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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Jazkamer - We Want Epic Drama [Picadisc - 2010]

Maintained and directed by core members Lasse Marhaug and John Hegre, longrunning harsh noise and avant jam rock supergroup Jazkamer has surged into 2010 with a slew of releases, including this full length, "We Want Epic Drama", which sounds something like a violent hurricane caught on tape.  This album features a line up of a whopping six members (noise makers), making for a frenzy that is curiously constant and unstructured.  One gets the sense that all the musicians, whether they are laying into a drumset as fast and heavy as humanly possibly or creating chaotic, metallic feedback textures with a guitar, are reaching for the same heavenly roar, but there is no distinguishable pattern or rhythm to the sounds.  The mammoth sonic presence they have achieved is formidable to say the least, but I don't know if 'epic drama' is the best term for it - I would not attempt to describe this recording in terms of the emotionality or sentimentality often found in
conventional music.

The feel of the recording is rather that of a ritualistic, cleansing burst of force.  The playing possesses a rare and infectious enthusiasm that reflects genuine belief in the worth of the simple act of creating sound.  As a result, "We Want Epic Drama" has an odd zen too often missing from mindlessly brutal and pessimistic noise records.  This attitude is also reflected in the album art, which features a birdlike humanoid emitting a widening stream of crystalline energy from its forehead.  Classic noisicians like Merzbow certainly knew the joy of creating unbelievable cacophony.  Jazkamer proves to me that it's time that quality returned to noise music, being that it's one of the things that attracted me to the genre in the first place.

Perhaps the best thing about the album is the way it starts.  Upon pushing play the listener is greeting with a barrage of ferocious and beautifully recorded high speed drumming.  For what feels like the first time since John Zorn's PainKiller project in the 90's, we are able to experience the thunderous true sonic potential of the drum set as played by someone with no restraints or inhibitions.  With two drummers improvising at once, the emphasis is taken off the rhythms generated by the instruments and placed on the timbres of the drums themselves.  Nils Are Dronen and Iver Sandoy, the two drummers features here, manage to give this noise set the organic immediacy and specificity of activity often found in free jazz, while matching their performances perfectly to the epileptic non-rhythms of the guitar playing.  They are mostly responsible for making this album more than just another harsh noise release.

After 10 minutes or so of the track, all the timbres have blended into a monstrous distorted whole: a thick, powerful rope of sound.  The foreground of the noise is constant and wall-esque, but in the background stuttering feedback shifts restlessly.  The original clean instrumental tones have been completely drowned out by the din, though the drums are audible enough for one to be able to tell that they never once let up.  At this point, it's pretty easy to forget any kind of band is playing, and the experience of the record isn't so far removed from the established sounds of harsh noise (which these individuals, particularly Lasse Marhaug, admittedly helped to establish), and so becomes somewhat easier to tune out or dismiss.  The band certainly keeps up the intensity, and it's quite texturally pleasing and enveloping, but it ceases to feel like it's 'going' anywhere in particular.  There are no more significant transitions of any kind for the
 remainder of the half hour duration.

The second track sounds like an alternate take of the first, in fact the less attentive listener may have a hard time telling them apart at all.  It's as if Jazkamer felt they could tackle the concept of the first track with greater intensity and finesse, and had another go at it.  The structure of the two songs is identical, though there's an extra 10 minutes of harsh noise at the end of the second (for a running time of 42:58).  The first few minutes are again composed of heavy and fast improvised drumming, and again, harsher textures gradually enter until they drown out all else.  Due to the improvised nature of the music, the reuse of this formula doesn't make this album as totally repetitive as it could have been.  There's more space here than in the first time through, and we're treated to a couple moments of true silence (!) and some very pleasing droning sections in which the drums drop out and actually allow the rest of the band drift away from the anxious overload of the beginning.  The initial entrance of the snarling guitar in the second track is also significantly more sudden and vicious.  I still feel the overall scope of the album is limited, and that listening to the record in its entirety is utterly exhausting - over 70 minutes of noise!  I've heard some other Jazkammer recordings before that were quite different from these, so I know they're capable of diversity, and wish they'd have introduced some here.  The record finishes with a piercing high frequency guitar amp tone, periodically broken by shuddering interferences and muddy distorted washes from another guitar.  It's a moment unique to the 2nd track; the first cuts off abruptly, in usual noise fashion.

After consideration, I find that the shortcomings of "We Want Epic Drama" mentioned above only slightly detract from the visceral listening experience of it.  Yes, I usually find myself listening to either one track or the other, leading me to believe that perhaps they should only have included either one or the other on the record, but these are talented and passionate noise makers with marvellous instinct and intuition behind everything they do.  Anyone with an interest in noise music would do well to check this out, just realize you may have to digest it in chunks

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Josh Landry
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