Artist: Jam Baxter
Album: …So We Ate Them Whole
Label: High Focus Records
I have been looking for an excuse to talk about Jam Baxter, and this album just so happens to have been released on this day (1st December) last year. As most special artists do, Jam Baxter seems to split people down the middle. Some people just write it off as nonsensical, drugged up waffle, and I understand that point of view. One of Jam Baxter's self professed talents is ‘12 day benders’. But I think to write him off as an unintelligible space cadet is extremely short sighted. You can't simply ignore someone who constructs bars with such an expansive vocabulary that they would legitimately challenge Aesop Rock for his crown of ‘Biggest vocabulary in Hip Hop’.
True, he has knocked on The Doors Of Perception more than a few times, but if you suspend your Daily Mail point of view for a second; Hallucinogenic/Psychedelics have long been referred to as ‘mind expanding’. So maybe Jam Baxter is just able to express things in a way that you can't perceive yet? Indeed, I do think that having sampled these things first-hand does help you to understand and decipher Jam Baxter and his lyrics. But ultimately, as these experiences/trips/journeys are entirely personal, perhaps Jam Baxter is the only one who will ever truly understand his lyrics. But they are still astounding. The fact that he can actually wrap his mouth around them coherently is commendable enough… “Everyone in town is now sufficiently suspicious that your mutant super powers are officially fictitious. Comic book villains; young, dumb and ambitious. Mouth smothered in a warm smile that gave us all the shivers…”. Fantastic.
The first eerie notes of album opener ‘Wings Cost Extra’, and producer Chemo lets us know exactly what we are in for; A dark, 4am, paranoid, twisted ride through someones life and mind, as we help him observe and battle various obstacles and creatures in search of hope and happiness. His words are extremely vivid, and conjure up enormous amounts of imagery, and even if you can't always hold onto the thread of the story, it is still an eye opening adventure. Some of it is eerie, unsettling even. But just like an acid trip, if you have the right state of mind you can explore these dark corners without thinking all is lost, and it is ultimately a hugely enjoyable experience.
There are so many highlights on this album, that you should just check it all out. The singles/videos ‘Caravan’, ‘Incoming’ and ‘Leash’ are all varied, and show how diverse this album is. The only album guest spot goes to old time partner-in-crime Dirty Dike on ‘Menu’, a track about life on the road, which provides a nice reprieve from some of the more dark and introspective work on the album. Brushed drums, classical strings, piano loops, padded drums, echoes, delays, sound effects, are all masterfully arranged by Chemo. ‘Husk’ uses a caribbean steel-drum loop and it manages somehow to not only sound good, but sound other-worldly for fuck's sake. All lay a perfect, unobtrusive backdrop for Jam Baxter's almost drunken, story-telling, drawl. A drunken drawl that never slurs his words. As with any album that has depth, I recommend a couple of listens through headphones to get the full impact of all the parts. When on the move, and I don't have to flip the record over, I often let the album play on loop. Like my previous Sex Wax post about DJ Shadow, this album lets you nod out and leave your mind to wander. It is a piece of work that is great for late nights, early mornings, when you haven't slept, long journeys, and when you have stuff on your mind. Check it out.