Umsindo, the title of Los Angeles singer/producer/emcee Georgia Anne Muldrow’s new full-length, is the Zulu word for “sound.” All encompassing and general as that may be, it’s as fitting a title as one could possibly give to the album, as it’s such a broad piece of work that finding a proper term for her unique style is essentially futile. On anything Muldrow touches there are bound to be elements of soul, hip-hop, electronic, funk, free-jazz and African styles, and Umsindo is no exception. That said, its dizzying and expansive array of styles and sounds is a delightful maze to get lost in, with new surprises around every corner.
Spanning 74 minutes and featuring 24 tracks, Umsindo is a bit of an intimidating listen at first. Muldrow has a mighty arsenal of sonic treats, and more ideas than even an above-average artist. Yet that’s precisely what makes this album such a treat to dive into, and it’s best for the listener to let the musical current take him or her along for the ride. The album kicks off on an energetic and powerful high with “Jina Langu Ni Afrika (My Name Is Afrika),” which layers searing synthesizers over percussion, both trap and hand. That transitions into “John de Conqueror,” which marries jazz piano and throbbing bass to a hip-hop beat that finds each snare snap arriving with multiple exclamation points. And the brief “Seminole Unity Chant” begins on a tribal note before easing into some scratchy, lo-fi funk.
Deeper into Umsindo, Muldrow transitions into more accessible pop fare, though her experimental, ambitious tendencies aren’t toned down in the slightest. Rather, she pulls and stretches pop songwriting like taffy, re-defining it and imprinting it with her own unique stamp. “Uhuru Flight” finds Muldrow veering back and forth between singing and rapping, as the music takes on an electronic, psychedelic funk jam formation. “Sermonette,” meanwhile, is one of the simpler and catchier songs in the batch, grooving hard beneath Muldrow’s verses with spiritual questions such as “are you happy just to be here?” “Slice It,” essentially just beats and voices, is surprisingly huge and powerful, while “Roses,” which appeared in slightly different form earlier this year on Mos Def’s The Ecstatic, is a soulful and bright pop tune that balances hooks with some gorgeous, jazzy piano. “Kids” is a laid-back space-funk meditation on the importance of parenthood, and “E.S.P.” is a spectacular ballad with lush production and more intricate jazz piano.
There are so many different directions and stylistic left-turns on Umsindo, that it makes for an adventurous listen, but one that’s endlessly rewarding. From her Afrocentric rhythm exercises, to her hip-hop breakdowns, to her sweet and mesmerizing soul balladry, Georgia Anne Muldrow exudes positivism and a pure joy of music that’s absolutely infectious. Georgia Anne Muldrow is sound.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.