The process of commodification destroys all possibility of experiencing what is meaningful beyond what is considered valuable.
–Stefen Robinson, aka Yea Big
Metacognitive revolution: turning over how we think what we think; turning and churning; understanding that what is is not what must be. What is, is not, by the very nature of being, and we in turn must liberate our thoughts and actions to be. Here.
The act of wordless blowing could be a path to liberation. Making music as an expression of community is feeling the space. Using music tools to make art that has to be experienced over time: it demands gathering. It demands presence. Now.
Yea Big goes back to the aughts, when indie rappers roamed the land, hooking up with punk kids, joyously shouting hooky freedom, free to be nerds. File sharing, wheatpasting, vegetable oil bus conversion touring and most of all creating the world with your homies. It’s been a minute now and my man is settled in with a job and a family, got into jazz, got way way into jazz, but somehow missed the memo that you’re supposed to stop doing music, stop building radical communities, stop being such a punk, and the music spigot never turned off. Album after album keep coming. He’s recorded solo, with ensembles big and small, on and off with his musical brother Kid Static, and with the local high school orchestra.
An Emptiness Supreme, Yea Big’s debut for FPE Records, is the third in a series of three improvised compositions, all meditations on a common theme, performed by three different ensembles, the first two in the series being The Shape of Emptiness Now and Spiritual Emptiness (both released in 2020). This one is a collaborative project with Bloomington, IL-based quartet Disorganizer. Separately, the group’s members (Travis Thacker, sax; Ryan Nolan, bass; Michael Carlson, drums; Stefen Robinson, electric mandolin) have been mainstays of the Bloomington-Normal music scene for years; as a unit, they have increasingly pushed each other to make bad decisions about how to make “jazz”, “funk”, “rock” and other colonial labels, while maintaining a collective sound and feeling – bringing the people in and turning the place OUT.
The titular “emptiness” refers to the interdependent and impermanent non-self nature of all things – and it sounds like if you could listen to the interdependent and impermanent non-self nature of all things. Like that one time in 2010, March, when I found myself by a stream, near a highway I’d traveled twelve years before, in a respite from the human-sculpted grass of a golf course, feeling the water from the mountain in the distance, considering the time in transit from the height, and the nature of water being, experiencing my relation to this place where I couldn’t stay. I wasn’t on drugs. It sounds like sax, with guitar and drums, bass, a gong, some subtle gurgling computer noises. Yes, a bit in the mood of an Impulse session, half a century on.
Big upping the community, the official release of An Emptiness Supreme is accompanied by a second, digital-only collection of remixes and reimaginings by homies past and present, including Moses Harris Jr. (Kid Static), Will Butler (The Arcade Fire), Rick Valentin (Poster Children), Syrhea Conaway (Syna So Pro), and others.
An Emptiness Supreme will be available August 20 in CD or digital formats.