The first thing you notice about Blood In My Eye (A Soul Insurgent Guide) is the drums. They’re loud, angry, free, and funky. They roil and boil, frothing over intensely like a percussive shout laced with bile, spittle, and blood. The man behind the drumkit is Bashi Rose, one-third of the Baltimore-based Konjur Collective. Rounded out by synthesist Show Azar and multi-instrumentalist Jamal Moore, this troupe of musicians draws inspiration from across the African diaspora. From free jazz (or, as the Art Ensemble of Chicago preferred to call it, Great Black Music) to hip hop and funk, Konjur Collective incorporates a plethora of genres and stitches them together with Black radical politics into a glorious tapestry of sound.
Blood In My Eye is the group’s debut record and gets its name from the book by Black revolutionary George Jackson, who was killed during an alleged escape from incarceration after spending over one-third of his life in the California prison system. The longest and most spirited track is dedicated to him. This piece spans an entire side of vinyl and showcases the freer side of Rose’s riled-up skin bashing as well as the slithery skronk of Jamal Moore, whose maddening tones scorch synapses as they fly from both his sax and his trombone. Show Azar deploys his synth as a wailing siren, as a roaring call to arms, and as the sub-bass foundation upon which his bandmates can lean. The synergy of these three master craftsmen is the propellant for a new breed of fire music.
Just as they can be free, Konjur Collective can also be funky, and they demonstrate this fact on the soulful “Ancestral Dialectic.” Rose and Azar lay down a deep, growly groove over which Moore pontificates with his saxophone. He belts out salvos of wailing glissandi and catchy melodies as his bandmates propel the proceedings forward. The trio also has an experimental side, which they show off on “Spirit Realm.” Moore’s smudged trombone tones bounce off the sinusoidal roar of Azar’s synth as Rose dissolves time with his drumkit. It’s a beast of a track that will worm its way deep into your brain, opening up unexplored neural pathways.
In the introduction to her book As Serious as Your Life, Valerie Wilmer quotes the late jazz drummer Jerome Cooper thusly: “You know, Black music is how our lives are, and how we are looking at, and relating to, the outside world. It’s just a state of mind”. Blood In My Eye, with its enrapturing energy and fiery freneticism, demonstrates Konjur Collective’s state of mind. It’s an explosive expression that the whole world needs to hear.