Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter Five: In the garden...

Matana Roberts' Coin Coin saga returns for a fifth chapter, and continues to evolve in captivating fashion

Album Review by Joe Creely | 25 Sep 2023
  • Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter: Five in the garden...
Album title: Coin Coin Chapter Five: In the garden...
Artist: Matana Roberts
Label: Constellation Records
Release date: 29 Sep

The next chapter of the sprawling Coin Coin project, the planned 12-part exploration of African-American history that Matana Roberts started more than a decade ago, has become essential listening in the experimental calendar, marking a further expansion and development of Roberts’ sonic radicalism. Once more it doesn’t disappoint.

In the garden... has a more explicit narrative than previous chapters, telling the story of an ancestor of Roberts’ death from an illegal abortion, and becomes a kind of historical unpacking of this event, a character study for a character who, in establishment histories, would only be encountered as a statistic. The often difficult balance between narrative and tunes is beautifully handled, and some of the record’s finest moments come when they are in perfect harmony, like the stream of language that sits amidst the everything and the kitchen sink rip roarer of how prophetic.

It presents a broader instrumental variety than previous chapters too, showing the breadth of Roberts’ compositional capabilities, and gives a sense that the project could still move in any direction. Mazz Swift’s violin contributions are stunning, giving a piercing mournfulness that slips through the muscular churn of Roberts’ sax, particularly on the superb shake my bones. The pieces as a whole feel fuller, and more ambitious than anything Roberts has done to date. It marks another stunning development in a series that remains essential listening.

Listen to: unbeknownst, how prophetic, enthralled not by her curious blend