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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Joy Mega - Forever is Something Inside You (New Atlantis CD, 2012) ****½

By Monique Avakian

Joy, MEGA! That’s what you get when you cross New York with Chicago by way of teleportation, apparently. Often described as indescribable, this is a band bent on building bridges.

How is it possible to be so WAY OUT yet draw people in so readily? As with any true kind of magic, the answer reveals in a set of three: the bass/drum ostinato grooves, the philosophical integrity of the band’s process, and the authentic use of voice.

1) Ostinato Anchors

While several pieces are of the tone-poemy-sound-collage type, and very well executed, it’s the ostinato grooves, and the function they serve, that stand out to me. “No Shout” and “Little Rain/Big Story” deliver with a clock-tock bone-soul vajra-fist of devotion. This is rather refreshing. We also get some Latin-Funk (“Tomar Sol”) and Swing Jazz (“Leaves Rainbow”) – solid rhythms scaffolded around the unpredictable middle of improvised sound sculpture. This is great! You can walk right into all the challenge areas with no fear whatsoever.

As for the bass alone, for much of the album, Ajemian keeps it straight and to the point, as if ferrying the entire world into the Joy Mega Universe. “I’m in Love With a Navajo Boy” is the best example: funky, solid, and jamming. I could see this tune easily extending past the 30 minute mark live, with crowds of thriving bodies dancing their way into the Joy Mega Dimension of Love. This tune is practically it’s own Woodstock….

2) The Creative Process

For Joy Mega, the philosophical integrity of process is rooted in the concepts of shared clarity and hyper-individualism. Through scores that literally read as shapes (pieces of art in and of themselves), we get to hear everyone be themselves. We are offered a lot of warm and nicely phrased melodic lines from Matt Bauder on sax. Chad Taylor on drums provides all the necessary ingredients to keep everyone connected. Jessica Pavone (violin) shines through with characteristic depth at key moments. As for Mary Halvorson on guitar, in addition to shredding some meaty glissando slides and infusing the Joy Mega Mother Ship with her signature waves and bends, she gets to play it somewhat straight up at certain moments – this alone is unique and unexpected. The result is a unified sound characterized by true freedom. (For more on Ajemian’s philosophy, check out )

3) The Voice

Ajemian follows in the tradition of Gil Scott-Heron, Nina Simone, Laurie Anderson, Bob Dylan, Amiri Baraka, Patti Smith, David Byrne, Gregory Corso, and Yoko Ono. As with those who’ve come before, he evolves his voice from the center of his own frame of reference. The psychedelic feeling and synthesized tonal shifts, mixed with more conventional song constructs, result in assured consistency and a gentle ease. (“100 Rainy Days,” “Slow Bird,” “Pleasure Fountains” and “Big Sky 5.”) Frankly, I feel like Ajemian is invoking the spirit of John Lennon in such an authentic manner that Lennon would be pleased. Who am I to make such a claim? Simply: a human with a heart.

This band has a whole lotta heart,
and we are
in need


Anonymous said...

joesh said...

Hi Monique

I have to say I'm still not convinced by this group. I'm sure many people may find their music interesting, but it basically reminds me of Animal Collective, and I wouldn't be surprised if they've listened plenty to that group.

A couple of the things that I find not so good are:

a) the whinny vocals
b) the unnecessary re-verb all the way through
c) I don't find the tunes that strong.

As you say everyone plays great, and is clearly having a good time and I guess that's what it's all about. As for the rest, I imagine that's down to the individual listener to decide.

I should maybe add that I'm not a fan of Animal Collective either, which may explain my disappointment over this album.

Martin Schray said...

The aspect that they sound like Animal Collective is interesting, Joe, but unlike you I really like them. Joy Mega rather reminded me of old SST band of the 1980s and 90s like Saccharine Trust, Universal Congress Of, Slovenly or Zoogz Rift. But I agree as to the vocals and the tunes. The reverb needs getting used to but I find it interesting.

joesh said...

Hi Martin

What was the SST band, sounds/looks interesting. The other bands I'll definitely look out, nice tip.

As for the reverb you're right. but for me I find it obscures much of the details - maybe intended. It can quickly be over used and become tiresome ... unless you're The Beach Boys who understood reverb as did Phil Spector. But that's another story.

Martin Schray said...

Sorry Joe, that was a typo, I actually wanted to write SST bands. SST is a legendary label mainly known for punk and hardcore but also for a lot of experimental stuff. Bands like Black Flag, Hüsker Dü, The Minutemen, Dinosuar jr. and Sonic Youth released their first recordings there. Here is their discography:
Not everybody's cup of tea, though. Maybe start with Universal Congress Of's This is Mecolodics.
Zoogz Rift has always reminded me of Frank Zappa, Slovenly are very intelligent alternative rock/folk and Saccharine Trust come close to Joy Mega, I would say. SST also has great records by Henry Kaiser and Elliott Sharp, by the way.

joesh said...

Sounds great, I'll look into that. Of course Black Flag, Hüsker Dü, The Minutemen and Sonic Youth I know, even if not so well.

Thanks for the tip.

Paolo said...

Hüsker Dü have been real giants! How much of the music I actually like comes from their "reoccurring dreams" for example?
But come on guys! you already know that there is only one "effect" in music as in life that can be used all the way through without bothering...and that's not the reverb! It's the delay!
Seriously, about Joy Mega. They're surely interesting, considering also the great musicians involved in the project. Actually I prefer them in more "traditional" episodes as "I'm in love with a Navajo boy" and not when they go for this hypnagogic surf style a la Joe Meek.