As a producer, DJ and editor here at LAMP I’m constantly immersing myself in the electronic and digitally created world of dance music. It’s a space where I’m continuously looking for those little delights and surprises in a saturated and often ‘templatized’ area of music production. Usually my reviews of this type comprise of short, specific points of technical details and emotional nuances. I truly enjoy writing them, and they often provide fruitful research for my own creative endeavors. Albeit few and far between, when the mood strikes me I embark on more robust reviews of the music I receive and attempt to represent my thoughts therein with the idea of simply being an objective listener.
Upon receiving Jewel Tones latest EP I was, to say the least, very pleasantly surprised. My past encounters with the project have always yielded amazing experiences. With full transparency we have premiered and released a few of the project’s earlier works. Regardless, Jewel Tones’ efforts to venture into the unknown, its breadth of experimentation and, ultimately, a natural, organic output have been a welcoming respite from the inundation of genre-specific submissions I encounter. Below is my attempt to do this wonderful release justice as well as an interview with Jewel Tones orchestrator Jacob Millar.
The title track ‘No Part’ was the first musical piece of this EP that Jewel Tones were generous to share with me several months back. It was a glimpse into the project’s next phase of its creative output. Their previous single ‘Form’, in retrospect, feels like a sort of pre-amble into the vocal laden work that ‘No Part’ and its accompanying tracks on the EP embody.
The combination of grungy alt-rock guitar licks and wide panning pedal effects coupled with Millar’s soft, moody vocals result in this brooding narrative. As I listen to the lyrics unfold I’m slowly drawn down to a dark, unfamiliar place that feels cold and despairing. The emotional juxtaposition of reluctance and refusal to take part in an undefined battle are powerful. It’s possibly referring to our current social climate but I leave that up for you to decide. The outro vocal harmonies put a proverbial nail in the coffin, as if the words surrounding me have accomplished their goal and captured my soul for eternity.
As this track begins to unfold and reveal itself I’m presented with a fresh canvas void of the dark shroud that I was previously wrapped in. With every passing moment I seem to become more weightless as fluttering guitar loops pair with a series of airy pads, panning, abstract sound effects and delicate drums. The quick tempo of the song coupled with the line “who loves caution anyway” give me a sort of carefree credence and approach to my day. The shift in Caution’s vocal track’s audible presence to slowly unfolding into the stereo field with this ethereal sensibility feels eerily warm and inviting. As the track progresses the previously unoccupied spaces within the auditory space slowly and meticulously become filled up building on the energy and tempo that the drums originally laid out.
Mr. Toad Show
‘Mr. Toad Show’ really seduces us into a odd moody vibe, laced with sinister undertones. Mr. Toad Show himself seems like an unscrupulous character, a trickster unashamed to admit his misgivings and unmentionable deeds. The slow pulsating bass line sets the scene for a dimly lit, back alley magic show gone wrong at an all but abandoned circus. Mr. Toad Show’s inebriated state reveals a past that seems fraught with hopeless endeavors that create an uncomfortable sense of empathy for this troubled soul. Delightful arrangements of bells, distorted guitar strings and spectral pads round out this beautifully written piece.
To compliment this trifecta of truly inspiring pieces of music, Jewel Tones also enlisted the help of 3 very different and dynamic artists to take on the task of remixing the title track.
Vapur’s rework really latches on to the guitar samples and drawn out strings pads to create a beautiful sense of tension with each passing beat.
High Ceilings takes us on a full on journey with a sort of Jehkyl and Hyde approach that becomes apparent during an unpredictable switch in the middle of the track. This emotional shift causes me to be transported to another dimension with the new 80s-style arp that’s introduced along with an 8-bit style synth pad. I’m not sure whether it’s the brilliant doctor or his mad alter ego taking over here but either way I can’t resist playing this part of the song over and over again.
Be sure to check out our special Free Download of this remix on our Soundcloud Page or stream it below:
Colab’s remix really pushes the envelope of sound design with a plethora of crazy sound effects and aggressive pads. The amalgam of the downtempo rhythm and heavily distorted effects seem like a distant message from another lifeform in the far reaches of space.
What really defines this collection of tracks from the project’s previous work is a complete departure from the more club-minded writing. With No Part we are immediately transported to the golden years of 90s alternative and experimental rock. Bands come to mind like Postal Service, Fugazi, Portishead (sans the unmistakable voice of Beth Gibbons), Massive Attack, and as a few other media outlets have already pointed out Radiohead.
Check out my interview with Jewel Tones below.
MR PUZL: Congrats on this release, I’ve truly enjoyed listening to it! Tell me a little bit about who was involved in this project and a bit about their individual musical backgrounds.
Jewel Tones: Thank you for listening and for having us! It’s truly a pleasure.
First person to mention is Evan Bernardin. He plays drums and is the first person I (Jake) started jamming with when I was demoing these records. Evan has been drumming for over a decade and is an enormous talent. I think we met in LA around 2013 or 14.
Then we have Nick Phillips on lead guitar, who was originally part of the band and a long time friend of mine. He has chosen another path for his life outside of music, so while he’s not a member of the band any longer we are grateful to have him on this record. Nick and I played in a band together in high school so I was personally really happy to get a chance to write with him again.
MP: What was the catalyst for deciding to work together on this project and subsequently
producing the EP?
JT: I think ultimately it was synergy between all of us and where we wanted to go musically. That synergy translated into physical output when we were recording the songs for this project. We’ve demo’d a ton of music over the past year really trying to dial in the sound we had in our heads and just have fun with it. I think this EP is a great representation of that vision.
MP: Since I was first exposed to Jewel Tones its sound has evolved. In it’s current iteration how would describe the project’s creative vision?
JT: Musical freedom.
MP: Transitioning from being a solo producer to having de facto bandmates has obviously been apart of the project’s evolution. What were some refreshing surprises that materialized as a product of working in a studio with other musicians?
JT: The inspiration! Not to say I was surprised that I’m being inspired by other people but it was just so tangible. Evan would record a loop of himself playing a crazy ass drum beat that I could write a complete song to. That’s how Mr. Toad Show became a song, it was a wild drum loop that we somehow tamed. As a solo producer, programing something like that would be incredibly difficult and time consuming. I can even play a drum kit pretty well but I’m nowhere near as good as Evan. Realizing that you don’t have all the keys to the universe is an important aspect of creativity. It forces you to come face to face with your own humanity and connect with other people in a deep way. I believe it is one of the biggest arguments for encouraging creativity unanimously throughout our society.
MP: Nods to bands like Radiohead and Postal Service come to mind, along with a plethora of other 90s rock influences, when I’m listening to this EP. Did you have something specific in mind when setting out to make this EP?
JT: I try to approach writing with a completely blank slate and let it just come out from wherever it comes from. The nature of how we write music together as a band is from a place of spontaneity, which I try to preserve in the recording at all costs. Of course I have my influences and they affect me the same way they do everyone, but writing this didn’t feel specific. It felt ambiguous.
MP: You chose to have a few remixes made of the title track. Who are these remixers and what about their styles made you gravitate towards asking them to work on your music?
JT: Ah yes! We are so happy to have them reimagine our record. It’s actually a first for us. High Ceilings aka CLAAP! & Santana were among the first we reached out to. I wanted to put the song in a completely different lane and they turned it into something you might hear in a warehouse in Berlin.
Vapor is this Australian guy I stumbled upon on Soundcloud. He only has one EP out but it’s great and after listening I hit him up to see if he would be a part of this record. I had hoped that we would get at least one instrumental remix of No Part and he delivered exactly that!
Then we have Colab from Canada. Mikael is an extremely prolific IDM producer and doesn’t usually work with vocals. I actually didn’t expect him to hit me back because he was such an obscure figure haha. But, he did, and what he delivered was beautiful.
MP: You have a passion for creating some compelling visuals for your releases. Tell me a bit about working with artist Jeff Feltham on this cover and how you arrived on this artwork?
JT: I had drawn the first cover for No Part the single using some crayons and some fire. He basically took what I had drawn and remixed the hell out of it. I’ve been working with him for a minute but this is the first time I’ve ever contributed anything to the artwork that he’s designed for us. He’s a young kid from Canada who I connected with on Twitter. Funny enough, he recently came to LA and is living here for the summer. We got to meet in person and instantly bonded.
MP: It’s obviously important for your audience to have their own experiences with your music, but if you could sum it up what is one takeaway or message you’d like them receive?
JT: I try to think about this in terms of what I need to receive because, in a way, I am listening to this for the first time as well. I think that message is to express your self at all costs and never let any person or thing suppress that voice inside of you.
MP: What can we expect to hear from the Jewel Tones project in the future?
JT: I want to release a lot of music this year. We have another EP 90% done which I expect to come out around September. Keep an eye out for a chance to catch us live as well 🙂