Tapping into a rich vein of Americana and spicing it with dronerock and psychedelia,...
Peter Marsh 2002-11-20
In the last couple of years, the Oregon based J.O.M. have established themselves as one of those names to drop (though obviously not in front of your mum), with plaudits heaped upon their shoulders from all directions. The duo of Tom Greenwood and Nestor Bucket (along with sundry other instrumentalists) have tapped into a rich vein of alternative American musical tradition since their inception in 1994; from the shambolic refusenik skiffle of the Godz or the Holy Modal Rounders through to the Velvet Underground, they strip down Americana to the bare bones of a single chord, topped off with a hazy psychedelia; Drone on the Range, perhaps.
J.O.M's approach isn't a million miles away from that of Godspeed You Black Emperor; there's a similar air of timelessness abroad in their music, though they sound pretty different. Where GYBE infuse their amped up minimalist skullcrunch with anti-capitalist paranoia, J.O.M. opt for an opiate lo-fi melancholy; the sound of wide open spaces and clear blue skies, interrupted by the occasional passing truck. The opening "Everyday" sounds like Neil Young circa 'On The Beach' jamming with the Velvet Underground on a back porch, its meandering bottleneck guitar, harmonica and shimmering viola harmonics shot through with a beautifully aimless quality. Elsewhere wobbly tape effects and meandering electric guitar runs recall the spacerock mantras of Ashra Tempel, while the delicious "Sun Ray Harvester" drops gentle vibes figure into its blurrydrift for ten minutes of loveliness.
"777(Tombstone Massive)" is a kind of mini suite; extended instrumental episodes (mainly featuring a blurry tenor saxophone gently worrying away to itself) are joined by abrupt tape splices, switching from almost krautrockian grooves to soft, incantory swells that wouldn't sound out of place on one of Pharoah Sanders' Impulse records.
But this isn't a postmodern stylistic grab bag tailor made for the post rock kids; J.O.M's music sounds unforced, natural and somehow removed from all of these influences. It's faintly maverick stuff that stands or falls on its own terms. Sometimes it does fall, but like the Grateful Dead, that's part of its (American) beauty. J.O.M aren't really improvisers and they're not really songwriters either, but like the Dead, Harry Partch or Captain Beefheart, they've created a quintessentially American take on its own musical tradition. While GYBE rail against the threat of apocalypse, J.O.M are jamming on their back porch and looking at the stars.
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