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Inspired by Miles Davis and Talk Talk, the Junior Boys deliver a different kind of tension

click to enlarge Just a few more lessons and the Junior Boys will be ready to leave the dock.
  • Just a few more lessons and the Junior Boys will be ready to leave the dock.

Junior Boys' Jeremy Greenspan believes that climaxes are overrated, at least when it comes to music.

"I read a review of our album recently that said, 'This album never climaxes,'" recalls the Canadian electro-pop musician. "And I thought to myself, 'That's the point, you ass!' I feel like everybody's after some sort of orgasmic release all the time, and there's just no room for any kind of space or subtlety or tension that remains unresolved."

Anti-climactic though it may be, Junior Boys' third album, Begone Dull Care, is anything but dull. Greenspan and cohort Matthew Didemus smoothly blend British synth-pop and American R&B, transcending their influences with a cool reserve that rewards repeated listenings.

Greenspan cites the precedents of two musical heroes — Talk Talk's iconoclastic Mark Hollis and jazz provocateur Miles Davis — as justification for his own musical course.

"The later Talk Talk records are just filled with these tensions that are never released, musical phrases that are never resolved," he says. "And that, for me, is the best type of music. Or some of the '70s Miles Davis stuff, where you have these things that go on and on forever, and you just get wrapped up in it. 'He Loved Him Madly' goes on for 30 minutes, and Miles Davis doesn't even start playing until like 20 minutes in."

Averaging five to six minutes each, Begone Dull Care's eight songs are comparatively succinct. The duo employs vintage modular synths and current software to craft moody yet disarmingly accessible tracks. Greenspan's breathy vocals, meanwhile, combine the hushed tones of Mark Hollis and Green Gartside with the blue-eyed soul of Daryl Hall and the oft-maligned Toto (whose drummer, Jeff Porcaro, he's totally obsessed with).

"That was definitely an influence, that Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan kind of sound," says Greenspan, no doubt paving the way for a full-on yacht-rock revival, "but I also like listening to a lot of straight-up '70s and '80s R&B."

Still, if this is mainstream music, it's coming from some parallel universe.

"I was also listening to huge amounts of experimental electronic music," Greenspan explains, "like Steve Reich, Todd Dockstader and Laurie Spiegel — that early Stockhausen tape loop kind of thing. And so, for some reason, those two things that are unlikely paired, in my mind, coalesced into a sound."

Greenspan's fondness for loop-based music originated from a teenage infatuation with the ever-mutating genres of British dance music. He even managed, at 16, to land an engineering gig at a Birmingham studio, where he was "the demo deal guy," recording any band that walked in off the street with money in hand. A year later, he was back home in Canada, still trying to crack the code of the U.K. garage and house music that kept drifting across the Atlantic.

"If you're a Canadian act, you can't make British music — it just seems sad and stupid," says Greenspan. "We don't live in South London, and we aren't part of that scene. So we decided to try incorporating all our interests into something that would be our own. And that's what we did."

bill@csindy.com

  • Jeremy Greenspan believes that climaxes are overrated, at least when it comes to music.

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