700 Bliss consists of Philadelphia-based experimental artists Moor Mother and DJ Haram. I have been a fan of the former since her 2016 masterpiece Fetish Bones, and the latter since her 2019 EP Grace. Both artists have, throughout their careers, captured different electronic aesthetics within their respected catalogs, and having both collaborate for their debut album on Hyperdub is exciting, with an album that genuinely exceeds all expectations. DJ Haram’s tribal, percussion and sub-bass production is felt throughout the project, as Moor Mother complements her visceral and enthralling beats with lyrics capturing the brutality of the plight of Black people across the United States and beyond. On albums such as Brass with billy woods and Encyclopedia of the Air, I felt this dark and hopeless tone, reflecting the angst and horror of Black communities have to face on a daily basis, coupled with critique, or cry of despair on the awful effects of colonialism in large parts of Africa. This is translated on Nothing To Declare, 700 Bliss’ new album, with heavy, often distorted and mysterious-sounding beats. Over 16 tracks, Moor Mother and DJ Haram paint a brutalist soundscape with lyrics painty a dark and eerie story.
“Nothing to Declare” is a menacing opener, with harsh, bass-heavy synths and a hard-hitting beat, with both Moor Mother and DJ Haram trading verses effortlessly. “Totally Spies” features a gorgeous vocal performance by Lafawndah, over a gruelling beat, while Moor Mother flows effortlessly over the synth and bass-heavy beat. The dynamic, almost garage-inspired “Nightflame” is another highlight, with subtle horn and synth samples that complement Moor Mother’s rumbling voice, contrasting Orion Sun’s sensual voice. The techno-groove of “Anthology” is proper entrancing, while Moor Mother’s vocals on “Discipline” are frightening and scary, with a tribal, menacing energy that just sounds so heavy and frightening. “Bless Grips” is another growling track, with Moor Mother’s punk-like vocal performance bringing life to the track. The distorted “Candace Parker” featuring Maqata’a is fast-paced, with pretty memorable lyrics. “They worried ’bout mothers while y’all just record / Get down, get down, you got it” is a crazy bar reflecting our passiveness of protecting Black women, opting instead of ‘recording’ abusive and manipulative behavior from people in positions of power, but could also allude to gun laws. The glitchy “Capitol” featuring Alli Logout is pretty cool too, with incredible raw and growling vocals. The abrasive energy on “Sixteen” is pretty frightening as well. “When I was sixteen / I called my mom on the phone / Said I ain’t never comin’ home / Said I ain’t never comin’ home” is such a bleak line that stands out to me on the album. The melodic “Crown” is a welcome step away from the thick synth leads and fast-paced beats, though the album turns the other way again on “More Victories” featuring M.Telles, whose poetry is fantastic on this track. After the sampled, desolate soundscape of “Seven”, the album closes with “Lead Level 15” featuring Ase Manual, a weirdly cacophonous yet colourful track that captures the oddity and experimental side to this incredibly engaging and riveting album.
700 Bliss have gone all out on their debut album Nothing To Declare, which is a fierce, politically charged body of work that captures a high-paced, energetic rhythm, with harsh and distorted synths and beats that carry the heavy themes of the album. Moor Mother’s poetry is as potent and vibrant as ever, and with DJ Haram’s incredible production, they are able to create an album that is intricate and memorable. Go listen and support!