Posts Tagged ‘JAB’

Poole Music

AB – Experimental musician John Also Bennett – may be absolutely nothing to do with COVID vaccines, although there is something of a pandemic element to his new album, which, as the accompanying notes explain, ‘emerged from a bicoastal pandemic road trip through the badlands of South Dakota’ before ‘relocating with his wife (Kranky composer Christina Vantzou) to the cliffside village of Livaniana on the island of Crete, [where] Bennett discovered a method of translating his minimalist lap steel phrases into live MIDI information, which he then used to trigger different waveforms to extend the resonance of the instrument. This multi-layered generative process resulted in a collection as vast and bewildering as the terrain that inspired it: Out there in the middle of nowhere.

It’s quite a backstory for quite an album. The first piece, ‘Nowhere’ is a fifteen-minute epic that’s ultra-sparse and also immensely evocative of… nowhere. It’s the sound of a lost, lonely desert twang: notes bend and hang in the overheated, dusty air. Anyone who’s seen that cover art to The Eagles Greatest Hits – and we’ve all seen that – will know what I mean when I say this sounds like the music that cover really should house. That hot, red sun, the eternal road, straight stretching toward a bewildering horizon, desert on either side… It’s not about tequila sunrises and living life in the fast lane. It’s an image of desolation, of isolation, or being lost and alone. ‘Nowhere’ is the soundtrack to that. A minimal twang that reverberates across the dunes says that in time, without water, without sustenance, you could die out here. You are lost. So lost. And not just geographically. Chords land, in time, but they’re still the sound of desolation, of isolation, and they exist out of time and out of space.

The album contains four tracks (or five if you have the digital-only bonus of the instrumental version of ‘Badlands’), three of which extend beyond the twelve-minute mark, alternated with briefer compositions, with the four-minute ‘Spectral Valley’ and seven-minute ‘Embrosnerós’ are both ambience embodies, and serve as interludes to the big pieces on here.

‘Badlands’ is a beast, but also a work where very little occurs. Notes hover like spectral shadows, ghostly glyphs riding above the solid realm while feet trudge through gravel. There’s something steadily mundane that contrasts with the immensely spatial single-note reverberations. And it’s extremely appropriate. This is not an album of action or movement.

JAB is clearly focused on atmosphere here, and less is very much more. It’s haunting, and leaves you wondering, feeling as though you’re wandering a deserted graveyard, wondering… wondering.

It’s an album that explores both time and space and leaves you wondering if you have either.




JAB. Photo: Christina Vantzou