Chi Away: Reflections on Community in Isolation

Chi Away will comprise recordings of three separate small ensembles made over the course of a few months, culminating in a series of album releases on the Chicago record label Amalgam. The project was awarded the New Music USA Creator Development fund in 2021. 

The groups are new collaborations, made up of musicians from the Chicago area. The assemblies include musicians from a wide array of musical backgrounds, ranging from classical to jazz to country to experimental to punk. Included in the fray are Ishmael Ali, Allen Moore, Bill Harris, N.W. Long, Wills McKenna, Brianna Tong, Johanna Brock, and Andrew Scott Young.

Thematically, the goal of the project as a whole is catharsis—reflecting on our
individual experiences as well as the role of community during the past year in isolation. The music will simultaneously embody release, reflection, beginning.

The groups are as follows:

A n e m o i


These recordings document a first-meeting of a quartet of improvisers during the pandemic in Spring of 2021. The grouping is assembled from individuals with divergent approaches that feed a wide tonal palette blending and morphing into kinetic mass of sound.


Anemoi will be released in October 2021 on Amalgam.


Wills McKenna – saxophone

Ishmael Ali – cello, electronics

Bill Harris – drum set, percussion

N.W. Long – electronics

A k j a i

Akjai is an improvising quartet incorporating two vocalists and a string trio. The group’s unique instrumentation lends itself to exploration of strange timbres, textures, and orchestrations. This recording documents a first meeting in which they explore musical worlds ranging from 20th century classical music, to art song, to free jazz, with text by Brianna Tong, Octavia Butler, and RA Washington. Akjai is slated for release in November on Amalgam.

Brianna Tong – vocals

Johanna Brock – vocals, violin

Ishmael Ali – cello

Andrew Scott Young – double bass

H e a r s a y


Hearsay’s singular aesthetic ranges from otherworldly textures to slowly evolving rhythmic grooves, to hard-hitting improvisations. Their musical language is influenced by their diverse backgrounds, which meld together to form something both familiar and alien, but always fresh. Hearsay is scheduled to release in December.

Allen Moore – turntables, records casted with varying materials.

Ishmael Ali – cello, guitar, electronics

Bill Harris – drum set percussion