Moses Sumney Calls the Marching Orders On 'Black in Deep Red, 2014'

Photo by:  Ibra Ake

Photo by:  Ibra Ake

Moses Sumney’s latest EP “Black in Deep Red, 2014” begins with a rallying cry. Not in a metaphorical or lyrical sense, but literally. 

The opening track ‘Power?’ is a recording of protesters chanting at a Ferguson rally to end police brutality toward communities of color. The track’s call-and-respond style utilizes a staple of protest culture: a leader’s initial chant being echoed by a group. 

“Power to the people, the people have power,” Sumney repeats in post-production, adding ambience and monotone synth to otherwise undoctored field recording, ending on his own musing: “do we have power?”

This concept encapsulates the feeling of this EP, sparked by outrage over the death of hundreds of black men and women killed by systemic racism in U.S. law enforcement. "Black in Deep Red, 2014 was ignited by the first and last time I attended a protest,” Sumney said in an official statement. “It was in the fall of 2014, after a grand jury decided not to charge the offending officer in the Mike Brown murder, delivering the verdict just in time for them to get home for Thanksgiving.”

Sumney explains the protest moved him to write the EP as an observer rather than a moving part of the organized protest. “I felt like a camouflaged outsider at the protest, like an anthropologist performing a study amongst his own kind,” Sumney continued. “I took to the mountains soon after that and wrote these songs, wondering if power was a transferable device that could change hands through the vocalizing of unrest.”

While Sumney’s debut LP Aromanticism delivered sweeping and soulful compositions about love and misadventures therein, Black in Deep Red, 2014 finds a more militaristic voice with Sumney giving the marching orders.

In the concluding track “Rank & File,” he draws melodic inspiration from a classic army cadence to criticize law enforcement: “I don’t care what I’ve been told/ this police state is much too cold,”

and cutting into the fact that our tax dollars pay for them to abuse their power:

“When they forget/ that we cut the checks/ they get really riled/ and fall right into rank and file,” over a cry of “I’m payin’ you to harass me?”

“Rank & File” was released as a single earlier in August and accompanied by video footage of a toy soldier being melted, an allusion to the fight to demilitarize the police. 

Between the two protest tracks is an instrumental track “Call-To-Arms”-  a cosmic journey through swirling vocalization and searing saxophone solos. It’s unclear what it all represents, except as an interpretation of a rallying cry.

Overall, Black in Deep Red, 2014 is an homage to frustration at police brutality. In many ways, it represents someone’s internalized and personal feelings after taking part in protest. However it also amplifies the feelings of black communities who face police violence every day. Sonically more experimental than his earlier releases, the EP takes control of the sound with bloodied fists rather than flowing streams.

-Luke Janke

Delaney Motter