Brant Bjork, Jacoozzi: Guerrilla Wonderland

Posted in Reviews on April 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

brant bjork jacoozzi

Roll tape. Jam. Repeat. It’s not a new methodology by any means, but it still works, and one imagines the process becomes more complicated when there’s only one person involved. Fortunately for anyone who might find themselves immersed in the Heavy Psych Sounds-issued Jacoozzi, that one person is Brant Bjork, who plays all instruments throughout the release recorded in 2010. It was a productive era for Bjork in the studio and on the road, as the years immediately preceding had seen him touring with his then-band, Brant Bjork and the Bros., as well as putting out LPs at a steady clip like 2006’s serene, acoustic Tres Dias (reissue review here), 2007’s Somera Sól (discussed here) and 2008’s Punk Rock Guilt (though that was recorded in 2005) through his Low Desert Punk Records imprint, and the former Kyuss drummer was still a couple years off from putting his solo career aside to participate in the semi-reunion Kyuss Lives!/Vista Chino circa 2011-2013. It would seem to have been during the making of what became 2010’s Gods and Goddesses (review here) that Bjork, apparently frustrated with how the material was coming together, scrapped everything and instead jammed out Jacoozzi with Tony Mason engineering for what has ended up as 10 tracks and 46 minutes of mostly-instrumentalist heavy chill mastery.

And like its cover art with an image of Bjork — ex-Kyuss as noted, also formerly of Fu Manchu and by 2010 already with no fewer than eight solo/bandleader full-lengths under his belt — staring directly at the camera, surrounded by an aura of muted shades like a ’70s wall hanging, Jacoozzi is about as dead-ahead and stripped-down as he’s ever gotten. As an entire work, it oozes vibe, and even the 44-second drum bed “Five Hundred Thousand Dollars” has a sleek groove, but it is definitely a collection of individual movements rather than something written as a single entity. It’s a different process of capturing the moment, then, not about bringing in a collection of pre-written songs and putting them down to establish an overarching feel, but getting there from another direction, piecing together jams one component at a time until finally a song like the mellow highlight “Black and White Wonderland” is built to where it needs to be.

That there are no vocals on the bulk of the material feels on one level like a missed opportunity at times — one imagines an improv rant over the tense wah guitar of “Oui” or a couple verses added to “Lost in Race” would’ve added to the effect rather than detracted from it — but it speaks to the circumstance in which the record was made and the fact that it likely wasn’t intended to be a record at all. It was Bjork expunging ideas in the studio, and getting stuff out of his head either as some kind of catharsis or to save and make into songs later before returning to work on Gods and Goddesses. Thus it is the nature of even the jazzy electric piano in “Mixed Nuts” or the cool-toned mood-setting in opener and longest track (immediate points) “Can’t Out Run the Sun” to be what they are and to feel like ideas waiting to be fleshed out. Jacoozzi isn’t a traditional Brant Bjork record, as much as that exists. At its core, it’s very much a drum album. The first element that enters on “Can’t Out Run the Sun” is a quiet tom progression, and “Mexico City Blues,” “Five Hundred Thousand Dollars” (which is only drums), “Oui,” and vocalized closer “Do You Love Your World?” all lead with drums one way or the other.

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The only song that starts with guitar is the penultimate “Polarized,” which swells in with Hendrixian fuzz feedback before its slow ride cymbal backbeat takes hold and continues to wind its way forward in that fashion for all of its four minutes, with keys and bass and drums behind it. Other cuts like righteously on-the-beat “Guerrilla Funk” (premiered here) and the sleek “Mixed Nuts” and “Lost in Race” bring the drums and guitar, etc., in at the same time, but either way, it’s still drums at the foundation of the material, and that’s somewhat inevitable given how it was recorded, essentially constructed on top of improvised drum parts. Given an infinity of time, money and interest, might Bjork have turned all of these jams into full-fledged verse/chorus songs? I don’t know. Does it matter? Jacoozzi works as well as it does precisely because it’s not that, and it gives a different and heretofore largely unseen look at the process by which Bjork creates. It’s a single creative burst from nine years ago. One should not go into it expecting the same kind of fleshed-out songcraft as Bjork featured on last year’s Mankind Woman (review here), but if that bit of necessary context makes Jacoozzi a fan-piece, then the album is only an argument in favor of fandom.

Brant Bjork is no stranger to carrying a record on his own. The majority of his landmark 1999 solo debut Jalamanta (discussed here) was him alone, and certainly other outings along the way have been as well. Of those, it seems to make the most sense to liken Jacoozzi to Tres Dias. Not necessarily in terms of sound, but idea. Tres Dias was a mostly-unplugged collection of songs, some of which were older, some were newer, but all were given a new interpretation in a setting that was as intimate as possible. It was a rawer glimpse of Bjork‘s songwriting process than he’d given before. Jacoozzi functions to do much the same thing, but with a different target. “Do You Love Your World?” might be considered “finished,” but if Tres Dias was showcasing the songs, Jacoozzi is showcasing the jams that birthed them. And while Bjork has done plenty of jamming on recent albums, there’s never been a work so purely based around the idea, and that makes Jacoozzi all the more special of a moment to have been caught on tape, and after being shelved for nine years, its arrival is as welcome as it was awaited. It may be an aside, or a kind of footnote in Bjork‘s ongoing creative progression, but damn is it listenable.

Brant Bjork, Jacoozzi (2019)

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Brant Bjork Announces June & July European Tour Dates; Playing Freak Valley & More

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Earlier this week, Brant Bjork posted a clip of 2018 European tour highlights that, if you didn’t already want to see Brant Bjork — ah screw it, what am I thinking, of course you did. But the point is it looks like the shows were a blast. All the better timing, then that Bjork and company have a new round of Euro dates on deck, including numerous festival stops beginning with Freak Valley in Germany and wrapping up with Resurrection Fest in Spain on July 4. They’ll be in Belgium, the UK, Greece, Switzerland and Austria as well, so not exactly a minor bit of running around for a 14-show run, but if the video is anything to go by, it’ll be plenty groovy, and maybe even in slow motion!

Brant Bjork is of course about to release the awaited Jacoozzi collection of instrumentals on April 12 — you can hear “Guerrilla Funk” below — through Heavy Psych Sounds after making his debut on the label with Mankind Woman (review here) last year. He’ll once again have Sean Wheeler on the road as he did last time around and on the record.

Sound of Liberation has the dates thusly:

brant bjork tour

We’re glad to tell you that Brant Bjork will be back in Europe in June/July, with special guest Sean Wheeler, as follows:

19.06.19 – Nuremberg | Hirsch (DE)
20.06.19 – Netphen | Freak Valley Festival (DE)
21.06.19 – Nijmegen | Doornrosje (NL)
22.06.19 – Tunbridge Wells | Black Deer Festival (UK)
23.06.19 – Izel | La Fete De La Musique (BE)
24.06.19 – Aachen | Musikbunker (DE)
25.06.19 – Darmstadt | Centralstation (DE)
26.06.19 – Hannover | Musikzentrum (DE)
27.06.19 – Saarbrücken | Garage (DE)
28.06.19 – Düdingen | Bad Bonn (CH)
29.06.19 – Salzburg | Rockhouse (AT)
30.06.19 – Korinthos | Under The Sun Festival (GR)
02.07.19 – Thessaloniki | Eightball Club (GR)
04.07.19 – Viveiro | Resurrection Festival (ES)

Brant is still promoting his 13th solo album, “Mankind Woman”, which will was released via Heavy Psych Sounds in September.

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Brant Bjork, 2018 EU Tour Highlights

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Brant Bjork Premieres “Guerrilla Funk” from Jacoozzi LP; Preorders Available Today

Posted in audiObelisk on January 31st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

brant bjork (Photo Aija Svensson)

Brant Bjork beaming in a nine-year-old seven-minute instrumental jam? Well, around here that’s what we call a good day. The Dude of Dudes will issue Jacoozzi on April 5 through Heavy Psych Sounds, and while his work over the course of this decade — let’s say, across the post-Vista Chino solo-ish records: 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here), 2016’s Tao of the Devil (review here) and 2018’s Mankind Woman (review here) — has seen him increasingly become an ambassador to earth from the California desert and an arbiter of unmatched cool, nine years ago, as he headed toward the release of Gods and Goddesses (review here) coming off the release of the earlier-recorded Punk Rock Guilt in 2008 and 2007’s Somera Sól (discussed here) before that, it seems in hindsight there were a couple different competing impulses happening in his sound. Of course, his signature approach is mellow heavy, smooth, funky, and melodic, at once punk and soul and based around that inimitable desert groove that’s audible as well in the track “Guerrilla Funk” below, but at the time, Bjork was coming off working as bandleader for Brant Bjork and the Bros. and as his style got clearer and fuller in production across the 2007 and eventual 2010 outings, it seems it wasn’t always easy getting there.

The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — has it that Bjork got tired one day of ramming his head into the studio wall, rolled tape and brant bjork jacoozzijust jammed his way to what became Jacoozzi. Actual history is always a little more complex than that, but what a great image that is. Classic. Guy’s making a record, not feeling it, and just let’s loose and produces something raw and honest, and as you can hear in “Guerrilla Funk,” it could hardly be more his own if he was actually singing on it. I don’t know how well “Guerrilla Funk” ultimately represents Jacoozzi, since it’s all I’ve heard from the long-rumored, long-awaited offering, but it represents the context of its making beautifully, and seriously, if all 10 tracks included are seven-minute instrumental jams and it turns out to be well over an hour of Brant Bjork just grooving out, it’ll probably be my most-listened-to album this year. Again, I don’t know that that’s what it is, I’m just exploring the possibility.

Either way, you can hear in “Guerrilla Funk” the roots of how Jacoozzi was put together. It’s got a strong backbeat as the foundation and then is built up from there as Bjork jams out guitar, bass and percussion on top of that. Simple enough idea, but Bjork‘s ability to play as a one-man band is highlighted by the completeness of sound here. In the second half of the song, as he moves to a wash on the ride cymbal and the percussion gets more complex, he follows the change on guitar and bass and everything seems to surge forward for a bit before it recedes back into the core bounce of the track. It’s hypnotic to some degree, but most of all it’s funked out, and it gives a better sense of Bjork‘s root songwriting process than just about anything since 2006’s mostly-acoustic Tres Dias (reissue review here), showcasing a genuine exploration of ideas as they happen and the satisfying, engaging results that can yield. It’s worth noting again that, after putting Jacoozzi to tape and resting it on the shelf to be mentioned casually in interviews for years afterward, Brant Bjork went on over the course of this decade to make himself desert rock’s most indispensable purveyor. So, you know, clearly getting it out of his system before moving on was the right call.

Maybe it’s fan-piece, but whatever, I’m a fan, so I’ll take it. I’ll hope to have more once the rest of Jacoozzi shows up hopefully sometime before April, but in the meantime, get your finest boogie footwear on and have at it with “Guerrilla Funk” on the player below, followed by more info off the PR wire.

Enjoy:

Joshua Tree, California, 2010: Brant Bjork has just started to record another solo record. About 4 days into the sessions, the desert rock king decided to abandon the 8 songs he was working on, and told his long time friend and engineer, Tony Mason, to start rolling tape and Brant proceeded to play drums in his natural improv style. After multiple drum track performances were recorded, Brant started layering guitars, bass and percussion in the same improvisational spirit. The former Fu-Manchu and Kyuss-legend essentially decided to “jam” by himself and for the rest of his scheduled sessions.

When the recording session had come to an end, Brant put the 8 unfinished tracks on the shelf as well as his “solo jam session” tracks. “I was much more content with the “jam” tracks as it was a creative release that was needed at that time.“ he says. “I decided to call the collective tracks, Jacoozzi. At the time, it reminded me of the feeling of my first solo recording sessions for my first solo release, Jalamanta….only more “free”.“

BRANT BJORK New album “Jacoozzi”
Out April 5th on Heavy Psych Sounds Records
– Vinyl and CD preorder available: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop.htm#HPS097

Brant Bjork – Keep Your Cool reissue preorder: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop.htm#HPS098

The ‘Jacoozzi’ tracklist reads as follows:
1. Can’t Out Run The Sun
2. Guerrilla Funk
3. Mexico City Blues
4. Five Hundred Thousand Dollars
5. Black & White Wonderland
6. Oui
7. Mixed Nuts
8. Lost In Race
9. Polarized
10. Do You Love Your World?

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Brant Bjork to Release Jacoozzi April 5; Preorders Jan. 31

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Word has kicked around for a while of Brant Bjork‘s jam-ified solo release Jacoozzi — releases rumored at various times and in various spellings of a funky, soulful outing Bjork recorded all on his own in 2010. He spoke about it here in 2016, for example. Well, the alliance with Heavy Psych Sounds that produced the excellent Mankind Woman (review here) last year as well as a series of reissues digital and physical will continue with the awaited arrival of Jacoozzi on April 5. Sign me up. Simple as that. The picture the PR wire paints below of Bjork scrapping whatever he was working on at the time and building up tracks off the cuff by jamming out drums and then adding parts on top? Pretty much ideal. Plus, it’s got a Brant Bjork song called “Guerilla Funk.” There’s no way on earth that’s anything less than righteous.

Speaking of righteousness, you can see the album art below, which I think speaks for itself in that regard. Other details and whatnot follow:

brant bjork jacoozzi

BRANT BJORK to release new solo album “Jacoozzi” on April 5th via Heavy Psych Sounds Records

After the huge success of his latest, thirteenth solo-record ‘Mankind Woman’, which landed on numerous Best-Of lists in 2018, HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS RECORDS is proud to release the upcoming new album by desert rock titan BRANT BJORK! ‘Jacoozzi’ has already been captured on tape at a jam session back in 2010, but the tracks never made it on any of Brant Bjork’s solo albums to date. This Spring, April 5th 2019, will finally see ‘Jacoozzi’ to be released with Heavy Psych Sounds!

Joshua Tree, California, 2010: Brant Bjork has just started to record another solo record. About 4 days into the sessions, the desert rock king decided to abandon the 8 songs he was working on, and told his long time friend and engineer, Tony Mason, to start rolling tape and Brant proceeded to play drums in his natural improv style. After multiple drum track performances were recorded, Brant started layering guitars, bass and percussion in the same improvisational spirit. The former Fu-Manchu and Kyuss-legend essentially decided to “jam” by himself and for the rest of his scheduled sessions.

When the recording session had come to an end, Brant put the 8 unfinished tracks on the shelf as well as his “solo jam session” tracks. “I was much more content with the “jam” tracks as it was a creative release that was needed at that time.“ he says. “I decided to call the collective tracks, Jacoozzi. At the time, it reminded me of the feeling of my first solo recording sessions for my first solo release, Jalamanta….only more “free”.“

At that time in 2010, Brant had no formal plans to release any of the music from those sessions….’Jacoozzi’ included. Almost a decade later, Heavy Psych Sounds Records is stoked to finally release this special trip of a Brant Bjork jam!

“After 8 years in the waiting, it’s nice to finally have this recording I call Jacoozzi released.“ Brant Bjork comments. “I feel that the fans of my work will enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed performing and recording it.”

BRANT BJORK New album “Jacoozzi”
Out April 5th on Heavy Psych Sounds Records
– Vinyl and CD preorder available on January 31st –

The ‘Jacoozzi’ tracklist reads as follows:
1. Can’t Out Run The Sun
2. Guerrilla Funk
3. Mexico City Blues
4. Five Hundred Thousand Dollars
5. Black & White Wonderland
6. Oui
7. Mixed Nuts
8. Lost In Race
9. Polarized
10. Do You Love Your World?

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Brant Bjork, “Chocolatize” official video

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