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Javelin - No Más

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Artist: Javelin

Album: No Más

Label: Luaka Bop

Review date: Apr. 7, 2010

Javelin’s sound walks through a pleasant no-mans-land, the sort of sample-happy frontier where the sweet and motivating bass evokes Culture Club’s fake Motown as much as a Motown b-side. The contemporary touch comes in the form of boyish harmonies, melodies that, given the swirl around them, are certainly post-Pavillion. More often, these are instrumentals with layers of dust, new songs that conjure the nostalgia of hearing long forgotten TV themes.

While these guys have generally cherry-picked their past source material from the five-bucks-or-less bin, for No Más, much of the music was played by George Langford and Tom Van Buskirk themselves. The duo are clever producers. The album doesn’t have the lopsided minimalism that’s typical with the collage approach. Percussion is only as crisp as the leads and fills the spectrum evenly.

Javelin’s tracing-paper technique has some advantages. Loops don’t cycle indefinitely. By removing the original audio that they’ve played over (which seems to be what they’ve done), things tighten up. They can resolve a chord progression that would otherwise hang, adjust parts to make them fit neatly, rather than stand against one another. Yet, there’s still a squareness to the playing that would be hard to concoct, no matter how closely one studied the session players at Liberty Records.

The peaks of No Más are like electro unspooled to its goodwill roots in the Bronx. "The Merkin Jerk" sounds for all the world like it could be the track after "Apache" on the Incredible Bongo Band album that launched a thousand hip-hop samples. "Tell Me What Will It Be?" nails the nerdy funk of de Gaulle-era Jean-Jacques Perrey. They’re not always as successful with the vocal tracks. There’s a chipmunk rap, and some of the harmonies can be bland.

No Más carries hints that the exotica exhumation of the 1990s had avenues to offer beyond the dead-end of Capitol’s Ultra-Lounge compilations. During those same years, dense turntablism was cut short by the gangsta4life desire to comply with traditional royalty structures. What we’ve had in its place — party-at-all-costs mash-ups — offers diminishing returns. Looks like there might be a life beyond all that.

By Ben Donnelly

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