Agitated Atmosphere: Jackie Lynn, Oreo Jones, Rob Mazurek and Emmett Kelly, Charalambides

Agitated Atmosphere, Album Reviews
Justin Spicer

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound locally, regionally and globally.

Everyone likes roughshod themes. I supposed duality could be applied to this Agitated Atmosphere batch of excellent music. The extension of personality from Jackie Lynn. The comparison of two surprisingly similar scenes as explored through the latest from Oreo Jones. The simplicity and complication of collaboration with Rob Mazurek and Emmett Kelly. Two sides of the same coin with the latest vinyl reissues from experimental stalwarts Charalambides. Or, you know, you just like great music and want to hear it while reading about it. I hope it's the latter, but I'm happy to keep giving your the former.Jackie Lynn - Jackie Lynn(Thrill Jockey; LP)

The latest from Haley Fohr abandons the wrenching, guttural punch of her Circuit Des Yeux work to embrace the futuristic vividness of alter ego Jackie Lynn. Though the lyrical material is still a bit darkly--centered around the elusive Jackie Lynn and her journey from Tennessee to Chicago to ether—and Fohr’s voice is as deep and stunning as ever, the music is more free. CDY has earned a reputation, for better or worse, for a distinct brand of music. Though Fohr shook a bit of it loose with last year’s In Plain Speech as well as her work with Mind Over Mirrors, Jackie Lynn is a synthetic 180 degree pirouette. The melodies shine like the Nudie suits and Nashville paraphernalia that litters the promotional materials despite being far removed from country music aside from the sad tale of Lynn. Its first notable retreat is “Smile,” where Fohr tackles feminist thought through sexist baiting (“I’m so sick of these jocks/With their little tiny cocks/Thinking I shine my shoes/And show my pearly whites/And pray they/Will stop by”) that tackles a recent sentiment in the hyper male mentality as it concerns women (Google “Merkel-Raute” or any neo-conservative Hillary Clinton piece about image). Lynn/Fohr is clear to state her non-smile isn’t a frown, but reflects an unnamed sadness that is likely both of circumstance and of haranguing.

It’s the second half of Jackie Lynn where the album truly gets sullen and moody; the synth and electronic mesh of noise mirroring the deteriorating state of its lead character. The album does end with the CDY-sounding “Jackie,” that does just as much to cast blame on the subject as those who oppress her and her condition. But it poses more questions than answers about the elusive Jackie Lynn and the increasing reclusive Fohr.

That Fohr is focusing further on voice throughout Jackie Lynn – not just as a musical instrument but as an empowering soap box for so many that feel disregarded and underappreciated—is put on full display throughout this all-too-short visit with her newest incarnation. But that’s the best of music. Jackie Lynn leaves Franklin wanting more, just as I leave this album wanting more from Lynn and her emerging perspective.

Oreo Jones - Cash for Gold(Rad Summer/Holy Infinite Freedom Revival; LP/CS/DL)

The hip-hop hotbed that was early Aughts Seattle has slowly dissipated, whether due to the growing apathy for the pop sheen that has overshadowed more thoughtful and experimental acts or some of its best and brightest taking off for sunnier climes. That hasn’t happened to Indianapolis yet—and if Cash for Gold is any evidence—at least Oreo Jones will stick it out long after the daydream ends in Naptown. Cash for Gold is an ode to Indiana music. Though KO and Miss Mess have fled for Chicago and Philadelphia respectfully, perhaps signaling the same aforementioned exodus, their presence brings their respective Indiana-forged visions to Jones’ unique Midwestern rap. “Menagerie” features KO’s beautifully lilting voice matching the music box melody of Jones’ twisted pop fantasy. “35MM” is a bare bones R&B tune, borrowing Miss Mess’ Shame Thugs aesthetic and blending it with Jones’ talent for rich, vibrant rhythms. Yet Cash for Gold also celebrates those who have returned to Indy, such as “Wild Rice for Landon,” which name drops the Creeping Pink mastermind and current talent booker for an up and coming venue. Local mainstays and frequent Jones collaborators Sedcairn Archives and Sirius Blvck show up in some challenging pieces of work that barely feel hip-hop, if not for the lyrical flow. Cash for Gold is the Oreo Jones beacon Indiana hip-hop deserves. Couple it with Jones’ personality, which shines on his tongue-in-cheek cooking web series Let’s Do Lunch, and you can see that any concerns of Indiana talent vacating the premises is warranted, but not worth worrying about just yet, because Jones is willingly letting all that robust talent crash at his cush(y) pad.

Rob Mazurek & Emmett Kelly - Alien Flower Sutra(International Anthem; LP/CD/DL)

The immediate electric shock of Mazurek and Kelly’s Alien Flower Sutra is that like Scott Walker’s bare hands clubbing music from a slab of meat. Unlike the grotesque gutter where Walker sources his organic rhythms, Mazurek and Kelly mine the future in the present. It’s the same broken down imagination; celluloid of the mind’s eye decomposing onto itself. But AFS is a third eye, drawing inspiration from a future civilization unfettered by traditions for the mere sake of upkeep. There are melodies and a comforting voice distilled through a slight quiver of happy nervousness. But I would hate to compare Kelly and Mazurek to a well-regarded, yet obtuse former pop-now-experimental icon. However, AFS is an experimental wonderland abuzz with dynamic ideas that shift and bend with each listen. Much like Walker, what you pick out from AFS will be different every time. No idea seems to always float to the surface of the kinetic force field. Their projection of the future a bit hazy, both in sound and presentation. I grew up trying to watch TV through static and interference, so perhaps I’m just well-suited for this sort of detuned Podunk idea of find the tune in the noise rather than trying to discover the sweet spot on the dial where it sounds “right.” AFS sounds fantastic as is.

Charalambides - Glowing Raw/Strangle the Wretched Heavens(Drawing Room; LP)

Two vinyl reissues from legendary outfit Charalambides. First time on vinyl and all that infomercial flim flam that’s well worth espousing. Glowing Raw - no explanation necessary but allow my rambling to commence. It’s a stark, stripped down example of the power of Tom and Christina Carter; his striking, barren notes and her isolated, piercing lull. It’s the closet the duo ever came to Jandek and the mysterious, unnamed women that accompanied him for brief bursts. It’s a brilliant slow burner, but never reaches an orgasmic crescendo even as Christina’s voice shimmers and shimmies.

Strangle the Wretched Heavens nicely juxtaposes Glowing Raw, a mangled mess of Tom’s heavy-as-light guitar playing. It’s fuller, richer and takes center stage more often than it does throughout Glowing Raw. Where that album was a study of the sinisterly sweet voice of Christina, Strangle is Tom’s steely power. And whereas the beautiful “quiet” moments of Glowing Raw have some form of solitude, it’s nothing but tumult and turmoil throughout Strangle -- even in the brief respite of “Turning Point.”

What matters most is these albums are finally on vinyl, where the crackle and buzz of the turntable adds that extra layer dust and grime. These are well worn Charalambides classics and they still resonant in a musical landscape that, for all its progression, still hasn’t caught up.

Justin Spicer is the editor of Cerberus at Tiny Mix Tapes and contributes to global online and print publications. You can follow him and his work via Twitter.

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