The talk of the particular corner of Twitter I’m most directed toward has in the past day been swept up in two conversations. The first is some Kardashian drama featuring Jordyn Woods, Tristan Thompson and Khloe Kardashian. And the Smiths—Will and Jada to be exact. I haven’t at the moment the patience for that story, so partly to get away from it I decided to listen to the second: When I Get Home, Solange‘s latest album, which dropped at midnight EST last night.
It feels, to my uninitiated ears, similar to her last album, which is to say her idiosyncratic voice is still such a thickly prominent feature of the sonic landscape, its tapestry like air that’s also somehow silk, carefully rendered, like a fresh brushstroke. It’s a style, appropriately dubbed wavy, characterized by wide, echoing synths and crisp reverb, that feels very much like a conversation between the classic electric keys and the New Age ambient Solfeggio frequencies so indicative of our self-improving, introspective, real-seeking selves, often cast on a thick skeleton of funk and bass drums whose rawness is reminiscent of a meticulous jam session.
It feels almost like a Thundercat album—if in such an album the vocals were allowed to register a floating, more melodically-correct, black girl magic optimism and celebration. It feels of the moment, as the last one felt of the moment, which is a strength, even as it may also be a signal of its role as a commodity. I’m saying, I dig it, it is eminently diggable, though it is so understated at times it feels almost as though it desires itself in the background, which might be to say underground, which might be to say it vibes, or attempts to vibe, on the lower frequencies. In this way When I Get Home is kindred to waves in contemporary black thought that consider how blackness relates to the unconscious, the subliminal.
I’ve noticed some reviews have called this album more mature than prior Solange offerings. I suppose that maturity has something to do with BPM and proximity to the tradition of cosmic musicians like Alice Coltrane and the surreal jazz-makers of various open mics in dark clubs, bars, basements. I suppose it has something to do with its spaciousness, with the patience it invokes through repetition. I sense something of New Amerykah Vol. I-era Badu in it, which is apt, considering its ethos aligns with a younger black generation’s flirtation with the esoteric possibilities of blackness, at least sonically.
Compared to A Seat At The Table, When I Get Home’s songs are structured somewhat more loosely, with frequent fugues whose effect, at least to my ears, reinforces the undercurrent, its dreamlike quality, while participating dutifully in the contemporary black art mandate to collage, collage, collage. This mandate, of course, has preceded the contemporary moment, and is a quality of blackness itself, as Glissant has noted and Fred Moten has reiterated, to be multiple.
So the undercurrent of the unconscious in blackness is multiplied and reflects in the cosmos. There’s a way in which a dream, the expansiveness of the cosmos, and what might be (and in our history has been) called the soul of black music has always been about the same thing—transcendence, being, beyond constrictions the worlds shared with anti-black folks impose on black subjectivity. When I Get Home illustrates this carefully, drawing, as Solange’s previous efforts have drawn, upon this traditional aspiration toward transcendence while retaining a sense of currency, both in time and in vibratory capacity.