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Album of the Month: 700 Bliss ‘Nothing To Declare’

Philadelphia’s Moor Mother and DJ Haram pair up on Hyperdub with a visceral noise rap album made for the club

It’s a regrettable truism of the times that a great number of the albums reviewed on these pages begin with ambient intros. This one does not. 700 Bliss’s debut album proper starts with four rapid stabs of kick-drum, a quadruple gut punch that immediately dispenses with any pretence or ceremonial faff. A match realised in Philadelphia but apparently made in Heaven, DJ Haram and Moor Mother do things quickly and effectively. There are 16 songs here but they’re over in 38 minutes, every second of which is utterly unpredictable.

While Haram’s 2019 EP ‘Grace’ is all about addictive flute loops and drum fills, with 700 Bliss her production is decidedly less repetitive. Moor Mother reacts instinctively to the dicey beats and the result is a thrilling pow-wow between two musicians whose chemistry seems to have a mind of its own. Picture two friends huddled over a ouija board with neither quite sure who’s moving the glass.

Though Moor Mother is variously referred to as a noise poet, an artful doomsayer and a spoken word artist, according to all the evidence here she is — in fact — a rapper. There’s a persistent scepticism that meets a rap album released through a club label, even today, but before any auspice of experimentation, before the social commentary, before you’ve even listened to the lyrics, it should be stressed that this record is, quite simply, hard. “Bitch it’s over for you,” Moor Mother announces, wonderfully, on ‘Nightflame’ as blocky rhythms rattle beneath. Philly singer and producer Orion Sun then chimes in angelically, the perfect foil to Moor Mother’s growled diabolicisms.

Then out of nowhere comes ‘Anthology’, a relentless blast of techno which Moor Mother explains in a breathy incantation: “I feel like dancing... like really dancing”. On a throbbing beat like this she sounds a bit like Mutado Pintado (of Paranoid London renown), but on the next track ‘Discipline’ she’s more like Tierra Whack, reeling off bars acapella as though they fall off her tongue whenever she opens her mouth: “Who goes there, guerrilla warfare,” she raps, making music with every syllable.

It’s not clear whether ‘Bless Grips’ is actually a tribute to Death Grips, but it’s possible. It actually starts sounding like a dubstep tune, Haram grinding a bass grumble into a third-beat snare in slow- motion, but when Moor Mother shouts “Let me bloody up my speech!”, it’s easy to imagine her standing on a speaker stack like MC Ride. Similar inspirations rise forth later on ‘Crown’ and then ‘More Victories’, which together sound like Death Grips’ hellish sprawl ‘Whatever I Want (Fuck Who’s Watching)’.

Punk, rap and industrial are all in the cement mixer here, but let it be known that just about every track would kill in the rave. The album’s best hook is on ‘Sixteen’: “I know you hear the sirens,” Moor Mother intones, before repeating “gun-talk-sex-violence”, as though it’s one word, to the point of delirium.

It’s all absolutely banging, the best rap album on Hyperdub since Dean Blunt’s Babyfather records. While some critics thought ‘“BBF” Hosted By DJ Escrow’ was a parody, it’s tempting to see ‘Nothing To Declare’ as a conceptual, high-minded comment on the state of the world. But above all else this record is — like ‘BBF’ — a fucking riot. When the final track ‘Lead Level 15 feat Ase Manual’ burbles to a close, it feels less like the conclusion to an album-length statement than a polite assumption that the listener couldn’t stand any more. I could handle another hour of it.