Backward - 2015
Though Calgary's economy may have collapsed along with the price of oil, it hasn't made things any easier for Jay Crocker. The erstwhile Albertan was once a fixture on the western scene, upping the experimental quotient a notch or two with leftfield pop-rockers Ghostkeeper and his more out jazz-influenced NoMoreShapes project, among others. But when he decided to pull up things and move his family out east a few years back to the tiny burg of Crousetown, NS, he found that the small-town life there had challenges of its own.
"There's a staggering difference between Calgary and Crousetown," he would tell the local West Dublin Monitor newsletter not long after his arrival. "It's been mild culture shock. Out here is a totally different thing, full out do-it-yourself or else if you don't have any money, you're not gonna be able to survive."
Once his bags were unpacked, though, Crocker did manage to get down to business, building his own home studio from scratch and spending the bulk of his time on his newest project. Muuixx, his first release as Joyful Talk, represents quite a turn from his previous days out west. Conceived, performed and recorded by Crocker on an array of fourteen custom-built instruments, it is a relentlessly forward looking record, one that pays only the barest of reference to its rural surroundings.
The opening track, 'Butterfly 12 Komokyo', is probably the closest things get to pastoral bliss, placing what sounds like an African stringed instrument atop sundry electronica. Elsewhere, though, Muuixx has distinctly cinematic overtones, especially the vaguely eastern-sounding 'Pommel Horse' or the penetrating 'If I Had Your Address in Chicago'. And still other tracks, the more industrial 'Buschbabies' for one, seem to suggest a vestigial hankering for the big city left behind.
(Muuixx is Backward's first foray into the vinyl format, by the way; this one is on heavy-duty 180-gram wax and is limited to just 200 copies.)
Joshua Van Tassel
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