Hieroglyphic Being & J.I.T.U. Ahn Sahm Buhl, Excepter / Hideout Inn / October 6, 2018

Went to this show over a year ago (13 months and 3 days, to be exact), and wrote this immediately after. Why I’m just now publishing it, I’m really not sure. It’s one of the greatest shows I’ve ever been to, and it’s a pretty good piece of writing, like $5-a-month good, if I do say so myself. The main reason for the delay, other than the usual hang-ups and insecurities, is that I got a few awesome iphone clips from the show, and could never figure out how to get them off my phone and on this newsletter. But, no excuses. Here’s what I wrote, better 13 months late than never:

I’m not saying I’m super-old, but apparently I’m old enough that I now officially only go to shows on Friday and Saturday nights. Weeknight shows are only an option if they’re over by like 8pm, which mostly relegates me to like, book signings and puppet shows. In fact, just this past week both Charalambides and Trad Gras och Stenar (actually now Träden, which every other media outlet is not calling them, so I guess I won’t either) played on a Thursday night, and since they were at two different venues, and neither show was going to start until after 10pm, I decided to do the dishes and go to bed by 10:30pm instead.

Which makes it all the more imperative that when a really good show is scheduled for a Friday or Saturday, and I can sleep in the next morning, I had better take advantage. And the Saturday, October 6th show scheduled at Chicago’s venerable Hideout Inn seemed unmissable: Excepter, playing their first Chicago show as Chicagoans, followed by another ‘local act’, Hieroglyphic Being & J.I.T.U. Ahn Sahm Buhl, an evolving group (J.I.T.U. stands for Journey Into The Unexpected) that has included (in addition to the one constant member Jamal Moss a/k/a the Hieroglyphic Being) Sun Ra veteran Marshall Allen, NYC saxophone great Daniel Carter, and Liturgy drummer Greg Fox. On this night the lineup was all Chicago, with the great Hamid Drake on drums, Angel Bat Dawid on clarinet, and Cher Jey on vocals. But more on that beautiful madness later…

Excepter went first, at this time a two-person ensemble featuring founding member John Fell Ryan and long-term member Lala Ryan. She started the set on flute, playing haunting and patient repeato-wash, melodies time-stretched and reverb-drenched, by both electronic effects and organic intention. JFR took his time and eventually joined in with cosmic harmonica (cosmicarmonica?) tones, more walls than wails, after some time holding the harp and mic with one hand so he could bring in submerged house beats with the other. What started as microhouse got more and more macro, as befits this city Excepter now lives in, and even into some sort of harsh-looped fractured samba styles, complete with tiki bar shakers and actual incantatory dance moves. As the beats evolved, Lala switched to sawing folk/drone violin and spaced-out keyboards, sometimes leading and sometimes complementing in a free-flowing push/pull yin/yang partnership. It was a little on the short side (not sure if it quite passed the 30-minute mark) but it was some heavy stuff and more would’ve been welcome. And speaking of welcome, welcome to Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Excepter!

After an efficiently brief amount of time, Hieroglyphic Being & J.I.T.U. Ahn Sahm Buhl were ready to start, and I knew it was going to be an amazing show, but my god, just 5 minutes in, it was already 10 times better than I expected, and continued to elevate from there. The formula was simple, the results were vast; Jamal Moss would lay down ethereal/heavy sequences that Hamid Drake would effortlessly lock into, playing everything from light Tony Allen style hi-hat/cymbal cross-rhythms, to extremely driving freight-train powerhouse rhythms that were overwhelming and had the crowd moving like crazy. Angel Bat Dawid, when not moving like crazy in her chair, making glorious facial expressions that perfectly represented how I assume everyone else was processing these sounds and this vibe at that exact moment, improvised lyrical flowing clarinet lines like a gossamer latticework woven across and through the percolating rainforest created by Moss and Drake. Moss created cross-patterns of his own with live monophonic synth lines/melodies/improvisation, right in that ancestral/arkestral zone. The fourth member was vocalist Cher Jey, who I’d never heard of before but she’s a “vocalist, dancer, writer, actor, artist and performer” (not to mention Afrofuturist jewelry maker) from Baltimore, who maybe lives in Chicago now, or is maybe on a visit, and she was a revelation, riding the waves, very good at using her vocals to raise and lower the intensity and temperature of the jams.

I actually had to cut out a little early to pick up my sweet lady Angelina from her late-night job downtown, but got to see a good hour of the J.I.T.U., and after getting such a sweet helping of T.U. (the unknown), man was I glowing all the way up North Avenue afterwards, and all the way up Lake Shore Drive and Far North Sheridan after that, and I’m still glowing right now every time I think of those Drake-and-Moss cross-rhythms and Hieroglyphic tonalities, combined with Ms. Dawid blowing lovely/dancing heavy/blowing heavy/dancing lovely, and Ms. Jey raising and lowering the temperature, stirring the brew, singing heavy/dancing lovely/singing lovely/dancing heavy on that Hideout stage...

POSTSCRIPT: Here’s Angel Bat Dawid, Cher Jey, and Gira Dahee talking about records (I really want that Frank Lowe LP!):