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Jazkamer - Balls the Size of Texas, Liver the Size of Brazil

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Artist: Jazkamer

Album: Balls the Size of Texas, Liver the Size of Brazil

Label: Purplesoil

Review date: May. 9, 2007

Jazkamer deals in the extremes you think you know, as opposed to the ones you hopefully don’t (natural disaster, personal tragedy, mass murder, etc.). It’s a relatively safe zone in which to play – ostensibly the “real men” of layered avant-drone, Boyd Rice excluded. Lasse Marhaug and Jon Hegre don’t take things that far out, in the classical sense, but it seems like they’re willing to let you help them fit into the required harnesses and restraints. XY personified, Jazkamer’s last record Metal Music Machine was a strong, welting response to drone’s slumming slide into black metal, supported by members of Enslaved, and apparently enough to put Marhaug and friend in with Sunn 0))) (they collaborate with one another in the live setting). The approach on Balls is a more diverse selection, with all the imagery and boastfulness its album and song titles may indicate, but also a disjointedness with the filler used to extend the effort past any reasonable length.

Maybe it does take titular, swollen gonads and a filtering organ to kick off a record with seven minutes of unedited, wheezing medical instruction vinyl and sandy run-out groove, appropriately titled “God Damn This Ugly Sound.” But what are the ends of such a drab, effortless decision? Possibly the creation of space, which acts as a buffer between Balls’ more legitimate moments. But again, why? What does the rasp of a poorly-cut locked groove have to do with intense electric guitar dronescrapes, other than to make them stand at attention? Don’t guys like this have better ways to fill a record?

Regardless, it’s a stinging insult to an otherwise strong, if not groundbreaking set. When it works, Jazkamer floors the affair with an authority beyond time and effort. “Blues for Sterling Hayden,” the first original piece on Balls, is the album’s high water mark, a sorrowful torrent of rising volume and uneasy feedback that grows to rip through the canvas, much like the sainted actor of its namesake blustered and crashed into the surf in Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye.” It’s a horrifying way to spend 12 minutes, a cluster of white-knuckled chords stretched to breaking that simulates jet engine failure, a sudden drop, and the vulnerabilities within us all … and yet, like that type of incident, you can’t tune out. Cheaper thrills are found in “Not Half Bad to the Bone,” the duo’s paean to the noise that’s No Fun, all recordings of shouting, drum abuse and signal-pinning power moves clustered together in a way that its construction can be heard, right down to its broken anti-climax. Simple beauty forms out of the graceful arcs of the title track and the peaceful, whale-like ballad “Tentacles of Broken Teeth,” moving with the clearly defined strokes of one with the water’s current.

The degree of difficulty here is as high as you’d like it to go, but surprisingly, never higher. Tonally abrupt without its pauses, a good 12 minutes of the album’s runtime are wasted on navelgazing; there’s power here, but only when the performers allow it. Drone ensembles fall prey to how much they’re willing to control; you often hear clean examples (Stars of the Lid, Rameses III) as well as dirty (the Dead C.) that are both successful on their own terms, but rarely do outfits who attempt both in a single statement achieve that success. The tones and textures alone cannot bear the weight of creation imposed by their makers without the presence of some connective tissues, and the links here don’t make the cut. Teased with the possibility of offering us a longer glimpse at “true sound,” Jazkamer jerks hope out from under us and mulls over other options, all of which they are capable of, though none of which last long enough to satisfy. Enabled but not quite able enough, perhaps they should see if there’s any of those “Not as good as Atomizer” stickers still laying around – but don’t get your hopes up, cheese.

By Doug Mosurock

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