At its peak, Jaimie Branch’s trumpet playing has the feeling of a prelingual shriek, a cry out into the distance that intuits no response. It’s a dark, deeply felt tone, which perfectly fits her second solo album, Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise.
Written in the midst of the Trump presidency and amid continuing police violence towards minorities, it is at turns furious and impassioned, dejected and chaotic – Branch’s bursts of searing trumpet the unifying narrative force. Where her first Fly or Die record, from 2017, was an upbeat mix of New Orleans shuffle and sprightly freeform rhythm, here things fall apart: the drums clattering towards a funeral dirge on album centrepiece Prayer for Amerikkka; synths undulating beneath cellist Lester St Louis’s percussive bowing on Twenty-Three N Me, Jupiter Redux; and Branch’s brass shrill and buffeting on Nuevo Roquero Estéreo.
Branch supplements the wordless entreaties of her horn with her own vocals for the first time on this album. She narrates the desperate tale of a detained and abused Central American girl on Prayer for Amerikkka, and punkishly declares that “we got a bunch of wide-eyed racists” in power, while on Love Song she takes a softer, Tom Waits-esque tone, labelling it a “love song for assholes and clowns”.
Read the review in the Guardian.
[This piece was published on 20/12/19]