Monthly Archives: May 2011

Miracle Fortress – Was I the Wave?

January 01, 1970

(Secret
City)

 

www.secretcityrecords.com

 

Graham Van Pelt’s second album as Miracle Fortress is all
glamour and chill, leaving behind the indie pop sounds that defined 2007’s
Polaris-nominated Five Roses to
explore sleek, futuristic landscapes. Was
I the Wave
? has a clean, underwater vibe for most of its first half, its
wavering synth textures and burbling keyboards braced by dance rhythms. Yet
lovely as these early album efforts can be, they lack sticking power. You have
the sense of walking through beautiful, sunlit, empty rooms.

 

The album begins in an atmospheric reverie. “Awe”, one of
four brief instrumental interludes, swathes a three-note motif in electronic washes,
finding a still center in the midst of overtones. Eventually, more propulsive
sounds move through its watery textures, a bass-like synthesizer, a minimal bit
of guitar, swimming up through the depths. Yet the overall effect is one of
motionless contemplation. Later, similar tracks like “Wave,” “Before” and
“Until” serve as pauses in the dance-centric forward movement of cuts like
“Tracers” and “Raw Spectacle.”

 

In his pop songs, Van Pelt attempts a 1980s blend of
precision, tunefulness, drama and falsetto soul’d romantic longing a la the Pet
Shop Boys or Tears for Fears. Early on, a chilly remove prevents him from
really connecting, but in the second, more vulnerable half of the album, the
approach begins to work really well. “Spectre” laces its bubbly, dance-floor
rhythms with wordless melodic flourishes and a pop chorus you can hang onto. “Everything
Works” introduces even more coherent hookiness into the mix.

 

Still it is “Miscalculations” that really pulls the pieces
together –  the icy beat, the sleek
arrangements and, finally, a sense of Van Pelt himself and the world he lives
in. No one, it seems, is lonelier than the one-person phenomenon riding an
unexpected wave of popularity. “They put you in the New York Times, but your
roommates tore it up,” Van Pelt observes. “It’s no reflection on you that
people just despise and hate your guts.” 
The piece culminates in a soaring chorus where all the elements — the
bouncy beat, the intricacies of synthesizer, the tuneful vocal line – push
upwards. Still there’s an interesting shadow of melancholy in the way that Van
Pelt murmurs, “You got everything and more” repeatedly, as if trying to
convince himself.

 

Yet this is the exception. 
For the most part, Was I the Wave?
is that rare phenomenon, a one-person production where it’s hard to get a sense
of the auteur. No question that Van Pelt can create intriguing soundscapes and
hooky melodies, but where is the “I” that made the wave?

 

DOWNLOAD: “Miscalculations” “Everything Works” JENNIFER KELLY

Ramble At the Ryman

January 01, 1970

(Vanguard Records; 120 minutes)

 

www.vanguardrecords.com

 

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

 

Reports on Levon Helm’s imminent demise are obviously
exaggerated, if the visual and audio evidence provided by Ramble At The Ryman is any indication. Rumors were rife that the
71-year old singer, drummer and multi-instrumentalist was suffering from
assorted age-associated ailments and his vocals had become the first casualty.
And yet, here he is, anchoring an otherwise unwieldy outfit with a full horn
section and various big name guests to boot. Although the presence of Sheryl
Crow, John Hiatt, Buddy Miller, Billy Bob Thornton and Sam Bush add star power
to the proceedings, and could have possibly upstaged its star, Helm is clearly
in command, revisiting classic songs from the Band songbook (“Ophelia,”
“Evangeline,” “The Shape I’m In,” and the obvious signature stalwarts like “Rag
Mama Rag,” “Chest Fever” and “The Weight.”) as well as selected offerings
plucked from a traditional template. His rugged authority and respected
reputation as an Americana
icon are further affirmed with the down home designs of Buddy Miller’s “Wide
River To Cross,” the folk finesse of “Anna Lee” and the sturdy blues of “Fannie
Mae” and “Baby Scratch My Back” in particular.

 

Yet, even while the music provides the set’s homespun
embrace, the interaction between the artists onstage, as well as audience and
entertainers, makes this performance all the more memorable. The intimate
environs of the Ryman (“Ain’t no better place to play than the Ryman auditorium,”
Helm asserts prior to ending the evening with a remarkable read of “The
Weight”), provide the most natural of settings for this sometimes-ragtag revue.
Consequently, while the DVD offers little more than a ringside seat to the
proceedings, the opportunity to watch Helm – perhaps the best singing drummer
in Rock ‘n’ Roll – strut his stuff by vocalizing and drumming simultaneously,
and then making it look like a breeze besides, is alone worth the price of
admission. With varying camera angles highlighting the enthusiasm of the
players, there’s all the inducement needed. With Levon Helm still at the helm
and hitting his stride, this Ramble rarely falters.

 

The Last Bandit: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Life

January 01, 1970

(Arcana)

 

www.arcanaedizioni.com

 

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

 

There
are cult acts and then there’s Nikki Sudden. Though spread across the globe,
his audience likely includes no one you know. Unless, of course, you’re on
personal terms with any of his famous friends and fans – Peter Buck, Ryan
Adams, Ian McLagen, Mick Taylor, Evan Dando, Jeff Tweedy, Nick Cave, Primal
Scream, Thurston Moore and Johnny Thunders have all worked with him, sung his
praises or just hung out. But even the most hip of your hipster friends is
likely to give you a blank stare if you mention his name.

 

If
we’re to be honest, Sudden’s lack of fame has as much to do with the
limitations of his talents as it does the shifting tides of show business. His
musical vision essentially begins and ends with T. Rex (the band that inspired
him to take up the guitar) and the Rolling Stones (his favorite band). Though
also deeply affected by Bob Dylan, the Faces, Johnny Thunders, the blues,
country, Motown and punk, his work tends to be a blend of rootsy rock drive and
glam rock swagger, proudly stuck in the ‘70s. It’s a blunt, honest sound that
often as not produced some sublimely soulful rock & roll – but even in the ‘80s
when Sudden hung out his shingle it was a style neither hip nor marketable.
(Even less so now, sadly.) The ramshackle quality of his voice, which often
couldn’t find the right key, let alone the note, has never helped, either – a
limitation of which Sudden was always perfectly aware.

 

But
that doesn’t mean his art isn’t worth exploring or celebrating. It merely
indicates that his is not a career begging for discovery by the masses through
a biographical tome. But here it is: the product of two years of writing and a
lifetime of diligent diary-keeping, The
Last Bandit: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Life
(Arcana Books; www.arcanaedizioni.com) tells the
Sudden story in the words of the man himself. It’s a tale likely to be familiar
to regular readers of rock bios, with all the sex, drugs, jams, showstoppers,
bombs, daring adventures and narrow escapes you’d expect or want. Though the
book (originally released only in Italy before finally securing a
release in the country of his birth) begins with a short chapter about Sudden’s
first band, the pioneering experimental postpunk band Swell Maps, he quickly
turns the clock back 30 years, detailing his parents’ marriage and his
subsequent birth. Moving through a childhood spent burying himself in British
historical fiction, the former Adrian Godfrey kicks his story into gear with
the introduction of Marc Bolan and T. Rex, his obsession with whom leads him to
the guitar, his personal style (Sudden never met a scarf he didn’t like) and
the decision to make music his life. With various friends and his brother
Kevin, soon to be better known as Epic Soundtracks, Sudden begins home
recording, developing his songwriting and musicianship and inciting the
creation of Swell Maps.

 

The
Maps years are likely the best-known of Sudden’s career, even though they
encompass the shortest period. Sudden goes over these years in fairly close
detail, at least as far as the vagaries of the band’s lifespan, and hipsters
who worship this seminal band will likely find these pages the most compelling.
But the Maps, like so many acts of its era, were too volatile to last, and it’s
not long before Sudden embarks on a music odyssey of his own. It’s here that
the formula kicks in: Nikki writes some songs, makes a record for a spurious
indie label owner, plays some gigs, meets and falls in love with a girl
(usually with connections to wealth or power) and travels around Europe getting
high (usually on heroin) and lying in bed with his paramour. And on and on, damn near to the point of boredom. It’s
almost preposterous in its single-mindedness – for Sudden, this is how a rocker
lives life, and the tedium never seems to occur to him. (It doesn’t help that
it’s apparent neither an editor nor a proofreader ever came within miles of the
manuscript – a lot of the redundancies would’ve been easily adjusted during
that process.) Given the constant references to drugs throughout most of the
book, it begins to read uncomfortably like the confessions of a junkie – worse,
a junkie who doesn’t realize how hooked he really is. When he stops mentioning
any drug intake – not coincidentally in the late ‘90s/early ‘aughts, when he
was at his most musically productive – it comes as such a relief that we never
question why there’s been a shift.

 

Fortunately,
there are enough nuggets between the constant bouts of drinking, drugging and
fucking beautiful women to maintain interest. The chapters immediately
following the Maps breakup paint a fascinating portrait of the early ‘80s
Birmingham rock scene, from the nascent beginnings of Duran Duran, whose Nick
Rhodes ran in the same circles as Sudden, to the sadly underrecorded
Subterranean Hawks and TV Eye, both of which featured Sudden’s likeminded
friend and off-and-on again partner Dave Kusworth and Lilac Time leader and
original Duran singer Stephen Duffy. (All concerned make a convincing claim
that TV Eye’s “Stevie’s Radio Station” is the basis for Duran’s “Rio.”) This is followed by Sudden’s first solo records,
the formation of the Jacobites with Kusworth, a dalliance with Creation Records
(whose Alan McGee meant well but never seemed to know what do with a Nikki
Sudden LP), frequent travels to America and Germany (where he would eventually
end up living) and numerous friendships and collaborations along the way.

 

While
Sudden easily waxes rhapsodic about this or that romance, he’s at his most
animated when talking about music. Whether singing the praises of Kusworth or
his brother, who gets a loving, honest elegy late in the book, gushing about
meeting Robert Plant or Ron Wood, detailing the making of 2004’sTreasure Island, the last LP released
during his lifetime and easily one of his finest, or talking about his favorite
books and records, Sudden’s prose takes on a passionate tone familiar to anyone
with more than a casual interest in music. And it’s these passages that
underscore the reasons why he does what he does: it’s not (just) the cocaine,
name-dropping and promiscuous groupies, but a pure love of picking up a guitar
and making a righteous noise. “Even though it’s unfashionable these days,” he
writes near the end, “I still believe in music, I still believe in rock ‘n’
roll.” Follow Sudden on his journey and you will too.

Bahamas – Pink Strat

January 01, 1970

(Brushfire)

www.brushfirerecords.com

 

 

Afie Jurvanen is quite possibly the antithesis of his
chosen moniker: Bahamas.
Born in rural Ontario Canada, the folk/pop singer songwriter, whose instrument
of choice is the pink weathered Fender Strat his debut is named after
(naturally), is beautifully subtle, bringing to mind warm beer in a can shared
on a front porch more than exotic rum drinks accessorized with tiny umbrellas
on white, tourist-stacked beaches.

 

Originally released in his native Canada in 2009, Pink Strat is quite possible the perfect album to introduce this
one-time guitar sideman to Feist to the U.S.  A collection of stripped down and unpretentious
pop folk songs, Bahamas comes off as a cross between a Canadian Jack Johnson
and John Mellencamp of the Great White North. 
The songs vacillate between optimistic (“Hockey Teeth”) and pessimistic
(“You’re Bored, I’m Old”), but always manage to come across with genuine
emotion, an ingredient that seems in short supply in most pop music lately. You
can’t imagine any of these songs being covered by the cast of Glee… and, well,
that’s the point.

 

The album ends on a strong note with a stark, but powerful cover
of Wreckless Eric’s “Whole Wide World.” Simply sublime.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Lovely Loves”, “Hockey Teeth” and “Whole Wide
World” JOHN B. MOORE

Steve Dawson – Nightshade

January 01, 1970

(Black Hen Music)

 

www.blackhenmusic.com

 

Steve Dawson falls within the same realms as Buddy Miller,
T-Bone Burnett or a fellow Canadian with whom he’s often compared, Colin
Linden. All four men hold several skill sets in common – they’re both players
and producers, and multi-talented musicians at that. In addition, they each
take a traditional tack- in Dawson’s
case, it’s rooted in an equal mix of blues, folk and roots music.

 

Not surprisingly then, Dawson conveys a fairly freewheeling
approach here, his tangled rhythms and shuffled pacing making for a generally
laid back pastiche. He struts confidently on a song like “Nightshade,” but
tends to meander when it comes to other offerings, “The Side of the Road” and
“We Still Won the War” in particular. At times, in fact, the juxtaposition
between the arrangements and the lyrics seem somewhat out of sync. For example,
the conflicted state of circumstances described in “We Still Won the War” and
the weary narrative that accompanies “The Side of the Road” are muted by the
sprawling circumstance that surround them. Fortunately, matters come into
clearer focus with “Have That Chance,” a soulful ballad boasting a searing
guitar solo, and “Walk On,” a bluesy saunter similar in style to JJ Cale. Yet,
while the playing is undeniably impressive, many of the songs simply lack
traction and fail to ignite. Unfortunately, that makes Nightshade a little less luminescent.

 

DOWNLOAD: “We
Still Won The War,” “Have That Chance” LEE ZIMMERMAN

 

Dag för Dag – Boo

January 01, 1970

(Ceremony Recordings)

www.ceremonyrecordings.com

 

Released in Europe in 2009, the debut
from this Swedish brother-and-sister duo – not in the Meg and Jack sense, but
actual siblings – is finally getting its well-deserved North American release.
Though some of the band’s rawer moments tilt garage rock, Sarah and Jacob
Snavely have more in common – at least aesthetically – with the Kills, another
male/female duo whose slinky songs bristle with lust and fury while they
navigate the line between them.

 

 “I Am the Assassin” and “Hands
and Knees” deliver a fantastic one-two punch of dominance and submission at the
front of the disc. On the former, over a tumult of descending guitar lines and a
nerve-wracking beat, Sarah makes it clear that she is no “cat in a tree” to be rescued
and cared for, but a feral predator; the latter thrums along with enough “on my
hands and knees” fuck-heat to raise the room temperature several degrees while a
guitar-and-drums duel puts the climax in climactic.

 

But Boo‘s pleasures derive
as much from the rich textures employed (with help from Richard Swift) as the
heat the duo can generate (musically speaking, pervert). Swathed in organ
layers, rumbling toms and clash cymbal-supernovas, and paced like an opiate dream,
“Wouldn’t You” sound likes And Then
Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out
-era Yo La Tengo (until Jacob starts
wailing over them); “Seven Stories” first drifts through random noise and
guitar fuzz, picking up pace on the back of a marching snare until it bursts
into thick guitar riffs that eventually loop over each other as Sarah sings of
“your love in my veins.”

 

Unfortunately, brother Jacob’s vocal contributions do more harm than
good. It’s partly that Sarah’s voice is clearly the duo’s best vehicle, and
partly that Jacob winds up hijacking songs with awkward phrases. On the pulsing
“Silence,” for instance, his affected chants of “Silence is the verb, silence
is the word” over tambourine whip-lashes quickly morphs into an annoying,
repetitive earwig you’d pay to have removed; the same unfortunate formula is
found on “You’re Light On Your Feet,” only this time it’s the song title-mantra
that nearly sinks the otherwise slinky setting and pace. Oddly, on the rare
times they reverse roles – such as when Sarah soars over Jacob’s rapid-fire
patter on the disc’s most garage rock track, “Animal” – the pairing works much
better.

 

Still, there’s much here to recommend, and if the siblings can work
out a few kinks (i.e., removing Jacob’s mic), they could quickly take their
place among the elite duos.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Hands and
Knees” “Came In Like a Knife” JOHN SCHACHT

 

Atmosphere – The Family Sign

January 01, 1970

(Rhymesayers)

 

www.rhymesayers.com

 

Growing old in hip-hop is a tricky evolution. If you are nearing
middle age and still trying to keep up with the youngbloods, you are in danger
of becoming a cartoon caricature of yourself, thus negating the struggle and
strife you’ve had to endure to earn your respect in the game throughout the
majority of your career, like Method Man and Redman. Or, you can opt to become
the wizened elder statesman who utilizes the experience he has garnered over
the course of 20 or 25 years as an MC or producer as a means to teach a more
enlightened version of the rhyme science you have patented in a more
professorial route. But this course, if you look at the careers of such former
heavy hitters as KRS-One and Chuck D., comes at the expense of obtaining a more
widespread audience enthralled by the ADHD flash of Lil’ Wayne and Wiz Khalifa
than the prospect of learning something about history or ethics.

 

Or, you could just opt to age with your audience and chronicle the trials and travails of reaching a more
mature age side by side, which is exactly what Slug of Atmosphere seems to be
doing so gracefully from the sound of the Minneapolis
duo’s excellent new album, The Family
Sign.

 

For his sixth LP with producer Ant and first since 2008’s When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That
Shit Gold
, Slug waxes philosophical on these 14 new tracks, foregoing the
hard partying persona of his past decade-and-a-half’s lyrical work in favor of
a more reflective, existential tone that offers a more nuanced outlook on such
topics pertinent to a 38-year-old man as conflict, loyalty, responsibility,
accountability and, above all, family. Sometimes the sarcasm of Atmosphere’s
past efforts shines through above the face of earnestness this album is trying
to evoke, namely the cheeky “Bad Bad Daddy”, where Slug takes his Juvie-bound
kids to the bar with him and lets them run wild, and “Millennium Dodo”, where
he rhymes of Escape from New York and
Les Nessman from WKRP in Cincinnati with
the kitschy panache of his white boy rap forefathers the Beastie Boys.

 

However, the more somber moments of The Family Sign are what rank the record among the best in the
Atmosphere canon.  “Became” paints a
stark portrait of a man who seems to have been camping in the woods with his
faithful canine companion when he awakes to find him gone and, fearing he was
chased down and attacked by wolves, realizes the dog ran away to join their
pack. Whether one can construe this tune as something literal or metaphorical,
it showcases some of Slug’s most vividly urgent examples of his storytelling
prowess he has yet to deliver to listeners. “Just for Show” details the
complexities of a relationship resting on wobbly stilts, further punctuated by
its amazing video accompaniment, which portrays a family turning its back on
their once-beloved dog, played by the cutest golden retriever, who then takes
to the streets in search of the love it lost when his owners decided to turn
the other cheek. Also of note is the poignant “The Last to Say”, which is as
stark a cautionary tale of domestic violence as Eminem’s “The Way You Lie” or,
better yet, Company Flow’s “Last Good Sleep”. 
However, on “She’s Enough”, Slug extols the virtues of doing whatever it
takes to keep the one you love happy and satisfied.

 

Punctuating the greatness of the songs on this album is Ant’s
production, which takes a more organic turn with a pastiche of live
instrumentation flavored by acoustic guitar flourishes and grand piano
dramatics, augmented by new crew members guitarist Nate Collis and keyboardist Erick
Anderson respectively, compounding beats that can still snap your neck in two.
It’s also pretty cool to hear Slug experiment with different genres alien to
the Atmosphere idiom, such as early ‘80s new wave on “I Don’t Need Brighter
Days”, spaced-out alt-rock on “My Key” and askew Randy Newman-esque art pop on
“Ain’t Nobody”.

 

The Family Sign is a prime
example of how to age adroitly in the hip-hop universe, and should serve as a
template for Slug and Ant’s brethren in the indie-rap game to follow if they
want to see any kind of career past the age of 40.

 

DOWNLOAD: “The Last To
Say”, “Became”, “Just for Show”, “Millennium Dodo”, “I Don’t Need Brighter
Days” RON HART

Southeast Engine – Canary

January 01, 1970

(Misra)

 

         www.misrarecords.com/

 

Canary, the third album by Southeast Engine, from all impressions,
seems likely be their break-out album, as it has garnered considerable high
praise in the alt-music press over the last month. To fully appreciate their
music, and the thematic nature of Canary,
it helps to know about the members’ upbringing in the Appalachian hills of Athens in S.E. Ohio. It’s
a grounding experience, with roots that branch out into Pentecostal one room
churches, rugged rural routes winding through hollows and over hilltops, and a
ghostly presence that that permeates the countryside. Athens County has the
reputation of being one of the most haunted areas in the country, from the old
cemeteries, to the old mental asylum, creepy Mt. Nebo and even into a couple of
the dorms at Ohio University. The town is 40 miles from where the mysterious
Moth Man spooked the Ohio River town of Point
Pleasant in the sixties. Athens
was plotted out around 1800 for the expansion into the Northwest Territories and the university
founded 4 years later. I once came upon a tombstone at an old graveyard there,
where the deceased was born in 1798 and passed in 1902, and I marveled at how
he had lived in three different centuries. Coalmines sprung up in the
surrounding villages, locals eking out meager livings in the dark pits. The
university and a long-gone printing company had always been the major source of
income for the area, which remains impoverished, but providing a cozy niche of
culture to the region. When the Great Depression hit, coincidentally started by
another big real estate bubble, families struggled to put food on the table,
thus the theme of Canary.

 

Now, with enough back-story to
choke a horse, I can continue with the band. Their music is very much
influenced by the rich history they marinated in, coloring it with a “lived it”
authenticity. It’s music that’s partly country comfort, Americana backwoods
gospel righteousness, all falling into step with The Band, Okkerville River and
the ragged old glory rock of Neil Young. 
Singer songwriter Adam Remnant has a talent for folding bluegrass and
gospel influences into indie-rock, as well as telling compelling stories with
his writing, while the band fleshes out the songs by cooperatively polishing
and arranging them. The tunes are peppered here and there with horns or touches
of the old-timey; fiddles, banjos, organ, piano and mouth organ, suitably
flavoring acoustic and electric guitars with rustic charm. “1933 (Great
Depression),” is one the more rocking songs of the bunch, complete with a
shout-out gospel chorus, standup piano pounding, all played with great passion,
and ending in an explosive guitar solo. “I don’t know what’s so goddamned great
about the Great Depression,” Remnant proclaims. The plaintive tale of “Adeline
of the Appalachian Mountains,” speaks to the
desperate times, families clinging to hope through FDR’s Fireside Chats on the
radio.  There’s something about “Red Lake
Shore” that reminds me of label-mates The Mendoza Line, musically, as soaring piano
and guitar interlace gracefully throughout. I suspect the subject is referring
to mine acids poisoning water holes, and the story narrator wishing they could
flee forever.

 

“Summer and Her Ferris Wheel” is
a jumping, jiggy-reel, overlaid in part with juicy harmonica and Farfisa organ,
adding touches of garage-rock to a traditional folk-like melody.

 

“Ruthie” is another outstanding
Americana-flavored number with a lovely, winsome melody that embeds itself in
your brain. It’s a beautiful blending of banjo, fiddle and piano, as hope seems
to be right around the corner. The album ends in a pure bluegrass breakdown, “Sourwood Mountain,” which I wouldn’t be surprised
to hear pop up in an episode of Justified next season. Eschew being too
distracted by the fact that it’s a ‘theme’ album or that it has bluegrass and
gospel leanings. The alchemy really works, an indie-rock/down-home music and
instruments fusion. That’s what makes Southeast Engine such an engaging band,
crafting inspired music such as this, and a lyrical insight as to sweep you up
and along with their stories.

 

        DOWNLOAD: “1933
(Great Depression)”  “Ruthie,” “Summer
and Her Ferris Wheel.” BARRY ST.
VITUS

 

She Wants Revenge – Valleyheart

January 01, 1970

(Five
Seven Music)

 

http://www.myspace.com/fivesevenfivemusic

 

She
Wants Revenge made a splash with its 2006 self-titled debut, which featured the
alt smash “Tear You Apart”. Now the band has released its third effort Valleyheart where it’s paying tribute to
its valley roots.

 

While
the San Fernando Valley is known to many as the porn capital of the world, as
well as for ‘80s jokes about malls and valley girls, it’s that combination of
seediness and ’80s nostalgia that makes up the band She Wants Revenge.

 

On
Valleyheart, the band’s sound is not
so ‘80s-mired, although its signature sound is definitely still intact. The
brainchild of duo Justin Warfield and Adam Bravin, artists and DJs in their own
right, this record is not quite as dark and synth-heavy as previous efforts.
Instead, Valleyheart finds the band a
little more laid back, yet still delivering pop gems one after the other. The
release starts off strong with solid track after solid track, from the gothic
“Take the World” to the danceable “Kiss Me”. The fifth track, “Not Just A Girl,”
is the disc’s standout and should be a radio favorite.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Not Just A
Girl,” “Take the World” JOSE MARTINEZ

Jookabox – Eyes of the Fly

January 01, 1970

(Asthmatic
Kitty)

 

www.asthmatickitty.com

 

The
eyes of the fly are made of multiple subcompartments, each sensitive to a
different spectrum of light. The information received through these
multiplicitous organs is undoubtedly complex, intricate and utterly different
from our own bi-optical view of the world…and so, too, is Jookabox’s fourth and
final album Eyes of the Fly.

 

Jookabox
is the nom de mic for David “Moose” Adamson, a Hoosier by birth and current
living arrangement, which only goes to show that the strangest stuff can come
from the most tightly buttoned-down environments. Indiana was still stuck in an
endless loop of Whitesnake and Styx on <em>my</em> last visit home,
so it’s hard to say how Adamson came up with his weird hybrid of outsider folk,
rough-neck blues, performance art and hip hop. Still, let’s give him a big hand
for a fascinating, highly caffeinated and individualist art form – in line with
bands like Man Man for instantly accessible, body-moving oddity.  

 

Eyes of the Fly has
unstoppable momentum through the first three tracks, from pounding,
tone-stretching, chant-and-pummel juggernaut of “Man-Tra,” through the
break-beat and TVOTR-esque soul trills of “Drops,” to the album-topping title
track, half slink, half punk pogo. All these tracks make use of the loops and
electronic manipulations of mainstream hip hop, yet all are eccentric and
home-made and tinged with the one-man band exuberance of acts like Bob Log III.
(Jookabox started as a more or less one-man project, but has since expanded to
include Ostry Okerson, Benny Sanders, Lisa Berlin.)

 

There’s a bit of a fade in the
second half, though “F.F.” has its Kingston-via-Anti-Folk-night moments, and
free-form, echo-y “Cold Solution” sounds like a slanted, half-dreamed dub
version of something from another album.

 

This is apparently the last Jookabox
album, with no real word on what Adamson plans to do afterwards. Better catch Eyes of the Fly, then, definitely one of
a kind and well-worth a listen. It’s a glimpse of a strange, alien viewpoint,
all the more remarkable for coming from white bread Middle
America.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Eyes of the Fly” “Drops” JENNIFER KELLY