This pragmatic hope is what gives the album its particular presence. Moodymann has bluntly stated that Detroit is a city where the options can seem limited, yet his stated philosophy has prioritized self-reliance as a response to structural circumstances: “I don’t care if you are out here selling dope, do it well,” he told British DJ Gilles Peterson in a 2007 interview. “I don’t care if you are out here selling pussy, fuck it well. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.” These lessons came to Moodymann through the Black church, and the power of the music of the Black church is foundational to Forevernevermore’s magnum opus, “The Thief That Stole My Sad Days (Ya Blessin Me).” Built around a fiery sermon focused on slavery (the preacher screams about “400 years” of bondage) and a simply undeniable piano loop, the song is house at its most spiritual. Throughout, the musician Debbie Welch sings to a God that makes everything OK. Her vocals are hypnotic and plaintive all at once, earning every single iota of emotion she strains out of her hums and screams. After she illustrates how she has been helped by Jesus, a house beat comes in, propelling her up as she exalts him: “You pick me up/And ya rocking me.” Improvised organ played by Moodymann’s collaborator Amp Fiddler moves all of this closer to a celestial level, making Welch sail upwards. What else can follow this but praise?

On “Tribute,” Moodymann pays homage to Marvin Gaye by cutting together different bits and slices of the soul singer’s tracks, presenting them with ethereal pads and thumping, ecstatic percussion. “Tribute” gets at two pillars of Moodymann’s universe: family and music. Its entire premise is based on witnessing the departure of a great musician, and realizing that there’s not much one can do but listen to the records they left behind. The track originally appeared on 1994’s The Day We Lost the Soul EP, where it was titled “Tribute! (To the Soul We Lost),” and followed an eponymous introductory track made up of radio clips from the day Gaye died. According to Moodymann, even getting these clips was a family endeavor; when Gaye died, he and his aunt recorded the entire day’s worth of tributes on Detroit radio. It was mourning through conservation.

The 1994 version was constructed around a sample of “What’s Going On.” It’s more of an edit than anything else, consisting of Gaye’s instrumentation (altered to sound as spacey as ESG) and vocals. The sample lies just under the mix, swathed in glowing chords and shakers. The album version is slightly different—it’s shorter, ending with a recording of what could only be a family get-together. After what sounds like a relative playing on the piano fades out, you hear a child sing a song that they came up with themselves. You hear his community’s presence, one that keeps Forevernevermore from sounding like an ethereal collage, close to something like the KLF’s ambient pastoral masterpiece Chill Out. Though comfortable in abstraction, he never stays there, deeply connecting his work to Motown soul, disco, jazz, and gospel.