Melbourne-based duo Divide and Dissolve — Takiaya Reed (sax, guitar) and Sylvie Nehill (drums) — have focused on Indigenous sovereignty: Reed is Tsalagi (Cherokee) and Black, Nehill is Māori. As a duo. they released two albums 2017’s Basic and 2018’s Abomination through DERO Arcade before signing with Invada, who released their widely acclaimed third album, 2021’s Gas Lit. Gas Lit Remix EP was also released in 2021 and featured reworkings and remixes of Gas Lit material by Moor Mother, Chelsea Wolfe and Bearcat.
Last year, the duo toured across North America and Europe, opening for Low, which included a stop at Webster Hall, as well as headline dates and festival appearances.
The acclaimed Aussie duo’s fourth album, the Ruban Neilson-produced Systemic is slated for a June 30, 2023 release through Invada. Thematically, the album sees the duo exploring the systems that intrinsically bind us — and calls fora system that facilitates life for everyone. It’s a message that fits firmly with the band’s core intentions: to make music that honors their ancestors and Indigenous lands, to oppose white supremacy, and to work towards a future of Black and Indigenous liberation. “This music is an acknowledgement of the dispossession that occurs due to colonial violence,” Divide and Dissolve’s Takaiya Reed explains in press notes. “The goal of the colonial project is to separate Indigenous people from their culture, their life force, their community and their traditions. The album is in direct opposition to this.”
Recored as a duo, the album according to Reed is a continuation of Gas Lit. “Because of what was built with Gas Lit, Systemic is able to express itself.” She adds, “The album is a prayer to our ancestors. A prayer for land to be given back to Indigenous people, and for future generations to be free from this cycle of violence.”
Reed emphasizes that it’s crucial for their music to be instrumental. “I believe in the power of non-verbal communication,” she continues, “A huge percent of communication is non-verbal. We learn so much without using words.” There’s one exception on the album, the spoken word track “Kingdom of Fear,” which features writer and artist Minori Sanchiz-Fung, who contributed to previous Divide and Dissolve albums.
Systemic‘s latest single “Blood Quantum” further cements the Aussie outfit’s reputation for crafting dense, overwhelmingly heavy material. With “Blood Quantum” you hear a dissonant and insistent thumping of crashing cymbals, thunderous snare, Melvins-like guitar sludge, wavering synths and horns paired with mournful yet beautiful orchestrated passsges meant to evoke brief moments of respite. The song is rooted in — and expresses awe-inspiring beauty and heart-wrenching anguish of human existence. “The heaviness is really important,” Reed says. “It’s congruent with the message of the music, and the heaviness feels emblematic of this world’s situation.”
Fittingly, the Sepi Mashiahof, Chi Chi Castillo, and Dolor co-directed video for “Blood Quantum” is a fever dream that’s at turns hauntingly gorgeous, unsettlingly brutal and downright surreal. The video calls into question the violent process of verification of identity.
The acclaimed Aussie outfit have live shows and festival appearances planned in support of the new album,. But at this time, Nehill will be stepping back from her duties performing live with the band, due to personal reasons.