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JAAW - Supercluster review

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Band: JAAW
Album: Supercluster
Release date: May 2023

01. Thought And Prayers (Mean Nothing)
02. Reality Crash
03. Rot
04. Total Protonic Reversal
05. Bring Home The Motherlode, Barry
06. Hellbent On Happiness
07. The Dead Drop
08. Army Of Me [Björk cover]

You know what, maybe I do like Andy Cairns' vocals when there's a shitload of effects on top of them.

When I first listened to JAAW I did it because it was in the new releases page, the cover art and the genre tags looked cool, and I loved it unsurprisingly since I love industrial tinged noise rock. It was only later that I checked the lineup too. Drummer Adam Betts collaborated with Melt Yourself Down and Squarepusher, bassist Jason Stoll of Mugstar and Sex Swing was also in that Twin Sister side-project of the Dead Neanderthals guys, Wayne Adams did mixing for a bunch of the aforementioned, but he's also half of Petbrick. And then there's vocalist/guitarist Andy Cairns of Therapy?, and as ironic as it is for me to praise his vocal performance here while being off-put by it one review ago, there's a bit of a difference.

On both Supercluster and Hard Cold Fire, Andy's vocals are more melodic compared to the noisier and heavier backdrop. He's the sole guitarist in both bands, so he likely has a pretty strong say in how the backdrop to his vocals is. And while it feels a bit disjointed in Therapy?, it seems like a bit more effort for integration was done on Supercluster. Part of it is that Hard Cold Fire was a more direct hard / alt rock album where the vocals came front and center, songwriting was chorus-focused, and the vocals were high on in the mix. Supercluster on the other hand is a noise rock / industrial metal affair, one that has moments that are more direct but is overall more focused on the overall atmosphere of the sound, and the mixing showcases that.

Having one of the members be someone who generally handles production in other bands does show in how well integrated the production and the songwriting are. The production is part of the sound rather than just something that makes sure things don't sound bad. Electronics and other such effects are expected to be part of noisy and industrial music, both laid on top of the music, and in how the elements (like the aforementioned vocals) gel with each other. As a result, the vocals, through the effects on top of them retain their direct melodic sense while also being part of the soundscape. The songwriting favors both the more direct in-your-face bangers like the Ministry-sounding opener "Thoughts and Prayers (Mean Nothing)" and the slower sludgier bits like "Rot" and the more long-form atmospheric pieces like "Bring Home the Motherlode, Barry", and the melodic effects can even bring some shoegaze-y alt metal touches in "The Dead Drop". But by far the weirdest of the cuts is the drum & bass infested cover of Björk's "Army Of Me", which is a weird cover that I'm glad exists but having the album end on that note after the excellent "The Dead Drop" does change the aftertaste a bit.

There's not much that reinvents the wheel for this kind of album, but there's strong performances all throughout, even from people whose work I wasn't as keen on previously, and it turns out you can make things gel with a bit of work.

Written on 02.06.2023 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.

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