Jazkamer: Chestnut Thornback Tar

Pica018. CD. Released May 2010. Audio sample.

The May edition of Jazkamer's 2010 monthly CD-series.


Jazkamer, "Chestnut Thornback Tar"
As most know, Jazkamer has set out to release an album a month for the duration of 2010, which, as of this writing, has successfully made it to its midpoint. This album, which is actually May’s installment, doesn’t have any specific unifying theme, such as the acoustic approach of Self-Portrait or the metal stylings of We Want Epic Drama. Instead, it is a "regular" Jazkamer record that stands with any in their discography, mixing harsh noise, drone, and rock in the way that only Lasse Marhaug and John Hegre can.

Assisted by Jazkamer associates Nils Are Drønen and Jean-Philippe Gross, there isn't any specific concept going on, but that is irrelevant. The album begins and ends with two massive tracks, with a slew of short little sketches in between. Opener "Sentimental Journey" sounds like anything but, with its slow, menacing synth pulse that occasionally surges in volume, pushing it into harsher territory, but never getting there. It's a slow build that never gets too harsh but evolves from dronescapes to metal into noise.

"Lament for Klaus Kinski" leads in with what sounds like a looped grinding bass guitar, which becomes the skeleton that the track builds upon. Throwing together junk metal percussion and various processed and filtered sounds, it definitely has a feel similar to Marhaug's solo noise works, but the slightly sparser mix and rhythmic backbone keep it in pure Jazkamer territory. "Life as a Secret Agent is Over" also goes for the harsh stuff, putting painful high end noises and buzzing oscillators atop erratic rhythms, the whole track structurally going for a more cut-and-paste collage style. Between that and the analog textures, it totally feels like the mid '90s noise scene, which is a very good thing.

"Burp Boogie, Burp Boogie" is as absurd as it sounds: less than a minute of looped vocalisms with stringed instrument noodling that makes for a bit of levity at the album's midpoint. Follower "In The Days of the Burning Guitar" throws together percussion blasts and white noise waves in a way that resembles a drumkit being pushed down a steep hillside, with a still-functioning analog synth not far behind. The occasional rhythmic drive of "It is the Nobel Prize I want, It's worth $400,000" isn't far removed from the European school of power electronics, but with the unnecessary provocative imagery and vocals stripped away.

Leading up to the album's close, "We Need a Painting, Not a Frame" utilizes more of the erratic, crashing percussion with squelchy static and feedback to create an exhausting pastiche of pummeling sound. The lengthy closer, "Yellow Mountain Fur Peak," goes a dramatically different direction than the other long piece went when it comes to composition. While the opener was all about tense, cautious restraint, this is pure maximalism at its finest: a hollow ambience enshrouds sharp, clipping static and distant cymbals as painfully high frequency oscillators and heavily effected percussion thuds away. The outbursts of static with the stop and start drum freakouts gives the 13-plus minute duration a prog-rock vibe somehow, with the complexity and inherent drama in the track.

While the "new album a month" concept isn't new (Merzbow and Aube did it, but as prolific as they are in general, it's a different story), Jazkamer is using the method to not only try out new things, but also to continue to refine their own sound that clashes noise and drone sounds with a heavy metal sensibility. Luckily, it's not a gimmick, just a good way to spread their work out more. (Creaig Dunton, Brainwashed)



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