Essential New Music: Irreversible Entanglements’ “Protect Your Light”

In another review written three-and-a-half years ago, I opined that Irreversible Entanglements are in it for the long haul. That’s borne out not only by the fact that they’ve moved to Impulse! (a label with a storied history as a platform for freedom sounds) but by the record they’ve made. Protect Your Light adds new collaborators and new sounds to the East Coast quintet’s established combination of proclaimed words and free jazz, which make this LP more approachable, but not at all compromised.

The world hasn’t gotten any better since Irreversible Entanglements’ first concerts in 2015, so there’s still plenty to call out. On “Our Land Back,” vocalist Moor Mother connects depredations from across the continents and centuries over an insistent pulse that’s grounded by guest pianist Janice Lowe while horns call balefully from the sidelines. And the dark-blue groove that another guest, cellist Lester St. Louis, plucks on “Root <=> Branch” invests the combo’s remembrance of recently deceased trumpeter Jaimie Branch with aching profundity.

But survival is a form of winning, and sometimes they tell you so, and sometimes they show you how. The title track is a veritable dance party with a brief, free-form pile-up in the middle, and album opener “Free Love” exults in sensual communion. If earlier Irreversible Entanglements recordings brought the fire, Protect Your Light shows how you tend it.

—Bill Meyer