Second album from Max Tundra (aka Ben Jacobs) offers a hyperspeed progressive pop...
Peter Marsh 2002-11-20
It's hard to imagine that a record company might reject a demo for 'having too many ideas', but that's just what happened to Ben Jacobs (aka Max Tundra). Luckily, he hasn't let this this corporate bombshell affect him too much, as he's come up with an album which has more ideas per minute than most of his contemporaries can manage over the course of a career.
Some of us may feel that's a bad thing, conditioned as we are to the 'less is more' approach, but don't let that faze you; Max Tundra makes information overload a deeply pleasurable experience. Mastered by Guy at the Exchange is the second Tundra album, and adds vocals to Jacobs' brew of tricky time signatures, rapid synth lines and obliquely infectious melodies.
Though Ben has his avant garde cred down pat (he once remixed a Janek Schaefer piece by cooking the vinyl and recording the results), in his Max Tunda guise he displaysa pure pop sensibility reminiscent of Todd Rundgre n at his lysergically charged best, stuffed with sweetly angular melodies, rhythmic punch and blasts of cheesiness.
Ben and sister Becky (on vocals) offer simple, unaffected tales of Food Chemistry, bands splitting up, employment history and even an homage to video maker Michel Gondry in songs which shift gears regularly, ending up in places their openings barely hint at; the mini epic "Cabasa" starts life as lopsided techno and ends up as a slice of piano driven barrelhouse boogie, while "Hilted" mutates from Commodore 64 game soundtrack to sunkissed acoustic guitar pop. These are often songs about songs; reflective, self deprecating, yet beguiling in the peculiarly English way that Robert Wyatt, Syd Barrett and Kevin Ayers all achieved.
Jacobs avoids the usual electronica cliches through relying on compositional skill rather than coasting on the back of some software. Plus if he needs a trombone he'll go out and learn to play one rather than sample it. And why not. This approach pays off, and then some. If you want background music this isn't for you; it's an album that'll irritate you, fascinate you and who knows,you may just fall in love with it.