When Angel Bat Dawid sings through raw emotion and subtle auto-tune on “Heathen Practices at Funerals,” “There is no one like you. There is no one like me,” she feels it. Angel Bat Dawid s a singularity. There’s never been anyone like her and there never will be again. I often quote Oui Ennui’s description of Dawid as “a movement, a mode,” in response to me calling her a force as that word is simply not powerful enough. Dawid’s Juneteenth mixtape is as much a document of ancient pain and power as it is a sonic monument to future destinations that this harrowing journey will lead.
Minimalist rhythms stomp through and sporadic synth drifts line the cages as “Heathen Practices” continues, Dawid promising a place where it’s possible to grow and find peace. “We will grow to be a beautiful black family,” she gently wails, imbuing the timbre of her voice with a millennium of violence and oppression. She never holds back and that’s where part of her power comes from. The track moves into its second phase of spiraling synths, ethereal and heaven-reaching, a moment of peace knowing the ancestors will always be there.
Dedicated to the Brazilian Saint Escrava Anastacia (depicted on the cover), Dawid laces her work with love, even in the face of great horror, much like Anastacia. Hush Harbor Mixtape is steeped in Black American history, but through Dawid’s unique lens. This is especially evident on the spectral take of “Jumping the Broom.” A chorus of voices hollers ecstatically, projecting out into an unknown future while Dawid weaves a lilting narrative with her clarinet. When the synthesizers and pulsing beat show up, the dichotomy is hypnotic and the effect astral. Hearing such a formidable historical standard within a proto-futurist prism is unreal and the only logical place I find myself is outside the realm of possibility. Angel Bat Dawid simply knows no bounds.
Hush Harbor Mixtape has so many layers. Musically, it’s forward-thinking, beautiful, and simply great, exploring sonic realms that Dawid has made her home while also pushing outward into uncharted territories. Yet, the history and message laced throughout are where the true magic lies. This music is profoundly personal, but for people like me, those of us in groups with institutional power, we need to stop and listen. Hush Harbor Mixtape isn’t for us, but the wisdom and lessons embedded throughout are messages we need to truly hear. Dawid’s music is such a gift.
As she sings on “Mama Bet,” “Even though it gets hard sometimes, just keep trying. Don’t give up. Don’t give up on the hope. Just when you’re tired, just take a deep breath and say ‘Let’s keep going. Let’s keep going home.’ It’s right around the corner,” it’s impossible not to feel it. Dawid goes on to sing about seeking wisdom every day and it’s this mindset and approach that elevates her work and sets it there on the horizon, beckoning and holding the heaviest of spaces. In the three-song suite that binds the ends of Hush Harbor Mixtape, Dawid’s music lifts off the ground, cascading synth tones and organic rattles open a stairway to the stars, greeted by the warm resonance of solemn harmonic notes, where, just maybe, a higher plane can hold us. Angel Bat Dawid is absolutely a movement.
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