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JOAN OF ARC – Oh Brother (Joyful Noise)

Posted: February 12th, 2011, by Pascal Ansell

Even if all that was caught on tape was an indiscreet sample of midday farting, I’d leap at the chance to review anything that shaggy rhythm monkey / god Zach Hill would wave his sticks at. Thankfully Oh Brother catches more than a mere guff of his rhythmic arse cheeks. Zach is just one of the many collaborators on what seems to be an Almost Joan of Arc release, JOA being kings of complicated floppy-haired indie rock.

If this is “indie-rock for the initiated” as Mr Press Release would have it, where are we going with new music? Free improv and electronic meanderings are making their steady invasion, I can only hope, into the cardigan armpits of guitar-slingers.

Oh Brother is four movements of roughly 20 mins each – movements, of what? Drones, Sonic Youthish plod plod plodding + jangling guitar, metronomic kraut rock, and mashes of unloosed improv, seething arrows pointing at all angles. Although well edited, this is in effect a series of long jams which are interrupted, cut clean and diced between fairly interesting interludes of electronic spasms and ad-lib drumkit drooling. One thought popping up a bit too regularly is that the ideas aren’t worth the space they’re given. Too much assorted veg, begging for more meat.

More to be said about the editing, above all the album’s deftest of fingernails polishings. Clever segues are brought on by synthy blips, an acoustic guitar section opens the window for fresh direction, brightly signalling yet another segue, that of the third movement’s sheet of crash symbols and rippling feedback. Yet I’m enjoying the ideas more than their execution. Is there any real, exciting development of concept? Most of it feels like the culminations of bygone jams.

And Zach? He has some moments: classic skipping beat that twists i’ ‘nan ‘dout of conventional rhythm at the cock crow of movement #4, then there’s some appetising all-out, ruthless free gorging of the kit scattered around the entire LP. The excessive is contained, that is I suppose the aim, but there was much lacking from the excess in the first place.

Chopped up and blended into lumps of obsessions, it’s partly lacking cohesion, more bedroom fantasy than triumphant chronicle of vision. It works; just, kind of, not really, but is fun all the same.


Pascal Ansell

Pascal Ansell

Pascal is a fearsome, hungry giant trapped in the body of a hyperactive boy. On a mission to waste no more than 14 seconds per day, he bounds from activity to activity like a deer being chased by a cheetah. Follow him now, as in ten year's time he'll be a leading voice in something or other. He's also writing down every word you say in a small book so watch out!


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