I bought HNIA's debut CD, Livonia, back when I was obsessed with everything that came out on 4AD. It was a wafty and lofty affair that was completely forgettable, even to someone who loved all things wafty and lofty. I watched as HNIA released album after album in the nearly two decades since Livonia came out, but despite a ridiculous amount of critical acclaim, I never felt compelled to listen to them again.
As soon as I saw the cover of Sweet Earth Flower at EPFL, though, I knew I wanted to hear it. Although you can't judge a CD by its cover, Sweet Earth Flower screamed out that it was as different from Livonia as an album could possibly be. Thus, after nearly 20 years apart, I am finally reunited with HNIA.
Before hearing Sweet Earth Flower, I didn't know Marion Brown from Marion Barry. I had a vague idea that he was a jazz musician, but I couldn't have even told you with any certainty whether he was a he or a she.
Since I haven't heard any of Brown's music, I guess this might be an awful and disrespectful tribute to him. I can't imagine how that's possible, though, because this music is awesome. It's tempered and boundless at the same time. It is wild, yet its restraint is what makes it shine.
Comparisons to Fela Kuti -- particularly the modal arrangements and the relentless energy of the rhythm section -- are completely fitting. The opening track reminds me of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," and "November Cotton Flower" makes me remember how it felt to sit in a dark room and listen to Pink Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond."
The package is simple. It contains two stenciled images (presumably of Brown), some very basic credits, and a statement that a portion of sales will be donated to a charity that helps children in Nepal. That's it. The stencils are well-done, and could easily be featured in an awesome book of street art. It's a shame they didn't say anything about Brown, but I guess they figured anyone who cared enough to listen to this would either already know the man or know how to use that fancy Google thingie.
Listen if you like: Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, Fela Kuti, Pink Floyd, John Zorn, Marion Brown
If it were food, it'd be: an earthy stew with potatoes and legumes and a lot of crazy spices