A memory of the music of Jambay


Friday, March 26, 2010

Song: Ocean (Video)

"Boundless waves and bountiful dreams within your reach
look beyond the city strife confusing the life you lead"

Executive Summary: simple, soaring singalong
Arrangement: acoustic
Lead vocal: Shelley
Wild card: delicate mando solo by Chris, and crowd particiption in some versions
Download mp3 or flac

Lazy Porch Dogs 1995-10-20 WOW Hall, Eugene OR. from WOW Hall Archive on Vimeo.

Man, this one's so sweet I'm not even gonna try to tell you. There it is. Check it out.

Big ups to James for the video hookup. We'll work on more as time permits.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Song: Victim of Circumstance

"I'm here as promised, if not as foreseen"

Executive summary: Jambay's version of a slow blues, I guess
Arrangement: electric
Lead vocal: Shelley
Wild card: perfectly smooth acceleration from a crawl to a gallop
Download mp3 or flac

Victim of Circumstance is an oddball even among Jambay songs, an extended, grueling tension and release exercise that builds in a long, smoldering burn from a plodding pulse to a blazing peak and then drops suddenly back. It seethes with emotion, sketched out in two minimalist verses of alienated desire. Like many of the best Jambay songs the match between the lyrics and music is amazingly apt, and so the whole is incredibly expressive without saying too much. I will follow this example tonight.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mix Playlist 1: Echo Carry the Sound

Download: mp3 zip files or flac zip files.

This mix is the first of at least two that I'll post. It's a "best of" from my perspective, songs and versions chosen for my own enjoyment and tastes, for the pleasure of old Jambay fans, and to convey the strength of the material to my friends who haven't heard them yet.

If you don't know: the whole "Porch Dogs" thing means an acoustic set. If you're just a rocker, or want to check that out first, skip it for now. And if you really want to just right to the heavy stuff, you can just grab from Mercury on - that is, just zips 2 and 3 of the MP3s, or 3 and up of the FLACs. If I were you I'd listen to all of it, but I know how you kids are now, with your iPhones and short attention spans. When was the last time you read a fucking book? That's what I want to know. Jesus.

~~ Lazy Porch Dogs (acoustic) ~~
Window Scene
Laugh & Just Be Here
Simple Sam
Time Traveller
mutual appreciation
The Howl
Free Harmony
also known as

~~ Jambay ~~
And I Follow Suit
Twister Groove > Blunder > Twister Groove
Today's Song
The Bigs
King of Confusion
Stranger's Eyes
Victim of Circumstance
The Changing
It Don't Bother Me
Passion Play
All Things Equal

The FLACs are set up to burn on 2 80 minute CDRs with a break between Estimation and Mercury.

These tracks are all from matrix-mastered sources (2-channel soundboard mixed on the fly with a stereo mic feed) recorded by Todd Kushnir to either cassette or DAT master between 1993 and '96. Sources are either my CDRs, burned from a patched-in DAT master, or downloaded from the Archive - as explained more in this post.

I evened out the levels between tracks and added crossfades. This project didn't need any EQ or noise reduction since I chose the tracks from the better sounding sources out of those available. EQ and/or NR might be needed in future projects.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Team Friendly

"We must dance with the dead, we must dance with the living
we must join together our song"

Team Friendly is all the dedicated Jambay fans. As Joe Rigney writes in this very enjoyable essay - which is the only bit of Jambay history I have ever found online:

....out of this state of self-induced chaos rose Team Friendly. Anyone who wants to be a member can be... all it requires is love and respect for those who share the experience of Here We All Are Now, So Let's Have Some Fun.

(This essay is a great read for anyone who was into the band back in the day, and may be of interest to latecomers as well, I couldn't say)

The vibe at the Jambay shows I attended was the highest and most ecstatic I have ever experienced in a life dedicated to the pursuit of such moments. I attribute that in part to the infectious Team Friendly vibe.

Now, most of those shows were at the WOW Hall, which is quite the unique venue. In the mid 90s, it was home to its own partisan band of highly evolved freak-dancers, spinners in both tribal-shamanic and sophisticated Sufi styles, Wiccans across the triune spectrum from beauty to crone, lysergic and mycological adventurers, bucolic horticulturalists of crops both legal and otherwise, tree-sitting radicals, mindblown, bug-eyed college kids, grizzled and roadburned Dead tour veterans, young Phish fans looking for an alternate fix, Kesey family Pranksters and their shenangians, and a vast and sundry array of unclassifiable individuals drawn, via karma or happenstance, into the orbit of this potent and storied structure. This gang came out in force whenever Jambay was in town, joined by Friendly travelers from all of the band's various hometowns and histories. So it's possible that my sample of personal experiences was drawn from an atypical subset of the overall spectrum of shows.

A rumor persists to this day that the man in the Hobbes suit and the Disco Wizard of Love are simply alternate incarnations of the same ascended Friendly being. We may never know for sure.

If more is to be said about Team Friendly, it can be said by Team Friendly itself. If you have something to add, please do so.

Lastly, everything in these pages is dedicated to the memory of Marie. We lost her a while back. She loved music, Jambay specifically, as much as or more than anyone I've ever known. She was great.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Song: Passion Play

"The problem with passion, it slips away
I guarantee you'll want it back someday "

Executive summary: ripping rocker with great lyrics.
Arrangement: electric
Lead vocal: Shelley
Wild card: the whole lyric, which is one of their best.
Download mp3 or flac

A song that came into rotation relatively late, as far as I can tell, Passion Play quickly established itself as a potent rocker and was often found in featured setlist slots (closers, encores) throughout the last year or so of the band's career. It's built on Mike's insistent, driving bass line, Shelley's intense delivery of the incredible lyric, and the full-band build and explosion towards the end.

With such a perfect match of words and music, I think Passion Play holds up as one of their very best songs.

"If you're sick and tired of all the compromise and all the lies behind
Count yourself a step ahead, at least you're not yet brain-dead"

Live recording sources on the Archive, and Todd K.

All of the audio linked on this site either came from the Archive.org Jambay show pages, or directly from the original CDRs that some of those filesets came from (I uploaded the WOW Hall shows that are on the Archive). All of them are various breeds of "matrix" recordings, meaning that a direct soundboard feed has been combined with an audience recording to create a mix that has both soundboard clarity and real-life ambiance. Some of the recordings are flawed in various (mostly minor) ways, but for the most part they range in quality from "pretty good" to "absofuckinglutely fantastic."

The biggest reason all these sweet recordings are available is due to the efforts of Todd Kushnir. Todd was Jambay's sound engineer for some large portion of their career. If Todd or anyone else wants to set the record straight, let me know. In any case, Todd recorded most if not all of the shows from the latter half of the band's career, and has been very generous with sharing the results with the Team Friendly community.

So Todd, great job, and thanks for all your work over the years. If there's anything I can do to expedite the delivery of more shows to the Archive, let me know.

Below are my top recommended whole-show downloads from the Archive. These are great shows with clean recordings.

10-20-95 WOW Hall - my single favorite show and recording. The recording levels are a little low, but the clarity is amazing. The most intense and beautiful crowd/band "energy"/interaction I have ever experienced at ANY show by any band was this night. It's amazing when a peak life experience actually holds up on tape!

6-4-93 Bellingham - a nice but not spectacular audio mix of a cool, relatively early show with some songs that were rarities or absent in the following years.

1-13-94 Seattle - a great recording of a very hot show. Punchy and clear, this one's a pleasure to listen to, and there are many performance highlights.

3-19-94 San Francisco - a cool mid-era hometown show. However the "special guests" mid second set subtract rather than add to the total, I think. But they're not on for long.

7-30-92 Santa Clara, CA - This show isn't a good "introductory" one because the recording quality is relatively poor compared to the above. But it's a must-hear for serious Jambay fans, an early show with a unique setlist (among the circulating shows) and very high energy performance.

The following shows on the Archive have sound quality issues:

8-31-93 Telluride - just kind of a muddy, uneven mix. Good show though!
5-26-94 Fillmore - the Porch Dogs set has a wicked buzz in it. A little annoying between songs, but not absolutely terrible since it's not as noticeable when they're actually playing. It's much less prominent in the electric Jambay set.
8-27-96 Great American - a big fat layer of hiss on this one, presumably from the cassette gen. A clear enough recording under the hiss though.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Song: Mercury

"Bound to the infinity"

Executive summary: totally fucking bonkers composed masterpiece
Arrangement: electric
Lead vocal: Chris
Wild card: grindcore repeating section near the end
Download mp3 or flac

Mercury is a slippery, shifting maze of complex composition and raging rock shred. I think it's their best "progressive" style song, given the amazingly natural way all the constant change fits into a seamless whole. In fact, that idea of change seems lie at the heart of the concept behind the song: the music is always shifting, scattering, and flowing back together, like the element. The structure of the music itself is expressive and part of the meaning of the song. Imagine juggling liquid mercury, slowing and accelerating, twisting and turning as the element flows chaotically through your hands, droplets scattering from your fingertips...also, frequent exposure to Mercury can make you crazy, so the metaphor works on a couple levels. Which is always nice.

The lyrical section in the middle is played at a slower tempo with a slide lead that strongly contrasts with the frenetic nature of the rest of the song. The brief lyrics themselves seem to be a love story told in alchemical allegory.

Since it's so heavily composed, every version I've heard of Mercury sticks fairly close to the same template; but as with a lot of intricate Jambay songs, the improvisation is in the details of the interplay and runs much deeper than might be immediately obvious. Different versions vary in terms of tightness of execution, tempo ("fast" to "blazing") and the details of the various shreddy solos and duets scattered through the labyrinth of progressions. The edgy, dissonant repeating section near the end varies in length to a moderate degree. That part drives some people nuts, but I frakkin' love it.

If you listen to this badass motherfucker loud in the right mood and setting it might just fry your brain in the nicest possible way.

"Followers" is such a crude name. I prefer "Lackeys."