There are albums dedicated to personal pain, political protest, love, death, nostalgia, or rage. There are those that are simply fun and glossy, the soundtrack to a good time. Some are exploratory, a musical journey, shape-shifting sound making, a new way to do an old thing. Artists can make a choice about concept and content, heed a vision, or follow their muse or their manager. But in times so extreme and overwhelming, when there is no known expression for the feeling, no satisfactory direction for art or action, then they might take refuge in a process, a ritual, something familiar, the shape and sound of which recall another time altogether, so that they can weather the present long enough to call it the past. Some albums are testimony, some confessions, and some are escape. Ventriloquism, the latest album from Meshell Ndegeocello, is a place, like its process, to take refuge from one storm too many.
“Early on in my career, I was told to make the same kind of album again and again, and when I didn’t do that, I lost support. There isn’t much diversity within genres, which are ghettoizing themselves, and I liked the idea of turning hits I loved into something even just a little less familiar or formulaic. It was an opportunity to pay a new kind of tribute.”
This album was recorded in Los Angeles with the familiar family of partners and players that Ndegeocello has worked with for years. Chris Bruce plays guitar, Abraham Rounds is on drums, Jebin Bruni coproduced the album and plays keys, S. Husky Höskulds engineered, while Pete Min mixed and mastered. Lasting and collaborative relationships with her fellow musicians are among the most important parts of music making for Ndegeocello, prompting her to say on more than one occasion: Meshell Ndegeocello is a band.
There were moments of such intensity during Meshell Ndegeocello’s Lincoln Center American Songbook concert on Wednesday evening that she and her musicians seemed to be conjuring a supernatural trance.
—New York Times
The world needs more musicians like her: creatively restless and ambitious.