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Bad Jelly Collective - EP Review: WESTBOUND&DOWN

10 Oct 2023 // A review by Callum Wagstaff

Bad Jelly Collective is the brainchild of 'Bad Jelly' Ben. Tucked away in his Huia road Home Studio in the Waitakere Ranges, Ben weaves his psychedelic soundscapes together with the creative forces of his team of musical mates.

In the live setting, BJB "utilizes his arsenal of pedals, guitar amp & voice to create mood specific textures and colours. With a loop pedal layering song foundations & textures, he blends groove-based rhythm and smooth yet raw, bluesy lead playing."

The new EP, WESTBOUND&DOWN, is a spacey, at times trippy experience. The sound design lends itself to headphones but the infectious dub grooves and transcendental guitar playing feel made to be broadcast into the hills, bouncing off trees and echoing through workshops. The particular mix of sounds and textures blends images of foliage with science fiction.

Right from the get-go, an echoing high hat and low-res buzzing tone feel like a movie soundtrack for ghostly radio frequencies and stalking cryptid footage. Panning, alien voices and buzzing distorted sound effects create a disorienting vortex of noise. It's intriguing and mysterious; I found myself on tenterhooks waiting for what kind of music this type of intro would lead into.

The bass drum bites down hard, as if into dirt. The organic, syncopated strumming of the clean guitar sets in alongside that never-relenting radioactive drone. The first song, ST0LENLAND, begins like a dream or a hallucination. The altered voices continue, panning around, never settling. They become a little clearer and I can make out: "we're a colony", "we benefit off the misery of the native people." All the while, the chord progression is beating against spooky intervals. The song moves into a new section, where the fat,
grumbling bass traces another moody riff, this time more propulsively, and a new voice breaks through. Even glitchier, just repeating phonetics. It reminds me of the voice at the start of Radiohead's Everything In Its Right Place. It fades out, dystopian and pre-apocalyptic. I can make out "kill everyone" from the last voice that flies around the headphones.

RUN0OUT opens with a deep, throaty, bassline, bleeding micro slides that translate like a sexy, chocolaty vocal fry. Overlaid are sax sustains like in a film noir movie. Conjuring images of misty, despondent alleyways. The music swirls together like early-morning blurred vision as Jelly contemplates.

I love lyrics that take an uncommon word and make you associate that with a song for the rest of your life. in RUN0UT: "Safe from harm/ I'll do my best to wrap them up with Duraseal but I may" uses the consonance of the word Duraseal so effectively that I'll never be able to look at book wrap again without thinking of this song.

There's wonderful, subtle yet interesting variation between the first and second verses and choruses. Panning muted strings and accented syncopation add texture and dynamism to the moody atmosphere of the plodding bassline and filthy sax. The lead break sweeps in like a flash flood of noise. It sounds like blue electricity in a cloud of black rain. It touches on a couple of emotional nerves but never quite stays long enough to let them oscillate. Then it whips away, leaving us on a whisper of "just like always."

GETD0WN begins with an irregular repeating loop of a soft tone, nice strings, a little riff of panned electric guitar on the right. Then the grinding, dragging beat comes in. A slow groove anchoring the catchy muted melody. "I see you're looking at me like I'm a piece of meat/ like I've been woven from your fantasies"
There's a subtle low voice underneath the lead vocal that's been altered. It gives the vocals a feeling like they're being telepathically transmitted straight from his head to our ears. There's a really interesting and unusual melody they hit in the verses that's one of my favourite parts of the whole album.

A techno timbre breaks through for a stop-start twitchy solo, muted chords a little underneath, the lead is bright and biting. The voice distorts more later in the song, the strange little notes peak in and out of the parts as they repeat. There are so many cool little aberrations that poke out of the ribs of this song. The last solo is blistering like a Mountain Dew commercial. It feels made to sky dive out of a plane with a snowboard and race down a steep peak to.

I think for me GETD0WN has the most replayability of the album. Just every time I listen I pick up another little part I hadn't noticed before.

DEEPGREEN resets the room back to a more ambient baseline after the heated crescendo that was GETD0WN. Luscious surround sounding and expansive, with settling piano that echoes, warbles and glitches. It feels like there's bubbles in it. There's a little panning action. It's all the musical and sound design motifs that have popped up in parts of every song coming back together. It's reminiscent of the start of ST0LENLAND but it feels more settled. Insect legs scuttle in the background. It's a weird one, I find it really relaxing and calming even though there's still disorienting aspects floating around in it.

Schmoozy jazz sax and subtle odd percussion begins PIPELINES, the last track on WESTBOUND&DOWN. There's a really compelling vocal rhythm in this song, punctuated by the return of that low vocal tone sitting underneath, just very subtle, but affecting. The reverb is comforting, and the clean guitar tone and arpeggios with the sustained sax are super calming.

It then breaks into electric guitar riffage. There's two vocal tracks that both seem to be singing lead but occasionally divert from each other to create really satisfying harmonies.
"Do you wait for the sun to rise? Just sat there with those black light eyes."
The vocal performance in this song is the most evocative of the album. It combines powerfully with the guitar performance. "Hold yourself accountable to keep your sanity."

There's heaps of variation - a lot of different phrasing and strum patterns of the chords across the song. Towards the end they become frenetic and fast. The panning contributes to the interconnecting rhythms syncopating with each other like rubber balls bouncing off a stairwell.
Then it ends quite suddenly, finishing the whole EP.

WESTBOUND&DOWN uses different modes and rogue notes musically. It uses different rhythms and rogue beats not just in the percussion, but the strumming patterns and vocal delivery. It also uses different timbres and rogue sounds in a way that feels like sound design for a theme park installation. It would feel at home playing while you walk through a forest filled with robot dinosaurs.

This EP feels like a projection of someone's dream beamed straight into your forehead. The way the segments interact with each other feels so satisfying. Bad Jelly can somehow combine what feels like a dozen different and disparate parts to create a sonic daze without being overwhelming. It's like a roller-coaster you can lie down in.

 

About Bad Jelly Collective

Finely tuned, reflective soundscapes - made fresh with dew from the Waitakere Ranges.

Bad Jelly "Ben" - Sonic Mood-Alchemist from the West Coast of Tamaki Makaurau- and a few buddies weave creative forces in the Huia Road Home Studio, nicely tucked away in the Waitakere Ranges.

Live, Bad Jelly Ben utilizes his arsenal of pedals, guitar amp & voice to create mood specific textures and colours. With a loop pedal layering song foundations & textures, he blends groove based rhythm and smooth yet raw, bluesy lead playing.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Bad Jelly Collective

Releases

TRi-P0LA
Year: 2024
Type: EP
WESTB0UND&D0WN
Year: 2023
Type: EP
Bad Jelly EP
Year: 2022
Type: EP

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