Sequoyah Murray was born to make uncategorizable pop | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Sequoyah Murray was born to make uncategorizable pop 

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click to enlarge Sequoyah Murray

Sequoyah Murray

Amber Felix

Twenty-two-year-old Atlanta singer and multi-instrumentalist Sequoyah Murray grew up in a musical family, and you can tell. He makes music the way a dolphin swims—effortlessly, playfully, and with supreme confidence. Murray’s remarkable debut full-length, Before You Begin (Thrill Jockey), recalls Prince not so much in its approach or themes as in its ambitiously openhearted eclecticism. The short opening track, “Here We Go,” suggests a deeper-voiced Marvin Gaye running jazzy phrases beside an opera singer while blips of electroacoustic noise wander through the background. “I Wonder” is based on a recording of Murray’s sister experimenting with plainchant, which he expands into ravishing multitrack perfection a la contemporaries such as Moses Sumney. “Penalties of Love” couldn’t be a more perfect pop song: Murray slides between a pure falsetto and a warm, suggestive baritone, while his mother provides background vocals and his father, percussionist Kenito Murray, contributes brilliantly unpredictable polyrhythms. “Blue Jays” opens like a distorted lieder, with strings and keyboard stabs imitating each other in turn, and then turns into a techno dance rave-up around the halfway mark. Though every song swoops in from left field, they all fit gently into a single seamless, improvisatory vision. Most artists go entire careers without ever coming up with an album as full of love and genius as Murray’s first. His family has given him a gift, and he’s passed it along to the rest of us.   v

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