Jackie O Motherfucker – The Magick Fire Hour / WOW

4 out of 5

Label: ATP

Produced by: Jackie O Motherfucker

Its been 20+ years(!) of Tom Greenwood’s experimental / improv collective, Jackie O Motherfucker making wonderfully composed messes of feedback, tape loops, samples, sometimes kinda offkey singing, and… y’know, traditional instruments and stuff. For a group with such a “can we print this on a magazine cover?” name, there was an amusing temporary rise to prominence in the early 00s when JOMF was ably grouped with some other sounds that were going on in the indie scene at the time, resulting in ATP recordings rereleasing some of their works from preceding years. Including: WOW and The Magick Fire Music, released in 1999 and 2000, respectively.

While the group has maintained some consistent elements throughout the years – touches of Americana, folk, jazz, and a grounding guitar / bass / drums / strings musicality about which long, 10-20 minutes instrumentals swirl – earlier efforts leaned more on experimental slowburns and less on “song” (either of their own design or rearrangements of traditional tracks), and it’s interesting to hear some of that shift occur just between these two releases, collected together as a double disc for our listening and collecting ease.

WOW is the looser of the two discs – fittingly, being a slightly earlier recording – and centers around its 20 minute title track, a burble of tapping percussion and plucked notes and strings. It’s a pretty, though not especially compelling, track, but much like a lot of JOMF’s stuff, once you’ve gotten a feel for its pacing and you relisten to it a few times, its relative build-up in its final stretch is very satisfying. Prior to that, you got the lovingly busy and clanging Black Squirrels – more on the folky strum side of things, with a nice dose of legit rocking out throughout – and then some effective free jazz, which warbles on a bit before seguing into good ol’ drifting JOMF dreaminess during Love Horn’s 14 minutes.

The Magick Fire Music, perhaps owing simply to the longer track listing, is the more expansive listen, and frequently fiddles with genius. From the opening, noisy bleeps and reverb of Extension to Bone Saw’s Chicago Tortoise-esque mellow, to the slow and steady mesmerizing shuffle of The Cage, the disc leads the way with already a full album’s worth of great material in three tracks. Second Ave. 2AM blows up the world with greatness: a direct, focused riff that powerfully morphs over 13 minutes into a loud-ass, celebratory riff. Jugband 2000s repeats (perhaps remixes) some themes from the first few tracks, leading into Quaker – maybe the disc’s only relative low point, its constant didgeridoo giving it a sort of simple, silly feel – and the closing drug-trip shimmer of percussion on Lost Stone.

Either of the discs on their own are worthwhile; together they’re almost more powerful, WOW’s open-endedness playing off of Magick Fire’s comparative barrage. I might’ve reversed the order to match how I reviewed them (WOW is actually the second disc), but it’s a powerful set either way.

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