Words by Amelia Jackie
On the night of the 2016 presidential election, musician Takiaya Reed remembers her close friend saying, “Punk is gonna get really good again.” Reed grew up an outsider in Texas and was politicized as a teenager by a radical community. “Punk music saved my life,” she says. A month after the election, she woke up from a dream in a cold sweat with an urgent feeling, thinking, “We gotta do this. It’s not a time to be complacent. It’s a time to turn up.”
Reed spent most of the past decade as a traveling musician, playing bass and sax with several punk and experimental bands. She’s a classically trained soprano saxophone player but hadn’t really dug into a music project until playing with Divide and Dissolve. Takiaya met drummer Sylvie Nehill at a show in Melbourne, Australia, and they started playing music three days later. They connected over their “love of low end.”
“It’s about hope as a practice,” Reed says. “It is so important for black and indigenous people to not have to only focus on trauma.”
Nehill tunes her kit as low as it can possibly go. She uses only floor toms that she runs through a bass pedal and into a bass amp. “So I can really drone,” she says. They have two bass stacks, a subwoofer, and Reed uses several guitar pedals with the soprano sax. The experience is full-body immersion, a warm blanket of sound. And that’s the point. “The things that black and indigenous people are forced to think about every day are heavy,” says Reed. The weight of that cultural experience is in their music: it’s in the bass, and it’s in the drums. “It’s like, of course you’re making heavy music, because your life is heavy,” she continues.
There is a connection between the music itself, the incredibly low and heavy sound, the lack of a time signature in general, and the lived experiences of Black and Indigenous people. “People of Color, especially First Nations people, experience space and time differently,” Reed explains. “Life expectancy is way lower, and our bodies are expected to take up less space than white people.” The duo is on a mission, it seems, to answer the question: “What does decolonization look like?” They explore what happens when a band tries to undermine the stereotypes of who is supposed to make this kind of music, how it’s supposed to sound, and who they’re making it for.
Divide and Dissolve’s sophomore release, Abomination, is a journey leading us through hell to hope. “It’s about hope as a practice,” Reed says. “It is so important for black and indigenous people to not have to only focus on trauma.” The record evolves with each track, and the song titles walk us through a kind of story beginning with abomination, assimilation, cultural extermination, and then turning to reversal, resistance, re-appropriation, reparations; ending with indigenous sovereignty. “It’s about honoring our ancestors. They are with us when we’re playing,” Nehill explains. And Reed says, “Everything that’s written is written with love.”
This was originally published in Tom Tom’s Spring issue. Read the full version here.