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Album Review: Brant Bjork – Jacoozi

When you’re as prolific as somebody like multi-instrumentalist Brant Bjork, it’s only inevitable for the occasional project to fall to the wayside. Jacoozi, the desert rocker’s thirteenth album, is a new album that isn’t exactly new. It largely consists of improvisational jams that were recorded in 2010 and left on the shelf for nine years. This casual approach makes for a casual listen with all the implications that entails.

Those familiar with the desert jazz of Bjork’s 1999 solo debut Jalamanta will know what to expect here. The drums lead the way, providing foundations that hit hard but serve up more accented grooves than driving beatdowns. From there, the bass builds on them with steady progressions that are complemented by alternating guitar and keyboard flourishes. There’s a great deal of Latin, blues, and funk elements in the playing and I get a Jimi Hendrix meets The Doors vibe overall.

As expected with this jammed out method, the pieces are mostly based on hashing out a particular chord progression and tempo with minor fluctuations. The guitar/keyboard interplay is fun (Bjork sure has great chemistry with himself, amirite?), and the rhythm section stays busy while preserving the laid-back atmosphere. It’s not about creating memorable melodies so much as preserving that chilled out vibe, and it certainly succeeds in that regard.

That said, there are times where I do wish the material was more engaging and adventurous. This is more noticeable in the opening one-two punch of “Can’t Out Run the Sun” and “Guerilla Funk” where tempos drag at seven minutes and you find yourself longing for a dynamic change or chord shift that never comes. Fortunately, the shorter pieces are much easier to digest; the more upbeat pacing on “Oui” and “lost in Race” are particularly enjoyable and “Polarized” stands out for its piano contrasting some fuzzed out guitar. The closing “Do You Love the World?” also makes for a smooth reprieve due to its acoustic instrumentation and sole appearance of vocals.

Overall, Jacoozi could hardly be considered false advertising; a jam album was promised, and a jam album was given. The setup is inherently an acquired taste, but everything is smooth and well played. The atmosphere is on point enough to make you feel like you’re right there watching it come together, but the compositions don’t quite reach beyond background music. It ultimately comes down to what a listener wants out of it and it’s a good album for lazy summer days. I’d stick to Tao of the Devil if you want to see Brant Bjork at his best.

Highlights:
“Oui”
“Lost in Race”
“Polarized”
“Do You Love the World?”

Editor Grade

B-

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