Adrian Younge


(Jazz is Dead/Planet)


Is this the most confronting cover image in recording history? It depicts a lynched African American with composer Adrian Younge’s face: an image that cuts to the core of the treatment of people of colour in the US. Sonically the album traces the black experience via both spoken word and music. As Younge tells us on Double Consciousness, he views the world “through the stained glass of history that questions whether I am even human.” He delivers this spoken material in a chillingly level voice, with no attempt to amplify anger or tragedy.

His lavishly melodic songs, meanwhile, largely unfold within a retro soul idiom, in which he plays all instruments other than sharing the vocals and maximising the almost psychedelic luxuriance with orchestral scores. Sometimes he further decorates the songs with slinky solos on Fender Rhodes, guitar or alto saxophone, but the essence of them lies in the grooves, the harmonised choruses and, of course, the lyrics, which are pithy extrapolations of the spoken-word material. As well as lamenting the past, Younge looks for a way forward, and perhaps this album is a step along that path. You can also seek out a related podcast, Invisible Blackness.