Esperanza Spalding’s music frequently has embraced the esoteric. Ranging from the 77-hour, live-streamed writing and recording of her 2017 record, Exposure, to collaborating with pop juggernauts Janelle Monáe and Bruno Mars to now releasing a project inspired by Reiki healing practices, the bassist/composer certainly takes inspiration from disparate sources. While tangential tie-ins to the music could be seen as a distraction from its substance, Spalding has proven during her career that each album matches its intricate theme. And 12 Little Spells is no different.
Initially released over the course of 12 days via 12 videos on Facebook and Instagram, 12 Little Spells is a complex and multifaceted piece of work, one that functions through Spalding’s poetic lyricism as much as her thematic arranging. Opener “12 Little Spells” bursts to life with a cinematic sweep of flutes, rumbling horns and fluttering guitar as Spalding expounds on the virtues of the thoracic spine: “Twelve little wells of golden ink/ Bone bottles stacked mouth to tail.”