Jackie-O Motherfucker - The magick fire music / Wow! [ATP Recordings - 2003]Until quite recently, JOMF were known only of a little group of connoisseurs but since they were chosen as cover stars by The Wire last year, it has become very difficult to avoid them.
It’s seems that JOMF just can’t stop releasing albums: a new full-length last year, a live CD a couple of months ago, and now the CD re-issue of The magick fire music and Wow!. Both albums were originally released on vinyl only by Fisheye and Ecstatic Peace, two labels run by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore. Change, their latest album didn’t really impress me and what I heard from people who saw them live was really bad so I was really surprised when I listened to this double-CD re-issue: it is excellent…
JOMF was formed in 1994 in Portland, Oregon. First a duo, the line-up expanded along the years (12 musicians on Magick…) but Tom Greenwood and Jef Brown are the core members.
One of the trademarks of the collective is that they mix a lot of different musical genres. Often compared to post-rock bands such as Godspeed you! Black emperor, they have more to do with jazz, folk, psychedelia and all sorts of experimental music.
Things start off very quietly, very gradually, a bit of field recordings, some sparse guitars that will later develop into a very fragile melody and random drumming. Very simple elements for a 15 minutes piece that turns out to be extremely powerful, very emotional. Bone saw continues in the quiet way, but more “musical” (I mean more traditional), really nice stuff that gets a little more fucked up towards the end. The cage is an almost muted drum-machine, a guitar far away in the background and another guitar playing the central melody, sounding very desert rock. A very relaxing track, thought inducing. 2nd avenue, 2 am is still firmly grounded in the desert with Ennio Morricone and a ‘60’s jazz saxophonist as special guests, stopping by and having a whisky while the marshall is trying to make sure that everyone respect Law and Order. Very moody. Jugaband 2000 is a nice little thing with some strange sound effects. Almost a lullaby. Quaker brings us into a field somewhere in the south of of the USA, a family busy harvesting corn, the two younger sons playing on their Jew’s harp. Lost stone is more of a psychedelic thing, with very present keyboards. One of the least interesting tracks on the whole double CD.
The second CD begins with the last track of Magick…, Black Squirrels. This tune marks the returns to a more traditional structure, with drums, guitars, bass playing what “normal” rock bands are expected to play although sounds of all sorts are used. Soon enough though, things get more violent, more psychedelic, with loads of guitar feedback and drum pummelling. Magnificent song… Then comes the first track of the Wow! album. It’s more experimental, with percussions sounds, electronics, violin, drums, guitar to be heard one after the other at first before some of them actually “meet” and start mixing with each other, forming some obsessive themes. The second (and last) Wow! track is Love Horn, starting very quietly once more, with some sparse sounds here and there. This track makes for a great moment of reflexion, although some sad people will say that they can’t find enough music in it. They should just be happy to go and listen to the latest (crap) Mogwai album.
Wow! Is more experimental than Magick… and I don’t know if it really made sense to release these two albums together. All I know is that this double CD set features some really stunning work. I hope JOMF have some more quality stuff to offer soon…François Monti