It’s a good bet that the title of Juju & Jordash’s new album is at least 50% tongue-in-cheek. After all, Gal Aner and Jordan Czamanski are a pair of pot-smoking, disheveled former jazzbos known for long, improvisational synth-and-drum-machine jams that wobble on the edge between late-night abandon and psychedelic freak-out. Young Republicans they are not. Hell, the Amsterdam-based duo has a record called Jewsex, whose cover features some rather suggestive-looking pastries against a matzo-cracker background, while their Unleash the Golem EPs rebuke the right-wing policies of their native Israel. These mischievous miscreants are the opposite of clean-cut, and proud of it.
But there’s an element of truth to the title, too. On their inspired third album for Amsterdam’s Dekmantel label, they sound tighter and more focused than ever. That’s especially notable given the seat-of-the-pants ethos of their live sets, in which they take the stage armed with racks of hardware—synths, drum machines, effects, an occasional guitar, no computer—and make it up as they go along, building beats and melodies from scratch. Those sets (as well as their Magic Mountain High performances with Move D and the Mulholland Free Clinic lineup featuring Move D and Jonah Sharp) can be awesome, mind-expanding affairs, but they also come with all the pacing issues you might expect from two guys trying to wring a couple hours’ worth of spontaneous magic from racks of capricious electronics; the peaks are invariably accompanied by troughs. Here, in contrast, they’ve clearly chosen only the best, most compelling bits from their studio sessions—the clean cuts, as it were.
The title track might be the most direct thing they’ve ever done. After the murky contortions of their last album, 2012’s Techno Primitivism, the song’s sparkling arpeggios and unabashedly sentimental synth lead radiate a kind of bittersweet optimism; it is simple and yet deceptively complex all at once, its various moving pieces locking together like the gears of a battered, but still highly effective machine for leveraging hip movements to tug at heartstrings.
And “Clean-Cut” sets the tone for much of the album. “Whippersnapper” is a Detroit night-drive in the tradition of Carl Craig’s Landcruising, simultaneously cool-headed and wide-eyed. “SP Shakes” applies a shimmering mist of ambient synths to Afrobeat-inspired bass with crackling dub accents. And “Anywhere”, the highlight of the album’s back half, sounds like their interpretation of Dâm-Funk in full-on devotional mode, right down to the falsetto vocals and a grinding guitar solo that I like to imagine Aner recording on his knees, like Prince.
But not everything on the album is so straightforward. “Deadwood City” starts off like a wriggling and relatively uncomplicated acid-house number—jacking 909s, fluttering chords, a ribbiting-frog bassline inspired, perhaps, by Art of Noise‘s hyperactive Fairlight CMI—but shortly after it reaches its high-energy climax, the beat drops out, the tones go sour, and it all washes away like so much spilled beer and cigarette butts being flushed down the drain, the morning after the party. The well-named “Swamp Things” pairs free-floating saxophone and rock-tumbler arpeggios with distant Detroit techno chug; “Eventide” evokes 4th-world ambient jazz with spacey synth zaps and ’80s New Age; and the minimalist, drum-free “Maharaja Mark” might be an answer to the question, “What would it feel like to be made of liquid metal”? “Schmofield”, another standout, marks the album’s center of gravity, falling halfway between techno convention and serialist jazz-flute meandering. It’s that careful balance that makes Clean-Cut so satisfying. They could just have well have named the album Freak Mullet: It may be business in the front, sure, but it’s all acid-soaked party in the back.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1tPGeCL