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Album of Month: 'Super Square' by Amos Miller

Photo by Meg Stacker

 

Since LoveCityLove first sprouted in a vacant Capitol Hill art gallery in 2013, it’s been a cultural nexus in physical form, a refuge where people could gather in defiance of the displacement and disconnection wrought by turbo-charged development. As its various homes have been demolished one by one, LoveCityLove has migrated throughout the city. The group last reinvented the former Azteca restaurant on Eastlake Ave as a midcentury-modern artistic sandbox done in white stucco and red neon lights—which was bulldozed for an apartment complex last month.

With each move, LCL brings along its core constituents, a collectivized cadre of musicians, poets, visual artists, photographers, activists and organizers. Among them, Amos Miller is de facto bandleader, wrangling the eponymous LoveCityLove band and its talented open-mic players from the driver’s seat of a baby grand piano. Miller was part of the Grammy-nominated production team on Macklemore’s The Heist and his roots in Seattle hip-hop go back to the early 2000s. Super Square, his second album, is the first musical artifact of the LoveCityLove movement.

Featuring 22 tracks and at least 18 contributors, Super Square embodies the ethos of LoveCityLove: fleeting, intimate and detailed vignettes, cross-sectioning the mercurial moods blowing through the cityscape on an average day. It brings to mind a pair of schizoid, alt-hip-hop classics: J Dilla’s Donuts, which also bumps over a dozen short songs, and The Further Adventures of Lord Quas, on which Madlib (under his Quasimoto alter ego) pitches up his rap vocals like Miller does here. Like those albums, an auteur is at the helm of Miller’s far-ranging stylistic exploration. But thanks to its all-star cast of Seattle musicians—Jake One, Hanna Benn, Evan Flory-Barnes, Adra Boo, Otieno Terry, many more—Super Square belongs to this particular place at this particular time. Like the moments generated at LoveCityLove, it deserves as much prolonged engagement as the march of progress will allow.

In the face of Super Square’s rapid-fire pacing, a song-by-song analysis is kinda moot; musical ideas ping-pong from one to another, organized around texture, groove and surprise more than traditional song structure. On one one-minute track an 8-bit keyboard burbles into deep-space instrumental funk; on another, Miller sings blues over a scratchy piano figure (“I know I fucked up and that shit wasn’t cool/But so did you”); another consists entirely of a crystal prayer bowl drone courtesy of Kenric McDowell, aka house-music producer Big Phone. If there’s a single, it’s “Gone,” a lustrous future-soul number sung by Annie Cho and Jahon Mikal. Weighing in at three minutes, 25 seconds, it’s the album’s most fully realized composition and it’s stellar.

The idea of a collection of tiny, brilliant non-songs is anti-commercial and unconventional. So is a free-of-charge, all-ages arts venue that rises and falls with a city’s breakneck reimagining of itself. In its own self-possessed way, Super Square is protest music, planting a flag for creative fortitude on ground that is shifting beneath our feet.

Amos Miller celebrates the release of Super Square at the Triple Door on May 13. Tickets are still available here.  

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