Record label: Aesthetics
Format: 2xLP/CD
Release date: 18 September 2000

"This is the evolution of a new Negro, naturally..." intones Daniel Givens on "allies," the first track of his debut album. If Black people had to pick an album as a starting point with which to reinvent themselves, beyond the predictable traps of baller and shot caller, evading the "Erica Voyeur or Marcia Brady" dilemma, to be more than just a thug life advocate or the R&B crooner who would rather bump and grind than nurture and provide, this album would be considerably more challenging than most. Much like Ornette Coleman's "free" theories on jazz would spark debates that continue until this day, there is enough information on Age to keep a listener occupied well into the next century. For all intents and purposes, Age is a free jazz/post-rock release. But even that description is inadequate. Multiple listens can help trace familial ties to those who were here before Givens: Sun Ra, Miles Davis, Tricky, Carl Craig's Innerzone Orchestra, and many others could be referenced.

Each track is a journey unto itself; together they create an otherworldly experience. While a large percentage of this album is Givens' creation - he produced it himself and plays several different instruments - he does call on the assistance of a number of comrades within Chicago's artistic circles. Vocalist Seth Hitsky adds a haunting aspect on "rotation" with a spellbinding and spiritual utterance. Hitsky later dives into jazz scat exercise on "transitional," a drum 'n' bass bodied tune whose insides have been picked clean of its dance floor appeal. Josh Abrams' bass playing on "no visible color" leads the groove for Daniel's poetry to follow. His voice for prose can be a fixed monotone ("allies") or an impassioned Black Power chant ("never worship earth"). Musically, Daniel weaves a sonic tapestry for you to get lost in. The irregular time signature of "petals" makes the song sound like a more developed take on one of Tricky's abstract moments in time. "mandala/mural" signals a return to the motherland with the drudging sounds of an African drum section and a steady guitar pattern. It's as if Afro-beat was taken out back and severely flogged until it was forced to slow down the tempo. And the 18-minute, three-part opus "acknowledgement" is beyond words.

Daniel Givens was wise enough to mix past, present, and future sounds into this release, thereby creating a timeless work. What better time to listen to an album of this nature? Its effects will be felt long after his life span on earth has passed. Thankfully for us, that won't be for a long while. The reexamination of urban possibilities starts here.


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