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Jaimie Branch Vinyl Album “Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die”

by Madonna

In a groundbreaking departure from convention, Jaimie Branch’s last opus, aptly titled “Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die,” defies categorization, encapsulating her trailblazing creativity and leaving behind an enduring imprint on the musical landscape.

Jaimie Branch, celebrated composer, trumpet virtuoso, and vocalist, passed away in August 2022 at her residence in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Her artistic perspective transcended the boundaries of traditional music, rendering her work a challenge to encapsulate succinctly. Brought up on Long Island and nurtured within the vibrant musical tapestry of Chicago, Branch’s roots in conservatory training coexisted with an aversion to artistic norms, establishing her as an instinctual improviser. A masterful collaborator and an artist in constant evolution, she had recently put the finishing touches on “Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die” under the moniker “world war” just before her untimely demise.

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The culmination of her collaboration with the Fly or Die Quartet—composed of equally visionary and accomplished musicians: Lester St. Louis (cello, voice, flute, marimba, keyboard), Jason Ajemian (double bass, electric bass, voice, marimba), and Chad Taylor (drums, mbira, timpani, bells, marimba)—found its sonic home in an unexpected venue: the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, NE. In this unconventional setting, equipment was flown in, and instruments were sourced from the Omaha Symphony Orchestra. The meticulous post-production transpired at the esteemed International Anthem Studios in Chicago. The outcome stands as a testament to Branch’s unwavering primal reverence for the potency of sound, resulting in an auditory experience that truly resonates.

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The inaugural notes of “Aurora Rising” emanate from Branch’s keyboard and Taylor’s timpani, forging an exultant tone. The momentum shifts as Branch seamlessly transitions to her trumpet, embarking on a spirited duet with the cello. This transition segues into “Borealis Dancing,” wherein the trumpet takes center stage with soaring high notes, ultimately unveiling one of Branch’s characteristic tones employing a plunger mute. The tempo intensifies with “Burning Grey,” where her vocalizations transcend conventional song, adopting an almost chant-like quality. Although the majority of the nine tracks are original compositions, it’s “the mountain,” a reinterpretation of the Meat Puppets’ “Comin’ Down,” that embodies Branch’s unwavering musical open-mindedness. St. Louis’s cello emanates an initial sense of melancholy, evolving into strings plucked with poignant grace, as Ajemian and Branch unite in a delicately exquisite, bluegrass-tinged harmony: “One thing always seems apparent/ If the climb becomes too much/ I can always turn around.” This unexpectedly fitting interpretation culminates with Branch’s trumpet solo, accentuating the vocal segment.

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The pinnacle of the album, “Take Over the World,” bursts forth with rhythmic intensity, punctuated by Branch’s repeated, almost fervent chants and interspersed with fervent trumpet solos. The album concludes on a poignant note with the languid and mellifluous “World War ((reprise)),” offering a contemplative closure to an album that encapsulates both innovation and reflection. Jaimie Branch’s final statement stands as a testament to her visionary essence, a testament that will undoubtedly leave a void in the world of music.

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