Review Summary: Does Illuminati-sponsored occult horror cinema sound good? Yes it does, especially if you're the President of Mozambique. He will change the way you think of electronic music, given time - even if he has to resort to controlling our minds. So, are you
If 2012 does not fulfill its apocalyptic promise to end all things, I predict that in ten years (aka 2022!) JJ Brine's President of Mozambique will be viewed as a game-changing classic of avant-garde dark electronica, a uniquely dangerous masterpiece of occult pop that seemed to fall from the sky. Rather than falling victim to what would be an extremely uneasy accommodation of his work into the rubric of an established genre, Brine calls his music "ESM" - that's "Electronic Spirit Music." This is highly appropriate, given that none of the established genres really fit.
Certainly, a well-trained ear will be able to discern a number of extant artistic influences (Fever Ray, Joy Division are apparent, and even a little sub-genre called witch house springs to mind.) But ultimately President of Mozambique is the start of something new, something without direct precedent. It is an album that won't be fully appreciated on a mass-level until it has served its part in transforming the way we hear music. [Insert point-serving albeit blasphemous Velvet Underground & Nico reference here.]
President of Mozambique is a wet dream for those of us who have been cursed (blessed) with synesthesia. Sonically the album is distinguished by its lush layering of texturally-variegated ethereal synths, with prominent drum sounds and heavily transformed (re-gendered) vocals. It is said that the omnipresent female-pitched voice is referred to as "Chloe" by Brine, and "she" certainly plays a starring role.
Indeed, Brine has stated in many interviews that he envisions President of Mozambique as a film. ("Maybe I am a frustrated movie director.") Certainly this is a quintessential concept album; each track serves as a chapter in a broader narrative and will be referred to as such herein.
Are you coming to the party" The album opens with the anthemic "Illuminati" which establishes the overarching presence of sentient alien monitor(s): "I am, I am, we are we are, we are Illuminati." The song begins and ends with the announcement of the coming of the President of Mozambique, who is Brine's folkloric counterpart. A breakdown comes in the form of an alluringly cryptic, albeit appropriate incantation: "Africa move to me tonight/Africa come inside me."
"Candy and Love" is a marimba-driven lullaby that attests to a traumatic childhood: "This man's not my Daddy/This man's not my friend/He raped me when I was a lonely boy, an only child/He gave me candy and love." While there is a hint of lamentation here, the singer does not bemoan the abuse itself but rather the gaping absence of the offender: "Nothing matters without him."
Chapter three, "Ghost of Your Mother's Womb" is a subtly oedipal hymn delivered to our hero from the vantage point of a maternal specter: "I, I am the ghost of your mother's womb/Crawl back inside of me, I am cocoon." The invocation of a cocoon implies a metamorphosis, and the passage of time from the childhood days of bittersweet "Candy and Love" is also signified: "When you were small, you were my angel/Now you are tall, don't be a stranger."
The fourth chapter is the sweetly cacophonous "It's Our Little Secret," which hints at the origins of the President's affiliations with the shadowy figure(s) introduced in "Illuminati": "We made a lot of money/Selling all our memories/To a certain kind of conspiracy." The splitting of the main character into two parts, one male and the other female, is directly alluded to for the first time as the "twins" take turns singing about the other: "She can dance she can dance she is sublime/He can dance he can dance he is all mine." Such "splitting" into male/female alters is purportedly an archetypal component of mind control by Illuminati Handlers, a subject which Brine is evidently familiar with on some level.
"Dispossession" employs a driving hip-hop drum kit and is one of President of Mozambique's most lyrically-intensive tracks. Brine sings of a war that has reached an uneasy ceasefire via the amnesiac-complicity of its combatants, who are inured to the dereliction of the status-quo. Allegorically this operates on many levels. My personal interpretation is oriented toward the internal struggle, a war between the "twins" and their legions of proxies for control of the vessel self. "Dispossession, my fair maiden/Death would serve us better/Dispossession, soul forsaken/We will have our restitution in the coming hour." It would appear that an end to the age of impasse is imminent. "Freedom and surrender, to whom it may concern/I won't be outnumbered 'til I neatly rip my soul in two/One be me, one be you."
Chapter the sixth, "Face Least Favored by Nature," is a whimsical romp that sneakily builds into a powerfully cathartic spell. It is the end of the first side of the LP and reinforces the thematic concerns of esoteric magic and cryptic ritual. It also provides further insight into the standard operating procedures of the ever-present "Illuminati" forces: "Ladies who lunch, boycott brunch/Disinherit the meek, arm the strong/Manhandle the panhandler/Give his fortunes to the gambler." There is something wickedly passive aggressive about the hook: "Here I thought I was doing a favor/To the face least favored by nature."
"We Get Along" is an electro-country song with Caribbean-inspired synths and industrial bass-mantras. I can see why Brine prefers to stick with "ESM." Here the second side of the LP begins in a deceptively playful manner, which (in keeping with the rest of the album) is spiked with malevolence. The "twins" can smile and nod but they are ultimately out for blood.
"Lucas" (the quotes are also part of the song title) is a Chloe solo song. Twisted sister sings sweetly of murder and duplicity: "My only friend, he died tonight/I never knew his name/My only friend, he died tonight/I feel his spirit in the rain." Later, she revels in her contempt for those who have been so credulous in buying her professions of innocence: "If there's a body to be found, it'll be so far underground/It would take a lifetime in the sand to lift it up."
"Innovation" recalls Joy Division circa 2066, and marks the album's descent into Mozambican Hell. This is made possible by a certain ritual blood sacrifice; all thanks be to Sir "Lucas" of lore. It would appear that restitution is forthcoming indeed, as the final veil is lifted: "Celebration is for circumstance/Ceremony is for time/Ritual is for comfort/And tribute is for crime. Devotion to the best of everything we want to be. We have the pen, we draw the line."
Chapter ten, "Family First" is the only song consisting solely of Brine's native vocals. As Chloe laid waste to "Lucas", the President is on his own as he ups the ante by ritualistically slaughtering his family: "Mother may I tell you why, tell you why/You have to die/Father would it be alright for me to cut you down to size/Sister won't you tell me when, tell me when it hurts too much/I don't want to hurt you, I just want to slice you up." Finally the increasingly irrepressible violent innuendos are unleashed in an homage to pure terror. Gory grandiosity abounds in the booming chorus: "Home is where the heart is/Family comes first."
The album concludes with "Enemy," in which the "Illuminati" voices are pitched in such a way that the female is dominant, but a droning male alter moans in delayed-intervals. And this chilling epilogue is centered around a lullaby within a lullaby: "Once upon a time there was a whale/At night it rose up from the sea into the air/And it sang my songs to me/I can hear it in my brilliant dreams." Here the powers that be (I am I am we are we are), issue a performative warning: "If you are not me/You are my enemy/Hunter if you choose to chase me down/Oh no, but I will swallow you whole/And I'll make food of you, so I that I may grow even larger still/But you can live on inside of me." And so the entire narrative arc is given another interpretive dimension.
The repeat value here is very high; these songs get better and better with each listen. Listeners afforded the luxury of high-caliber headphones will find this aspect particularly rewarding (everything sounds better with Bose, of course, but this is an exemplary case).
The President of Mozambique is coming. Let's all welcome the President of Mozambique.