Review: JOBS – endless birthdays
Local Music Reviews
JOBS = Arca + it foot, it ears
On their third album, endless birthdays, avant-garde rock group JOBS explore sensory percussion and ASMR. The band continues its prior use of minimalist composition tools, but on this album, they hyper-fixate on timbre and present a work that is more mechanical than electronic in its aesthetic. While electric guitar, viola and bass remain, the percussion is the compass of this exploration, with witnessing how it interacts with its surroundings being the ultimate goal and the moments created by this back and forth being the main thing holding the listener’s interest.
The opening track, “A Toast,” immediately reminded me of Deerhoof. The main guitar riff is solidly in Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich territory. It wasn’t either of them, but two tracks later on “Striped Cotton Blanket,” Dieterich does make an appearance via a guitar-noise/feedback solo. Between these two on “Brian,” JOBS blatantly introduces the ASMR theme of the album with a rhythmic ticking that sounds multidimensional in its clarity. It reminds me of the first time I saw an image on a big, LED HDTV at an electronics store; I wasn’t quite sure how to react to how vivid it looked. There is also a sound at the end of this song that lies somewhere between pop-rocks on your tongue and freshly soaked Rice Krispies. There’s a lot of these sensory moments on this album, and listening all the way through feels like a culinary ordeal.
After the three-course meal offered by this opening trio, JOBS provides some musical dessert on the fourth track, “Opulent Fields.” A clear vocal melody and a repeating acoustic guitar figure make this the least confrontational song on the record. The band does not linger too much in this sweetness and quickly proceeds to “Self Replicating No.2,” the main point of which is to set three vocal tracks, each stating the same lines at different rhythmic intervals—fast, slow, slower—and repeating them until they all land on the same word. This creates a quasi-phasing effect harkening back to some of Steve Reich’s early experiments on that phenomenon. Reich never set his phasing experiments to TR-808s, though. On the next song, “Words About Shapes,” the band makes yet another nod to a minimalist great: The pulsating, synth-layered viola sounds similar to something out of Philip Glass’ opera Akhnaten, both in rhythmic content and harmonic movement.
endless birthdays closes with “3 Being 2.” Palm-muted electric guitar and bass uphold a riff that seems to have graduated from the Albert Hammond Jr. school of licks. The familiarity of Casiotone organ and accordion pads put you at ease when compared to the songs that just preceded them. Around two and a half minutes in, a guitar solo by Cyrus Pireh starts. Pireh continues to slowly increase his intensity, as the rest of the band supports him and moves alongside his explorations. His picking hand sounded almost bionic. Just shy of eight minutes in, it all ends.
JOBS is comprised of music school graduates, and that is readily apparent early on in this album. However, the humor on this project is able to do away with some of the snobbishness often attributed to academic composers. An example would be the lyrics in “A Toast,” which state: “I selfishly want to be publicly called selfish / I’m desperately trying to be told to calm down.” There is experimentation throughout the entire project, but there is also a lot of playing around and musical decisions being made simply because they could be made. The band has done a good job of striking a balance between being avant-garde/experimental and still giving their audience enough to hold on to. This album pairs well with testing out new headphones, furthering your mindfulness practice and thinking about how much more you should be doing with your liberal arts degree. –Arcadio Rodriguez