The third instalment of Matana Roberts’ Coin Coin presents an utterly overwhelming listening experience—a densely netted mass of images, information, and deeply visceral sensations, so profusely intelligible that it becomes opaque with stimuli.
Where the previous two volumes were ensemble records that often felt like a live show, the impression of the third is anything but that, with Roberts drawing on her own resources exclusively—mostly voice and saxophone—and layering them improvisationally in the studio, with assistance from Radwan Moumneh.
Although the disc is broken up into individually named tracks, one’s experience of the album is almost atemporal, akin to a continuous mesmeric exploration of a single moment from myriad perspectives. Emotionally the album is equally feverish, interleaving anxiety and tenderness, anger and resignation, joy and disgust in ways that are profoundly vibrant but sit in alarming discord with mundane experience and expression.
Constantly shifting clusters of long tones frame the various streams of other activity: softly rendered American traditional songs (including The Star Spangled Banner), fierce saxophone cascades, whispered quotations from texts about the abolition of the slave trade, field recordings, samples from Malcolm X’s 1965 lecture “Confronting White Oppression,” excoriating walls of synthesizer noise, and bold melismatic vocalizations.

With this album, Roberts has accomplished a genuinely rare feat. She’s deployed a conspicuously lucid conceptual framework full of citation and pointed political critique, yet she’s able to reconcile it with an approach so intuitive and audaciously personal that the music borders on impenetrability. To have this all disorient and resonate so deeply, while managing balance, coherence, and intense relevance (especially in light of all the events leading up to, and following the Ferguson ruling), is nothing short of brilliant.