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Transmission
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Album Mon Apr 09 2007

Roots Control

It's to no small degree of anticipation that Chicago's The Jai-Alai Savant released its debut LP, Flight of the Bass Delegate, this past week. Equally due to the take-notice served with prior EP Thunderstatement and to frontman Ralph Darden's sidework as DJ Major Taylor, the band has netted a fair amount of attention, both here and elsewhere. And here's to making a grand entrance.

By way of an opener, Jai-Alai get things rolling in a dark and heavy mode with "Datamassagana" — a tune that plays off both the title and primary melodic riff from The Abyssinians' classic Trench Town devotional, "Satta Massa Gana." The track's swollen, plaintive horn chorus sets a haunting, ominous tone for what’s to follow, its skulking bassline connoting dread in both senses of the word. No sooner does it fade, then the band strips gears by launching into a whiplash-inducing trio of tunes of punk-pedigreed pop. This back-and-forth manner of navigating between styles — from rock to dub and then back again — plows a twisting path, lending the album a varied sense of balance and pacing.

As far as the more pop-ish songs are concerned, the band's material and performance is propulsive and downright jubilant; a bit bouncy, even — yet they avoid treading into clichéd anthematic domain. As a songwriter, Darden (thankfully) steers clear of emo subjectivisms, instead offering lyrics that are wryly allusive and rich in metaphor, that connect the micro- of personal relationships to the macro- of larger societal and cultural issues — the imbalances of power and certainty that keep us sometimes ambivalent, doubtful, or constantly guessing about the dynamics of our lives.

Scattered throughout the album are odd, experimentalist interludes, replete with abrasive electronic effects, shortwave radio frequencies washing in and out, samples from old movies and radio programs crackling through the ether, that thread the thing with a sense of ghostly signal-drift from some cultural netherwhere. By and large, the band keeps its repertoire tightly compact, reining themselves in to three-minute bursts, on average. The main exception being the nearly eight minute-long "Transmission From The Delegate," a sprawling roots-rocker in which the riddim gets brilliantly volleyed about from one section of the band to another with nary a fumble. Sure, the dub formula’s been frequently engaged in the name of post-rock eclecticism, only to meet with tepid results in most instances. Foot-shuffling skank, rock-steady basslines, fleshed out with the help of a horn section, and spaciously soaked down with generous reverb — it's a style that Jai-Alai take to quite adeptly, the rhythm section brings the proper amount of blood and fire to put it over.

As far as overall musical sensibility is concerned, the album reflects a band taking a solid first step. Clocking in at barely over forty minutes, it's sharply executed and astutely paced, sophisticated enough to make its share of passing nods to edginess while greeting accessibility with a firm handshake. In the end, Flight of the Bass Delegate is as bold and sure-footed a debut as one could hope for.

[The Jai-Alai Savant's recordings are available via Gold Standard Labs.]

 

Classical Thu Oct 09 2014

Pulling Strings: For classical music in Chicago, you got a guy - October 2014

By Elliot Mandel

"Classical music is dead. Long live classical music!" - The Internet. The lesson: Read less internet. See more music.

Read this feature »

Blogroll

  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
BackStage
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
ChicagoMusic.org
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
CHIRP
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
Daytrotter
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Do312
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
Gridface
The Hood Internet
Innerview
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pitchfork
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Songs:Illinois
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock

  Venues:

Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
B.L.U.E.S
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Constellation
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
FitzGerald's
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Martyrs'
Mayne Stage
Metro
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Rosa's
Schubas
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Smartbar
Subterranean
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Township
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Atavistic
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Hozac
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records


Events

Thu Oct 30 2014
Smoker @ Empty Bottle

Thu Oct 30 2014
Sidewalk Chalk @ Double Door

Fri Oct 31 2014
Nocturna All Hallow's Eve Ball @ Metro

Fri Oct 31 2014
Rocky Horror Review @ Mayne Stage

Fri Oct 31 2014
Bloodiest, Outer Mind @ Empty Bottle

Sat Nov 1 2014
Pianos Become the Teeth @ Beat Kitchen

Sat Nov 1 2014
Freakeasy's Dead Celebrities @ Metro

Sat Nov 1 2014
Songs of Stephanie Morris @ Hideout

Sat Nov 1 2014
Hood Internet @ Double Door

Sat Nov 1 2014
Chicago Ukulele Cabaret @ Silvie's

Mon Nov 3 2014
Blonde Redhead @ Bottom Lounge

Tue Nov 4 2014
Mark Lanegan Band @ Bottom Lounge

Wed Nov 5 2014
Sound Opinions: The Beatles vs. The Stones @ Old Town School of Folk Music

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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Editor: Anne Holub, anne@gapersblock.com
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