From Bellingham, Washington comes the experimental art rock project titled Jostaberry with their second album Hello Turbine, which they describe as “an eclectic collection of unconventional tracks that jump between and fuse genres.” Regarding the songs, the band says: “At the heart of each track is a focus on rich harmony and catchy melodies, along with quirky and introspective lyrics.”
Jostaberry is largely a one-man band led by composer Bruce Hamilton, who somehow found time to create videos for every song all by himself (except for one). Hamilton states that this new album is a follow-up to his first release titled Greener Grass but is less lo-fi and features some new collaborators, who I will mention when they pop up. Hamilton seems like an especially creative artist and there’s a lot going on with his music: on their Bandcamp page you can download the new album for a buck (I did!), buy a CD, a tee shirt or even a vinyl pressing. As mentioned, every single song has an original video that plays directly on the Bandcamp page (no searching!), and all the lyrics are included. Mastering was by Steve Turnidge at UltraViolet Studios.
Playing the first song “Roots,” the proggy and psychedelic echoes come fast and furious: Yes, early Who, The Dukes of Stratosphere and prog rock in general. Then I played the song’s video, which added whole other levels of neural stimulation. This is the thing: I’m always amazed that certain artists can film themselves overdubbing their parts IN REAL TIME while not making a shit-ton of mistakes like I do, or fussing over every single note. Look, there’s Hamilton jamming away on drums, guitars, bass and keyboards, then singing in perfect triplicate harmony! And if that’s not enough, he also has footage of himself adding beat-perfect sound effects like utility drawers, rolling game balls and scraping beer cans. I already dug the music but visually and conceptually I’m even more blown away.
“B12 Dreams (22-edo)” follows with another amazing video. Hamilton seems to be playing a synth with glowing colored cubes for keys that belongs on the deck of the starship Enterprise. It’s a slower, shuffling track with lots of thick percussion (some of which is credited to Karl Olson). The music is here is a bit more opaque with heavy, syrupy synth patches and processed vocals. Brendan Byrnes pops up onscreen for a pedal-heavy fuzz lead solo.
In “Living With It” Hamilton’s vocals reminded me of Godley-Creme, the progressive offshoot of 10cc. This one has more of an acoustic piano feel, but with the melodies again moving up and down and sideways with a mind of their own. In the video I can see that Hamilton added some primitive vinyl “scratching” to his repertoire (though really he just spins the record) and also records some incredibly funky (as in offbeat) guitar overdubs. I was at least glad to see he had to do a separate pass on high hat, as his dexterity for single takes was starting to drive me crazy!
“Connecting” opens in a similar opaque style as “B12 Dreams” and this time features guest guitar soloist Mark Hamilton. The video begins with clever floor-level shots of cars roaming around the house. This track is interesting in that it alternates between dissonant foreboding and joyous Yes-like celebration.
“The New Savanna” has some amazing chunky guitar riffs with vocals that sound like The Beach Boys through a black hole. This video is the most creative and bizarre yet, and is less dependent on showing Hamilton actually recording these parts in real time (though there’s that, too). Hands down my favorite track so far, as it’s a triple-level layer cake of stylish invention and illogically twisted melodies, while still managing to Rock extremely hard. Mic drop! Oh wait, there’s still three more…
“Tree Line” starts out with piano and vocal and actually suggests Brian Wilson for real, especially in his psychedelic barber shop phase. I found this video the most fascinating yet, as Hamilton provides lyrics, chords AND musical notation to follow along with. Seeing and hearing music at the same time always increases my enjoyment. There’s a sly lyrical nod to Laurie Anderson as well. “Planet” brings back the electronic keyboards for that proggy ELP-YES vibe, with more of Hamilton’s triple overdubbed vocals and chunky processed guitars. This one has a manic pop energy that could place it among the 12” dance hits of the ’80s.
Both the track and video for the concluding “6 or 7 Miles After” starts out quite abstract, with lots of drums and flashing lights. This time around Hamilton’s voice and melodies put me in mind of Van Dyke Parks, before kicking into an almost rock-like chorus. The keyboards perform an immersive and jumpy dance with each other that’s thrilling to witness. For his final track, Hamilton really does seem to be taking a curtain call with all his best elements proudly on display.
This project was quite an inspiring and invigorating package, and I DO mean package: the goodies you’ll find inside never seem to quit. Highly recommended!
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