April 1, 2019 Brant Bjork – Jacoozzi (Album Review)
Kyuss co-founder and Desert Rock veteran Brant Bjork is poised to release a new solo record, Jacoozzi, Friday, April 5th, through Heavy Psych Sounds.
First put to tape in late 2010, the sessions that became Jacoozzi were the result of Bjork abandoning recording plans for a new solo album. Instead, he shifted focus and simply laid eight tracks’ worth of drum grooves, then layered all other instruments. He stated his goal was to recreate the same vibe surrounding Jalamanta, his debut solo record, which was first released in 1999. Even with the knowledge that Jacoozzi was recorded close to ten years ago, it is easy to see how prolific Bjork has been as of late. His previous solo album, Mankind Woman, was released just last year, and 2016 saw the release of Tao of the Devil, as well as a European tour that culminated in the live album Europe ’16 released a year later.
This flurry of activity is nothing new to Bjork; after co-founded Stoner Rock legends Kyuss in the late 1980s, he releasing three well-received albums with the band before departing somewhat acerbically. He very quickly found new employment with fellow Stoner Rock band Fu Manchu, while also demonstrating his versatility and energy by joining pioneers Fatso Jetson on guitar for two years.
All this in mind, the vibe of this Jacoozzi album fits snugly with 2013’s Peace, the album released by the post-Kyuss outfit Vista Chino. Peace was recorded only a few years after these Jacuzzi tracks were shelved, and the similarities show. The recipe of drums underneath layered instruments is immediately apparent on the opener, “Can’t Overrun the Sun,” which starts with tom-toms and hi-hat played alone, before a slow, subtle rhythm guitar takes its footing, with a lead guitar appearing soon thereafter. The original rhythm guitar then takes a leap to the forefront, backed ably by the drums as all other instruments fade to the background. A tinny guitar steps on driving the bus to the end of the track.
Next on the agenda is “Guerilla Funk,” which, like its predecessor, easily clocks past the seven-minute mark. Guitar, bass, and drums fall into the same lockstep beat, and the guitar, actually falls even further behind the mix. The groove here is palpable, but the track, like most of the album, never quite manages to leaves those warm confines, either by design or by habit. About halfway through the track, the lead guitar does threaten to poke its head above the waterline, but overall the track follows the groove laid by the bass and drums. “Mexico City Blues” follows this same blueprint, with slightly more adventurous results.
Subtle Jazz infects the rhythm of “Mixed Nuts,” with dreamy guitar and organ steering the track to a brisk close. “Lost in Race” features some hand-driven percussion accompanied by guitar and traditional drums. As with earlier tracks, the derivations from the groove typically come from the drums and other percussion rather than the electric guitars. A return to Desert Rock infects “Polarized” from the very beginning, and the inclusion of haunting piano is an odd twist.
A brief respite appears midway through “Five Hundred Thousand Dollars,” which uses only the sounds of a traditional drum kit in its forty seconds of time. “Black & White Wonderland” follows, keeping the relaxed vibe while also showcasing the range of Bjork; the guitar quietly and carefully carries this tune. Plucky bass opens “Oui,” before several different strains of psychedelic guitar take turns sliding into the groove, and the pace quickens compared to the tracks immediately prior. The familiar fuzz of Desert Rock guitar soon makes a grand appearance and slyly drives the track home.
As the closer “Do You Love Your World?” rolls along, Bjork himself gives a clear answer to the titular question: “Now I’m outside on my knees/ kiss the ground that holds my feet,” and the question repeats for the listener to contemplate. Bjork may be in the midst of long, dense, and varied career, but he clearly does not take his position for granted, and has an appetite to continue his impressive catalog. Jacoozzi may not blaze a completely new path, but the cuts here are fresh and inviting, and being able to consistently produce quality material in this genre is a success by itself. That is why Cryptic Rock is gives Jacoozzi 3.5 out of 5 stars.