Many words come to mind when I try to describe Jazzyspoon’s latest release You’ve Heard It All Before. And my instinct is to stay away from all the genre words. My hesitancy comes simultaneously from my dislike of the recent genre/sub genre frenzy and my desire to write something that does this album justice.
I think metaphor and analogy are safer when dealing with something like this release. From the first track “The Edenist” I was reminded of more than a few Beat-Era literary works, but most specifically the work of William Burroughs—as the album tends to play William Tell with reality, much like Burrough’s prose.
The songs are dense and detailed and as much about texture and timbre as they are about music, though they are certainly musical. In the album’s sophomore offering, “The Shallow End” we are presented with a pleasantly dark and joyfully uncomfortable mix of buzzes and bell sounds while lazy jazz percussion, led by a brush that sounds like a broken leg, pulls us through a horn solo that would feel at home between the pages of Junkie. That is until the song drops into a more intense (nightmarish, perhaps) march through hard hitting half time drums and modern midrange sounds. All along the horn sounds the noir alarm.
Somber brass becomes something like a Virgil to our Dante, making many appearances throughout the album—a beacon; sonic bread crumbs in the back ground of the beautifully dark and mad.
The description on the Bandcamp page informs readers this is “An album of older tracks that I have updated for an official release.” Whatever these updates, by the time we get to “Summerthyme” things feel undeniably coherent as the tracks tend to weave in and out of each other with deft transitions. “Summerthyme” brings us straightforward, modern electronic percussion punctuating the time as vocals, guitar and sax swirl around the song making for a sultry cocktail.
The rest of the album does not disappoint. The stoned brass and strange dubby vocals of Swunken Dragger is intoxicating . The first vocal asking, almost demanding “Is anybody listening?” which recalls the opening lines of Beowulf which implores the audience to listen or perhaps The Doors playing live with Jim Morrison screaming “Wake Up!” at the audience. Then the ever so hopeful guitar and choir in Nothing to Write Home About or the brass-become-foghorn calling the rest of the song from a glitchy sea of ambiance.
After all this I think all that needs to be said is that “You’ve Heard It All Before” is a journey worth taking that will leave listeners wanting more.