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Mhysa:
Fantasii (Halcyon Veil)

The
intent and context Mhysa’s work (with an emphasis on using
genderless “they/their,” according to Pitchfork) vs. alter ego E. Jane is best described
in their own words: “now
I navigate two [personas] really: E. Jane and Mhysa. Mhysa is also me
and she allows me to be a part of myself I think white institutions
tried to smother. Now I keep her with me and bring her out when we’re
safe to be, preferably in spaces where Black women can just be
themselves without having to explain or apologize, in spaces where
other Black women exist and are seen. Or occasionally in spaces where
Black women are sent for (these spaces still hold higher risk for her
but capitalism demands we all take risks).” Fantasii flirts with
disparate genres and points of inspiration, ranging from gospel to club bass music, finding an appropriate home on Rabit’s Halcyon Veil imprint.

fantasii by MHYSA

They glide between rather different ends
of the spectrum with an ease that feels wholly natural. “Glory Be
Black” and “Siren Song” are stark and haunting quasi-a capella
tracks, all airy vocal and delay, while “Strobe” is a full-on
booty shaker of a club track, even with its refrain of bravado: “So
many clicks it’s like I got my own strobe light / A flash from the
back got my ass lookin’ so right / Click click click click click.”
That track and two others are co-produced by lawd knows, Mhysa’s
partner in crime in their project SCRAAATCH, and they lend the most
immediate club and R&B tinges on the album. But their vocal on
one of the other co-produced tracks, “Bb,” feels nude and
vulnerable in a way that resonates with the same authenticity that
comes through on “Siren Song,” another delayed, reverberated
dream of a track that feels like a spiritual hymn by way of Grouper.
When Mhysa produces their own beats on later album cuts like “You
Not About That Lyfe” or “For Doris Payne,” they’re often jagged
and lo-fi, full of one-shots of broken glass and vocal samples
triggered over and over, but once again this somehow makes sense in
the varied and angular pacing of Fantasii. Tucked at the end of
the album after some silence is a clattery cover of Prince’s “When
Doves Cry,” not my favorite thing on the album but a curious
footnote on a short album full of surprises. What I like most about
Fantasii is how weird it is; Mhysa’s impulses as a creator,
persona, collaborator, and even as an appropriator feel instinctive
and pure. Here’s more about Fantasii in Mhysa’s own words, as
posted on their Bandcamp page:

“This
debut album is an epic poem, like a reverse Dante’s Inferno, where I
take the listener higher, upward through my hopes, dreams,
inspirations, and desires. It represents my love for Black women and
femmes, as the stories are all told from our perspectives. When
writing the album, I kept asking myself: what are the fantasies of
Black women and femmes? What do I feel denied because I am a Black
woman? Many of the songs I wrote for the album reflect those
questions, as they show the protagonist wanting to be vulnerable, to
be loved, wanting to fight, to be glorious, to have power, and to own
their body and sexuality.

“The album’s primary material is
the Black woman’s voice (including my own). I thought a lot about the
Black women and femmes I admire, and their music and our shared Black
history that continuously builds the pop culture landscape. Janet
Jackson, Donna Summer, Beyoncé, TLC and Prince are all referenced,
and my friend Diamond Stingily, a poet and artist from Chicago, did a
freestyle for the album. There’s a skit featuring Harriet Tubman
(as performed on the show Underground) as well as a song for Doris
Payne, the notorious jewel thief. Being a Black american woman from
the american south, I wanted to draw on my roots and my history. My
grandfather was a gospel blues musician and "Glory Be Black”
is almost a gospel blues song, only it was written for the wayward.
“Bb” was styled after 90s r’n’b songs and “STROBE”
is a rap song made for the strip club.

“Anti-White
Supremacy statements are expressed (especially on "Minty’s
Interlude”), not in a way that is meant to inform or raise
awareness, but to acknowledge that Black people have been terrorized
globally since the advent of slavery. I’m not giving up my rage, but
I need joy so much more, I need my spirit strong in this battle and
so do other Black folks. There has been a war going on our whole
lives, a war that started when the first slave was brought to shore
– and we have been living, regardless. This album is for Black
people (and Black women and femmes especially) that want to live and
rejoice because we are still alive, even if the war is far from
won.“

Buy it: Bandcamp