Honour – Àlááfíà (PAN 121)
Honour’s debut album is a ligament stretching from Lagos to London and to New York, curling across the diaspora and brushing the darker hues of blues, hip-hop, free jazz, ambient, gospel with Christian mythology and Yoruba folklore. As cinematic as it is painterly, Àlááfíà is a meditation on themes of life, death and love that pulls inspiration from the unexpected poetic profundity of casual conversations, field recordings, literature, ephemera, or personal archives. The result is an impressionistic vision in Black and Blur that both exhausts and implicates language—substantiating a mythos proposed by Fred Moten that sublimates boundaries between everywhere and nowhere; history and the present; the individual and the universal.
Àlááfíà delineates a gothic landscape cut by overdriven beats, swooping orchestral blasts, choral bursts and ear- splitting fuzz, where the fleshly and spiritual realms commune. Dedicated to Honour’s late grandmother, the title track began to take form after their last embrace and remains steeped in her influence and spirit—a tape-saturated composition that starts in Lagos and ends in London’s smoke-stained cityscape, the song’s dream-like quality developed out of the artist’s grief and PTSD coping with this loss. Beneath the stretched guitar drones and stuttering loops, their grandmother’s shared faith bubbles to the surface.
“When Angels Speak of Love,” borrows its title from two works by Sun Ra and bell hooks, respectively. Sculpting echoes of praise music into disorienting spirals perforated with syrupy DJ Screw-inspired breaks and sharp splinters of melancholic guitar, “When Angels Speak of Love” engages a conceptual dialogue with the spirits of both late thinkers, folding them into Honour’s pantheon of ancestral guides. The album’s ninth track, “Giz Aard ($uckets),” is a dirge of regimented drums which anchor this somber melody as it whirls into a blizzard of heartache, uncertain if its consequence will be death or eternal joy.
The album’s sole lyrical offering, “Pistol Poem (Lead Belly),” begins with a darkly humorous bar, “He went thru hell and back/ came back/ 2 get the strap,” that swells into a haunting allegory based on the life of Philip “Hot Sauce” Champion. A modern take on the Blues, Honour’s lyrics reify the artist’s status as a student of both literature and popular culture, crossbreeding the artist’s clever wordplay with additional references to Richard Pryor, Robert Johnson, Kelly Rowland & Bryon Gysin.
Setting core principles of hip-hop, R&B, jazz and gospel music to atemporal soundscapes and compositions, Honour crafts a record that marinates in its own knotty contradictions. The ghosts that sit on the artist’s shoulders have never been more tangible than with this emotive debut.
Built and destroyed by Honour
Additional production by Bridgegroom
Mixed by Honour
Mastered by Jason Goz
Artwork by Honour