(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, June 14, 2010

CD review - Joemca, 16 Devils (2010)

At some point, categories break down. On 16 Devils, Joemca (pronounced "jum-ka") has drawn a clear line of self expression, where his voice and his words are paramount. At the same time, the music transcends genre, building an edifice with elements of pop, soul, soundtrack, and electronica without really leaning towards any of them.

Fundamentally, this is singer/songwriter material with none of the folk or indie rock that usually implies. The instruments are all secondary to Joemca's voice, which has a lot of Bono -- sometimes theatrical, sometimes husky, but often proclamatory. There's a lushness that also recalls David Bowie (Diamond Dogs/Young Americans era) and Roxy Music's Bryan Ferry. Every word is clearly enunciated, which is fitting because his lyrics are fairly polished. The music is often brooding, serious, and a little world weary.

Big Dreams serves as a good example of the music. The instruments are all pushed back, although the drums are relatively forward. Like many of the other songs, some of the instruments are intentionally low-fi take (in this case, it's the guitars), while other elements are cleanly layered in. The lyrics are very personal and anecdotal:
I was walking through the neighborhood
I had a picture of my big dream
You came wandering across the street
You were the only one in red shoes
And you said, "hello, isn't this a strange time?
All the neighbors have locked their window and closed their blinds
Shouldn't we run down to the station and catch the next train
Should we head down to the next town and find our big dreams"
While they look prosaic in print, Joemca's voice imbues them with a more symbolic depth.

Later, Down Down Devil offers up the album title in its lyrics. Brooding, bluesy, with a contrasting electronic element, it starts out bassy and dirty. Great imagery:
She's like a comet in your eye
16 devils to take down
Your jewels don't sparkle anymore
16 devils arrive
We go dreaming in the fire
launch our missiles in the night
Save me mama, oh oh oh
16 devils by my side
Then you go down down down...
It's a little haunting and raw. Still, every word stands out.

This is followed by Ancient History, which takes a taste of David Bowie's voice from Heroes (and a fair amount of Bono) and mixes it with sound of the Church's keyboard layering from Under the Milky Way. Its wistful and moody feel forge a connection with me somehow.

16 Devils is rich and interesting like Moroccan spiced coffee (cinnamon, cardamom, and a touch of black pepper). Savor all of the impressions. 16 Devils is due out June 22.

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