In creating his Dream City paintings, the Baltimore-based artist Minás Konsolas aspired to a mountain village ideal, an entity of intimacy and community. Using a detail from these works as the cover for their Unknown Cities album, the power trio Joy On Fire again shows how its art intersects with outsider culture. There is something of the DIY aesthetic about Joy On Fire, a band whose music offers a narrative of community with its mix of noise and avant-garde jazz. Being signed to Maryland indie Procrastination Records helps too, a micro-label which curiously supports the Vulture Conservation Foundation.
Unknown Cities continues a prolific run for the band and opens with the tigerish "Kung Fu Tea Party." It sets up their familiar template of buzz-saw guitars and punk-encrusted percussion, with saxophonist Anna Meadors soaring as ever to giddy heights. She conjures an accordion-like squeeze of notes at one point, as the fusion floodgates get swept open. Vast and volatile in scope, Meadors maintains her torrent of notes and flow of ideas whether improvising or sticking to a melodic script. She ranges here from the fluttering classical intro of "China, North Carolina" to rising roar-screams on "The Complete Book Pt 4," a track replete with filthy bass lines from John Paul Carillo.
Such dexterity and discordance is the Joy On Fire trademark, though some of their more studious experimentation is absent this time. This latest offering has the vibe of pieces made for touring as a three-piece, not for elaborate collaborations. Groove-heavy backbeats are mostly the bedrock, though the slow burning title track uses a drum machine and synth bass. It is also one of two numbers to feature the wide-eyed Beat poetry of narrator Dan Gutstein.
Elsewhere, we get a hymnlike chorus of handclaps and spectacular high notes on "Red Wave," while "CNC Pt 2" finds drummer Christopher Olsen going into an MC5-like blistering blowout. With its eruptive stream of energy, Unknown Cities is another eye- popping ride on the wild side.
Kung Fu Tea Party; China, North Carolina; CNC Pt 2; The Complete Book pt4; In Speaking Like Thunder; Red Wave;
Title: Unknown Cities
| Year Released: 2021
| Record Label: Procrastination Records
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