Imagine falling through a crack in the universe, trying to keep up with the rush of sound and images as you see between gaps in space and time. Listening to a record by Irreversible Entanglements—the blend of the prophetic poetry of Camae Ayewa; the piercing horns of saxophonist Keir Neuringer and trumpeter Aquiles Navarro; the ritualistic, propulsive rhythms of bassist Luke Stewart and drummer Tcheser Holmes—is like that. Open the Gates, the group’s third album, continues down the rabbit hole anew.
“I almost saw the whole world with my own four eyes,” Ayewa declares over a hypnotic, propulsive rhythm built by Stewart (with whom—full disclosure—I work at the nonprofit CapitalBop) and Holmes on “Lágrimas Del Mar,” the third track. “So beautiful I cried on the lotus. I kissed the foot of the djembe. I cried in joy. I cried in laughter. I cried in my father’s tongue. Cause I’m so close. Because we are so close to the good news.” Ayewa proclaims like a preacher, as Neuringer’s saxophone and Navarro’s trumpet answer like a choir of the ancestors, testifying in distorted cries.
The group doesn’t let up on the explosive intensity of its first two albums. But the music across the album’s seven tracks and nearly 75 minutes is less tense and coiled, allowing one to immerse oneself more in the meditative experience being offered. While “The Port Remembers” ends the album formally, the underlying message is best summed up in the final moments of “Water Meditation.”
“We are sounding for peace,” Ayewa states softly as Stewart and Navarro spur her words on. “For peace. Healing for peace. For peace. For peace we are healing.” That’s the invitation; that’s why they Open the Gates.