–___–__ “The Heart Pumps Kool-Aid”

CD edition available from Mondoj

While I continue dreaming of a new more eaze solo album, I’m thankful she keeps releasing these stunning collaborations. —__–___ finds her joining forces with the inimitable Seth Graham and their debut, The Heart Pumps Kool-Aid, is a lush landscape littered with hope, heartbreak, and the emotional detritus we hang onto while being crushed under the weight of simply surviving in a world constantly trying to crush us to bits.

Both Graham and more eaze have impeccable skills in sound design. Any project either is involved in will revel in the details and saturate even the tiniest specks of sound with careful consideration and feeling. “Sadness, Infinite America… Shit” begins with Karen Ng’s looping saxophone spatter in layers, spinning a web around a pitched-down, muffled voice while a distant chime echoes like a sliver of gold piercing the bleak mood. Each separate element is vital and within 20 seconds or so, the world changes into a washed-out zone where dreams go to die.

more eaze’s voice, as ever, is the celestial incision through everything. On “Sadness,” Ng’s saxophone softens, overwhelmed by digital growls, but the vocals hang like a lodestar of desolate serenity. Joined by the amazing Recovery Girl on “In Memory of Simon Kingston” that guiding presence is a jewel, the only solid surface to hold onto as the more eaze’s and Recover Girl’s voices dance in loping, crestfallen patterns over a bed of somber piano and strings bearing the heaviness of loss surrounding the passing of Kingston last year. This music hurts, but it also embraces.

When proxy.exe matter-of-factly says, “I felt weightless in the midst of losing my sanity, only to gain it back once I landed,” on “Rock Bottom,” it hits hard. —__–___, with The Heart Pumps Kool-Aid, create the sonic equivalent of the space between those two points. It’s dark and isolating, but the freedom in the letting go bursts with glowing possibility even if it feels a world away. “Rock bottom wasn’t too far from the top, and all I needed was self-love,” she continues, “Rock bottom is shallow. It’s not as deep as you may think it may be, but it has a gravity to it.” The Heart Pumps Kool-Aid is like the hidden doom shrouded behind the curtain, taking one last look, one last breath before moving on and letting this world move on.

Vulnerability this raw isn’t easy, but Graham and more eaze radiate from the shattered trenches. Their superpower is being able to crystallize these anguished moments into something beautiful and reassuring. Even when we’re all fumbling around in the darkness, there are still hands to hold and bodies to clutch for warmth and comfort. The Heart Pumps Kool-Aid sends tendrils into the crushing empty space between the nadir and the bottom rung of the ladder that leads to the surface so anyone stuck there knows there’s always a way back and always someone waiting.

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