Fresh on the heels of the announcement that they’d be performing at this year’s Lollapalooza, Javelin happened to release their debut full length this week, titled “No Mas”. For those of you who’ve never heard of Javelin, and given their lack of easily obtainable music prior to this release I wouldn’t blame you, allow me to make a formal introduction. The duo are made up of cousins Tom Van Buskirk and George Langford who started making electronic music together in 2005. They started to attract attention around clubs in New York as they seemingly pulled samples and loops from all sorts of classic songs. In the last couple years they self-released a collection of demos, titled “Jamz ‘n Jemz” and also released a couple singles and EPs (which are currently out of print but available to download) via Thrill Jockey Records. These early pieces of music worked to generate a little bit of hype for these guys, and they’re riding that wave while their debut full length makes its way into stores.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about Javelin is that though they fluctuate between styles and seem like they’re experts at pulling samples from far and wide, virtually all of “No Mas” is original-ish material. Basically what they do is record every part of every song in the studio, but much of the stuff they’re recording is based on or an exact copy of an older sample. If you’re confused by that, I’ll just say that they’re re-recording samples while putting in their own original touches to provide some differentiation. It saves them the trouble of having to get clearance to use the hundreds of snippets that are layered across this record. Anyways, a number of songs sound like they could be TV theme songs from the 60s and 70s, others go on a more distinct disco route, some have a more funk/R&B flavor, while there’s also the occasional straight up pop song. Such shifts in style have become commonplace in electronica music these days, but the effectiveness of it depends on the individual artist. Javelin do an excellent job of creating an eclectic and exciting collection of songs that each work wonderfully to compliment one another. While the majority of the album’s 15 tracks are instrumental, the ones that do feature vocals (however few) tend to be the catchiest and poppiest of the bunch, and they’re probably my favorites. Tracks like “Vibrationz” “On It On It”, “We Ah Wi” and “Moscow 1980” are all individual highlights among an album’s worth of them. The only track that really sort of bugs me is “Mossy Woodland,” which goes into chipmunk-style children’s vocals that try to be cutesy but really skate over the line into annoying.
Has anybody noticed the growing trend of prolific electronica artists in the past year? I heard Perry Farrell mention in an interview surrounding Lollapalooza that he thinks all genres of music are evolving and moving towards electronica in some form or another. In so many ways, he’s not wrong, and with the glo-fi movement still going strong for the time being, there’s at least some evidence indie rock is following that path. I wouldn’t quite classify Javelin as glo-fi, but given their classic template and occasionally washed out sound, they could easily be mistaken for a Neon Indian, jj or Memory Cassette. That’s not a bad thing by any means, and “No Mas” places Javelin amidst a collection of artists you could call the “next big thing”. You don’t need me to tell you, but I will, that you may want to pick up a copy of this album. It might especially prove of benefit for those looking to sample or remix on your own. For the rest of us, it’s just really damn good dance music.