About a month ago I read some very positive comments about Matthew Shipp's Piano Sutras (2013) on the digital bulletin board of my public library. So I placed a hold on the record; it arrived at the end of last week; and I've been playing it ever since.
A solo piano recital (for an excellent review, see Will Layman's PopMatters piece) Piano Sutras sounds remarkably fresh, even after listening to the album 15 times in a row. Why is that? My guess is that it is because Piano Sutras manages to aurally picture our present history.
Two-thousand-thirteen in many ways is the jumping off point for our present history, a.k.a., the Zeitgeist. Obama's landslide reelection, rather than heralding a renewed progressive national government, turned out to be nothing more than business as usual.
The year began with the Democratic administration basically throwing in the towel on the fiscal cliff and sequestration negotiations, leaving the GOP to continue to dictate the agenda. Then in May Snowden flew to Hong Kong and revealed that Obama's government was spying on everyone globally. This was followed in July by the Sisi coup in Egypt, rolling back the Arab Spring, and then the Ghouta sarin attack in August, which prompted the Nobel Peace Prize winning president to illegally threaten to bomb a sovereign nation.
In other words. by the end of summer 2013, the idea that Obama represented something other than the maintenance of a rancid, war-based status quo could no longer be maintained rationally. The botched roll out of his signature legislative initiative, Obamacare, in the fall of 2013 reinforced the assessment that, according to Donald Trump's current mantra, "Our politicians are stupid."
Recorded in Brooklyn in February of 2013, Piano Sutras is pregnant with complex dark tones sprinkled with shards of light, the perfect soundtrack for the Zeitgeist of mass opt-out. Our politicians have failed; rather, our politicians are not our own but the employees of the super-rich. Things will continue to grow worse whether we try to catapult backwards to a more honest age (Bernie Sanders) or blow the whole fucking mess apart by launching a Latino pogrom (Donald Trump). Our present history demands enormous, dislocating alterations. Much pain is bubbling down the Zeit-sluice our way.
Bookmakers earn their living by accurately interpreting the Zeitgeist. Matthew Shipp is a master bookie. Do yourself a favor. Prepare yourself for what is coming. Listen to Piano Sutras. You will be stronger for it.