, there’s the intimation of “That’s a clumsy factoid from a bummy black boy / If a dummy act coy he could stumble to his death” before the soft lull of Safari Al’s melody. Lyrically, (Boyle) and Piles is an examination of the politics of living and of blackness through documentation of the everyday, as milo and S.Al articulate recurrent thought patterns that continually lead back to questions of race and ideology. “H.A.P.P.Y. Brain” finds the lyrical gravity at its apex when Busdriver is introduced pleading, “Black power obstructionist, take down this number” and echoed in milo’s voice as a descending bassline drives the track into melancholy.
You can purchase the EP now over at milo’s Bandcamp.