October 4, 2023

Shabazz Palaces played Mercury Lounge

Taking a late-night slot at Mercury Lounge, Shabazz Palaces beamed down to New York City on the final night of their latest tour.

The world of Shabazz Palaces is a foreign one. It's a place where grooves come together through seemingly impenetrable rhythms and gurgling beats, taking shape slowly before unveiling themselves with hypnotic force. As the mastermind of the project, Ishmael Butler seeks to reinvent the notion of hip-hop with each of his albums as he takes extreme risks, pushing the avant-guard styles that form in his head out to a captive audience that worships at his outer-worldly alter. Live on stage, Butler brought with him four musicians to help him recreate his magic in front of an audience, brilliantly remixing himself through new versions of his beloved rhymes and beats. Reaching towards the cosmos, his brand of hip-hop recalls the approach Sun Ra and his Orkestra took to jazz, breaking-free from bebop and modal techniques to explore their spirituality through a lens all their own. Butler takes a similar route when he creates his think, warped grooves that indulge in funk and celestial rhythms that defy any kind of up-front logic and requires devoted listening, resulting in interstellar works of art that always bend the mind. Leading his band along his journey, Butler was attentive and focused on his mixers and samplers and conducted the lead-in for his tracks, making sure everyone came in on the correct 1s or 2s, delicately laying down the patterns for which everyone would follow before spinning out to their own orbit. "Wet" was a juicy track that got some deep love from the crowd and gave each member on stage a change to flex their muscles with exclusive solos that fed into the jazz motifs and allowed the crowd to get down on some beefy grooves. Sprinkling a magical twinkle over a circling beat, "Forerunner Foray" got down and dirty as Butler strutted across the stage, feeling himself in the moment as his effortless demeanor took on a new level of coolness, his silky touch giving each track intimate textures that rose from the stage and over the crowd as the energy continued to heat up over the course of the night. "Are You... Can You... Were You? (Felt)" brought even more high caliber moments to the night and enhanced Butler's philosophical flow, capturing him in a real moment of impressive vocal deliveries, his rushed and reserved sound allowing for his words to unravel and blossom like the most exotic of flowers. "Y'all brought the energy New York!" Butler proclaimed at the end of the night with a smile that went from ear to ear appearing across his face. It was clear that even on the final night of tour, the band was still locked-in tight and ready to transcend time and space, taking the audience with them on their odyssey through the galaxy.

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