by Joshua Gross
Why shouldn’t you call them jambands? I’ll tell you why. That one measly, two-syllable word is enough to reduce an ensemble of musicians, a lifetime of ambition and talent, miles of roads and buckets of sweat, to nothing, dust, a scowl of disgust. It is a magic word, a spice so piquant that a pinch of it is enough to pollute an entire meal. So don’t call them jambands. Besides, the jamband label ignores the nearly hundreds of musical styles that the scene encompasses. This compilation disc is meant to be an invitation, meant to be handed to those people who make puking sounds when they hear that terrible word. Now they may better understand what it is that uproots thousands of people a year so that they may lose themselves in sonic scribbling. “Here,” it pleads, “give us a chance.”
All of the 12 bands profiled on Jams Vol. 1 have something going for them. Whether it’s being from California, having played with Carl Denson or having a kickin’ horn section, each track is an intoxicating exploration of one of the many divergent paths of the jamband scene. The opening and easily the most danceable track on the disc is Particle’s “Kneeknocker.” The band calls its sound “space porn,” and that is about as good a description as you’re going to get; high-frequency synth screams undulate over a too-funky-for-life guitar riff. You can almost see the insect eyes, the tentacles, the bulbous heads, all bumpin’ and grindin’ hot and sweaty. Some groups incorporate sounds that one would not ordinarily associate with a jamband, like the vibraphone on Giant People’s “What the Funk?” and the Middle Eastern flavoring of Beanstalk’s “Evil Cathedral.” Most detractors complain about jambands being too spacey. It is a reasonable complaint, and while some jambands will let you tumble headlong into the abyss, The Waz’s “Freshouttabedlook,” keeps you in its orbit by alluding to and then plunging into James Brown’s “Sex Machine.” Boston’s Addison Groove Project provides the album’s most all-out, booty-shaking, not-a-care-in-the-world track, “Beat Me ’Til I’m Blue.” That’s what this music is, fun in the face of everything, indefinable and ever-changing. And “Jam Vol. 1” is an accurate representation of the talent and diversity of the scene.
E-mail Joshua Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.