Black Moses

Channel Tres Black Moses album review by Leslie Chu for Northern Transmissions
Channel Tres "Black Moses'

Our Rating

8.5

Compton singer Channel Tres is often dubbed hip house, but on his sophomore EP, Black Moses, he drifts further into the house side of the portmanteau.

The EP opens with “Orpheus,” an intro track that runs for less than a minute and a half. “Fuck the fame,” he says in a familiar refrain of “Controller,” from his 2018 self-titled EP. On the latter, he repeated, “Fuck the lames, fuck the fame.” But here, he contradicts himself, repeating, “Can’t look back, can’t look back, can’t look back.” “Orpheus” is brief, but it’s a highlight if only for its wonky bass line that sounds like Thundercat’s tuning up.

The minor contradictions continue on “Brilliant N—-.” The song is as braggadocious as Channel Tres gets: “Brilliant n—- on my way. You’re caught up in the old phase.” But he clarifies that “It ain’t about me,” saying, “I used to act for change in the streets. Now I’m changin’ the streets.” His voice appears like ripples caused by raindrops in a pond. At the same time that a hypnotic flute begins tweeting in the background, the song breaks into a nocturnal groove with a slinky bass line. “The drugs is in the groove, you know? I’m that shit that got you comatose,” he says, like a shaman guiding the listener on a vast trip.

JPEGMAFIA guests on “Black Moses,” making for a compelling collaboration. Their vibes are a stark contrast: Tres is ultimate cool whereas JPEGMAFIA is ballistic. The volatile Baltimore rapper adds a hidden danger that lurks beneath the song’s surface. Granted, though, JPEG is perhaps at his most restrained here.

JPEG is intentionally divisive. He attacks the extreme right with as much vitriol as he attacks the extreme left. Channel Tres is divisive, too, but in a more subtle way that he can’t help. Either he’s vilified because of his blackness or he’s fetishized because of it. On “Sexy Black Timberlake,” he addresses the latter over production that nods at G-funk. Here, Tres’ Compton influence shows, as the style’s pioneer, Dr. Dre, hails from the same city as him.

Tres shows his less local influences on the EP, too. “Raw Power” is a tribute to Detroit. The song twice references Michigan-born punk icon Iggy Pop. First, the song is named after the Stooges’ 1973 proto-punk classic of the same name. Second, Tres says, “I’ma take my shirt off just like Iggy. When I take it off, I feel like Iggy.” But Tres doesn’t sing over corroded, exhaust- fuming, buzzsaw, riffs – he trails off in breathy soundbites over a submerged house beat; his voice floats in and out as if in a dream or a mirage. In an interview with Passion of the Weiss, Tres said hearing house music from Chicago and Detroit “woke [him] the fuck up.”

Channel Tres’ slick production and impossibly cool grooves make Black Moses the perfect soundtrack for late-night drives on humid nights. Wake up and lean in with Channel Tres.

Black Moses by Channel Tres comes out August 16th via Godmode

Channel Tres
Live Dates

Aug 10 – MoMA PS1 Warm Up – Long Island City, NY
Aug 16 – Lowlands – Biddinghuizen, Netherlands
Aug 17 – Pukkelpop – Hasselt, Belgium
Aug 18 – Dockville – Hamburg, Germany
Aug 25 – Deep Tropics – Nashville, TN
Sept 1 – Made in America – Philadelphia, PA
Sept 7 – Aisle 5 – Atlanta, GA
Sept 20 – Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles, CA*
Sept 26 – Ogden Theatre – Denver, CO*
Oct 30 – First Avenue – Minneapolis, MN*
Oct 31 – Turner Hall Ballroom – Milwaukee, WI*
Nov 1 – Riviera Theatre – Chicago, IL*
Nov 2 – The Majestic – Detroit, MI*
Nov 3 – The Danforth Music Hall – Toronto, CA*
Nov 5 – Théâtre Corona – Montréal, CA*
Nov 6 – House of Blues – Boston, MA*
Nov 8 – Brooklyn Steel – Brooklyn, NY*
Nov 9 – Brooklyn Steel – Brooklyn, NY*

* indicates support for Toro Y Moi