(Self-released, CD, digital download)
Half a century ago, Jack Kerouac’s beat classic The Dharma Bums introduced readers to Japhy Ryder ; a backcountry Buddha whose wanderlust helped untether America’s restless, postwar generation. Much has changed in 50 years, and we’re 3000 miles from the Sierra Nevada. But Burlington’s Japhy Ryder chase similar summits, and their latest effort, Over the Fall, immortalizes these musical peaks and plateaus. Recorded over a month long residency at Nectar’s in 2008, the album represents both the band’s first live release and last recorded stand with guitarist/cofounder Jeremy Kizina.
Sampling electric jazz, trip-hop and instrumental rock, the quintet’s urban blend finds them leagues from their jam origins. “Brother Be” warms the crowd, as Kizina bobs and weaves around Patrick Ormiston’s lurking bass. But the expected horizon dims once Will Andrews arrives. His space trumpet hijacks the reggae narrative, instead evoking a thick bitches’ brew of Miles Davis fusion. The lulling jazz then jumps under Jason Thime’s drum work, suddenly lockstep as the band catapults into prog. Still, Andrews’ yawning horn denies the band their urgent charge.
“Boo” continues on pace, with Andrews blowing lyrically through the fog. His trumpet saturates the room, echoing from corner to corner until it doubles back over Kizina’s chunky rock riffs. These brass blasts etch like acid; dark and dirty delays that burn the deeper they go. And as Japhy Ryder advance, cymbals splashing, guitars spiraling, one wonders just how far that might be.
Ironically, numbers such as “Judicial Review” and “Brother Eh” will fare better on headphones than in person, as the band slips into a ponderous trance à la STS9. Samples of Barack Obama’s detached vocals float over both tracks: “If we mobilize our voices, there is no destiny that we cannot fulfill,” promises the president. Sluggish (if cinematic), these live stabs at trip-hop ultimately suffer from somnolence. Knowingly, the band drops “No Complaints Mr. Sprinkles,” flattening the crowd with funk. Andrews runs his horn through an effects board, infusing Sex Mob whimsy, while Kizina scratches away at the obvious porn licks. It’s fat and frisky and just what the doctor ordered.
“Theme for Moses” is a competent closer, but it’s the blistering opus “Limbo” that proves a signature tune. Ormiston sticks a driving bass line, as Thime and percussionist Joshua Pfeil work the floor into a frenzy. Seizing his chance, Kizina races up the fret board, growing sharply vehement in his Nectar’s finale.
For the rest of the band, Over the Fall is an aperitif, as the newly forged unit returns this month with guitarist Zack duPont in tow. No longer artifacts of the jam genre, Japhy Ryder are ready for their close-up. Kerouac might not recognize them, but he’d surely hoist a jug in salute.
Japhy Ryder celebrate Over the Fall with a release party this Friday, April 9, at — where else? — Nectar’s.