Johari Noelle addresses 2020’s overlapping crises with a socially distanced new video | Gossip Wolf | Chicago Reader

Johari Noelle addresses 2020’s overlapping crises with a socially distanced new video 

Plus: Serengeti drops a non-Kenny Dennis acoustic album, and Ossemaan releases a very limited-edition CD accompanied by an original painting.

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click to enlarge Johari Noelle - PHOTO BY JAMES MCCARTER
  • Johari Noelle
  • Photo by James McCarter

Since her turn on Kelly Rowland's BET reality series Chasing Destiny in 2016, soulful Chicago singer-songwriter Johari Noelle has been bowling over fans and critics alike—Reader contributor James Porter has praised the "slow, simmering grooves" of her 2019 debut EP, Things You Can't Say Out Loud. For her new single, "Time" (which dropped last week), composer and coproducer Jeoffrey Arrington helped coordinate a slew of crackerjack players who overdubbed their parts remotely: contributors include bassist Herf Yamaya, drummer Mark Poiesz, guitarist Jackson Shepard, pianist Matt Jones, and violinist Arianne Urban. Arrington's sweeping, spiritual arrangement perfectly mirrors Noelle's lyrics about isolation, stillness, and the power of love.

This spring, Chicago rapper Serengeti resuscitated his cultishly beloved blue-collar alter ego, Kenny Dennis, with the album Ajai—and he's not slowing down. This summer he dropped two singles that tease out the newest threads in the Kenny Dennis narrative: July's "Ajai Epilogue" is just what it sounds like, and June's "Discoken 1979 Demos" is framed as a reissue of recordings the teenage Dennis made in the late 70s. (Connecticut label Fake Four put out both as seven-inches on September 1.) Then on Friday, September 4, Serengeti released The Gentle Fall, an album outside the Kenny Dennis universe: backed by sparse, thoughtful acoustic guitar instead of beats, he delivers evocative, tender performances of sharply detailed lyrics about loneliness and heartbreak.

Keeyan Haack, who records as Ossemaan, has a painterly way of melding diverse sounds—growly throat singing, pastel synths, creeping gothic strings—in his dense, droning industrial music. It makes sense, since he's also a gifted visual artist! Gossip Wolf recommends the limited-edition CD of his debut album, Dream (due Friday, September 18, via American Dreams Records and available for preorder on Bandcamp), that's accompanied by an original Haack painting. He's selling only ten, and as of this writing just seven are left!  v

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