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Jackie-O Motherfucker: Earth Sound System

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Jackie-O Motherfucker

Earth Sound System

Fire

If you just dropped in on the long-running Jackie-O saga right here, fresh and open-eared, you might be forgiven if you cued up opener “In the Willows” and assumed you’d crashed yet another standard psych-folk hootenanny. JOMF guiding light Tom Greenwood delivers a series of surreal invocations and natural-world references not miles away from Daniel Higgs’ interdimensional tent revival as the rest of the band/collective slowly builds a mounting surge of strum and crash behind him. But the next track, “Raga Joining,” combines slippy tape noise with woodwind hoots and wrongfooting drum blurts for a free-improv suite just as typical of its closing-in-on-two-decades oeuvre. So, yes, this slice of late-period JOMF wouldn’t be out of place filed next to Woods, but you wouldn’t consider it exactly in step with them either.

Still, the two extended improv segments here nestle amid some of the more straightforward songliness of Greenwood and company’s long careen. “Bring it to Me” begins as another wood-smoky, weed-smoky pastoral ramble, with Greenwood’s flat warble front and center, when suddenly, he appropriates the chorus of Sam Cooke’s ’60s soul hit to ask repeatedly, in his slightly professorial way, for you to “bring your sweet lovin’, bring it on home to me.” Most peculiar. “Dedication” also deals in obsessive repetition, as Greenwood croons, “This is dedicated to/ the person who/ is trying to find/ the next right thing to do” over and over until the track’s six-or-so minutes of spacey psych slow-jam are done. Perhaps the biggest surprise after all this singer/songwriter-type action is closer “Where We Go,” a fuzzy, gaze-y lo-fi psych track fueled by rolling toms and flanging everything with only Greenwood’s voice fighting its way through the din to bind it to the whole.

So, perhaps this means that Earth Sound System is the best stab JOMF has had at a “hit” since 2005’s Flags of the Sacred Harp and its mixtape-friendly anthem “Hey! Mr. Sky,” as well as a good place for fresh and open-eared newcomers to start. For those who’ve followed longer and more closely, it’s a welcome, well-lit waystation on JOMF’s long, strange trip.

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