Reservoir Media Management - Black Grapefruit
 
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Black Grapefruit

Black Grapefruit

Based in Portland, OR & New York, NY
Members Randa Leigh, Brian Vincent
It was the summer of 2016. Randa Smith lay on her back on the floor of a Lakota sweat lodge in upstate New York as her 83-year-old mentor, Shirley, pressed her to sing. “Everybody has a note,” Shirley said. “Sing your soul’s vibration note right now. Don’t think, just sing.” Randa sang. Her voice came out deeper and more solid than she’d expected. “Yes,” she thought, “this is me.” The next day, in their studio, Randa and Brian Dekker, the other half of Black Grapefruit, got back to work on their album. They’d been constructing songs around Randa’s high soprano, but that seemed too flighty now. Randa had found her vibration tone and it was low, grounded.

Two years earlier, having built a fervent following (as SOS) in their native Pacific Northwest and on SoundCloud, Black Grapefruit had driven across the country settling in Brooklyn; a year later they left the borough and made their home upstate in Deposit, NY (population 1,712). Getting away from the city wasn’t a retreat or a hideaway, though; it forced them out from the cover of the crowd, forced them to confront who they were, as a band and as individuals. To start the album, they first had to break old habits in the heat of a sweat lodge and the dirt of their garden. In a house where pre-war means pre-War of 1812, in rooms where people were born and died, All My Relations came together.

Randa establishes the theme with the first couplet on “Denim,” the album’s opener: “There ain’t nothing for miles / Ain’t been free in a while.” In researching the sacred feminine for the album’s creative direction, Randa looked to her ancestors for inspiration, drawing on her family tree, especially her matrilineal heritage of medicine and shamanism, to create her own version of divine blackness. This exploration led her to create her own practice centered on water healing and aromatherapy, growing the same herbs and brewing the same teas and tinctures her grandmother used to make on the Caribbean island of Grenada. The visual identity for the record echoes this conception of black femininity and completes a gesamtkunstwerk that encapsulates and illuminates the spiritual awakening that began in the steam of the sweat lodge.

To achieve this ambition, Randa and Brian crafted sounds synthesizing her mother’s West Indian roots and the gospel of her father’s American South. A culmination most obvious on album capstone “Hold,” with its exuberant, headphone-filling vocal harmonies and syncopated percussion, and “Omygod,” whose polyrhythms anchor both the chorus’s child-like joy and an outro built from an impassioned vocal sample and lush string arrangement. The assertive low end and double-time trap hats of their previous album return, but the sonic palette has widened to befit the ambition and scope of the project. The abiding arrangement philosophy is balance: in a sequence emblematic of the assurance and depth of the album, an atmospheric field recording anchors the slow-burning emotion of “05,” a high-wire act of masterly vocal production that crescendos into ecstasy before giving way to the immediate, irresistible exuberance of “Mind.”

The sweat lodge isn’t just the genesis of a vocal timbre; the album’s title was born there, too. Randa and Brian sit in the dark with a half-dozen strangers in the sweltering heat. The man who tends the glowing coals ushers in a bucket of water, and Shirley ladles it over the hot rocks in the center of the room. The dark is heavy with steam as they tap the floor together and intone “All My Relations,” inviting into the humid black delirium their families, ancestors, and all those still yet to come.
view all 12 tracks 12 tracks found
Black Grapefruit "05"
Album: All My Relations
Genre: Alternative
Black Grapefruit "Deela"
Album: All My Relations
Genre: Alternative
Black Grapefruit "Demons"
Album: All My Relations
Genre: Alternative
Black Grapefruit "Denim"
Album: All My Relations
Genre: Alternative
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