Published on May 26th, 2020 | by Dave Scaddan0
Moodymann – TAKEN AWAY
Detroit’s cool, unclassifiable Moodyman throws down another brilliant piece of work, TAKEN AWAY, which includes one of his top tracks of all time, Do Wrong.
So much of the new music that I have enjoyed in the past decade has obscured the notion of genre. If I look back 10-15 years in my listening habits, I see rock bands, rap crews, people making dance music, groups playing metal. As much as I appreciate a sound that fits neatly into a label that tells me I’ll probably like it, I also have to give a nod to a sound that requires a conversation rather than a word to describe it. See: King Krule, Nicolas Jaar, Kassa Overall, Brittany Howard. Lately, I’ve seen writers using the “post-genre” label to partially circumvent this conversation, which I find funny. Calling a piece of music “post-genre” is like calling an oak tree a “post-acorn”. While it’s true that many of the young musicians catching my ear are resisting classification, they are also drawing sustenance from long-reliable sources.
Such is the case with my favourite Detroit amp-flexer, Moodymann. After starting out as a practitioner of what could accurately be called house music, his last two albums have evolved into something else. Without ever losing their dancey pulse, last year’s Sinner and this year’s TAKEN AWAY dig into channels of their own, pulling from smooth soul samples and slower, mellower beats, forming this not-house, not-r’n’b, not-hip hop style that suits any situation, any mood, any time.
The first single from TAKEN AWAY, called ‘Do Wrong’ is one of Moody’s best tracks ever. This track takes a pile of soulful clips of the great Al Green singing, “yeah”, “mm-hmm”, “waitaminnit”, “oh-whoah” and the words, “do wrong” from ‘Love and Happiness’ and uses them as punctuating, percussive stops in a song about being cheated on. Even though he’s using someone else’s voice, you can tell he really feels the anguish of an infidelity and just needs the emotion of Al’s voice to articulate it. Then, using his own voice, which is pretty damn cool-sounding in its own right, Moodymann expresses the disappointment of a love affair gone wrong. He complains about his lover coming home smelling like another, about how she’s tired when he wants her but peppy when her friends call. The imbalance is displayed perfectly when he says, with a touch of bitter humour, “when your friends call, you off, just like them lights and gas used to be when I met’cho ass.”
Adding to this mix are a bunch of gospel preacher clips, taking the track to church just as Moody confesses that his lover has driven him back to worship to keep from slipping into violence. There’s real pain here, but ‘Do Wrong’ feels like the sound of starting to let that pain go, empowering oneself with the knowledge that someone else will love us eventually even if we aren’t getting it where we want it right now. The song evolves into a half-spoken, half-sung manifesto about all he has done for someone who obviously didn’t appreciate it. It’s a lament, then a confrontation, then a dis, and finally, an elevation of what he has to offer, even if the one he’s with doesn’t honour it.
The rest of the record keeps this bitterness at bay, but never does away with it completely, just as the pulsing house beats that fuel the simple, delicate rhythms of TAKEN AWAY never really leave, but never take over either. Moodymann has built a style that we don’t have a word for, one that touches on dozens of styles without slipping entirely into any of them.
You can stream and purchase all or any of these tracks at Moody’s bandcamp page, where you’ll also find a really fun back catalogue, especially if you like Detroit-proud house music. One thing you won’t find there that shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle is a remix from 2017 of Funkadelic’s ‘Cosmic Slop’. This track does a good job of indicating how effective Moodymann can be with a melancholy style that still keeps both eyes on the groove, just like does throughout TAKEN AWAY.