Some sounds you might hear in the opening moments of Kilamanzego‘s These Roots Are On Fire EP: soft synthesizer waves, swirling trance patterns, an atmospheric instrument that sounds a bit like a hammer dulcimer, big-time 80s banger drums, a distant and abstract voice beckoning us further into this Philly beatmaker’s world.

There’s a certain collage element to Kilamanzego’s work in general — she’s been releasing thrilling future bass singles piecemeal for the past few years — and to her debut project in specific. But it’s not a collage in the sense of disjointed snippets copy-pasted in a new field. Rather, it’s a collage in the truest hip-hop sense: a vast variety of abstracted ideas and energy, rendered anew by the beatmaker’s hand.

That opening “Everything Goes Black” eases into the single “Crossed Out,” which is built around an affecting use of open space — the sonic pauses in this song contain just as much energy as the biggest beat drop — as well as the first example of a vocal lead in a Kilamanzego project, a deadpan monotone reciting lines that evoke the intricacies of partnership: “You and me, never / You and me is better / You and me.” There’s a weirdly Kraftwerk-ian tone to it all.

The title track and the bonus track “Jungle Frequency” both incorporate big dubsteppy bass textures, those aforementioned start-stop rhythms that Kilamanzego excels at, but also an overcurrent melody of house music keyboard tones, big dramatic chord strikes — a sense of melody and serenity to the nervous energy. And then, every once in a while, something out of left-field and unexpected — something that sounds like the rusty creak of a door hinge opening, for instance — that is interruptive, but not in a jarring way.

In an interview with John Morrison over at Bandcamp Daily, Kilamanzego says that inspiration to pursue beatmaking came from an equally immersive, imaginative record: J Dilla’s Donuts.

I listened to some snippets and bought it, and was completely floored. I didn’t stop playing that album for months. I’d never heard beats like that before—where it felt like art, and I felt every single bit of it.

When the project was announced, Kilamanzego spoke of how its sonic complexities are a reflection of the complexities of her personality — and in a way, of personalities at large:

“Growing up I’ve always had conflicts with my identity, whether it’s my family’s culture, my sexual expression, or my music. Stating that these aspects of who I am are on fire is both in a negative and positive light; there will constantly be a fiery rising anxiety in my body versus myself, yet I always find my way through to let my wild personality shine.”

With These Roots Are On Fire, Kilamanzego embraces those complexities, of genre and identity alike, and shows that the most interesting art (and the most interesting creators) do not fall in the wings of either/or but in the in-between territory of both/and.