How Do You Say Jethro Tull in Czech?
What an encouraging omen that in 2016, a band would be unafraid to record a hauntingly vivid, 70s-style art-rock suite. One that vividly echoes Jethro Tull, no less.
Say it slowly. Jethro. Tull.
If you’re stoned, you’re already laughing. But stop. In this blog’s five-year history, the most popular review here is a writeup of a show by that band’s founder. So today’s front page news should be the second most popular piece ever, right?Psychedelic art-folk band Jull Dajen earn that distinction, evoking Tull in the best possible ways, and without the Stonehenge vibe that earned them Spinal Tap immortality. The Prague-based group’s new album Salamander is streaming at Soundcloud.
The opening diptych pairs a jaunty seafaring waltz theme of sorts with a bouncier one in 4/4, with a psychedelic wah violin solo by the band’s not-so-secret weapon, Pavel Cingl, at the center. The title track is a surreal Slavic take on Tull with a crystalline yet inscrutable vocal in perfect English by Bara Malkova anchored by slinky, sliding bass from Czech punk legend Jaroslav Kestra Kestranek.
In a Circle bookends a purposeful, propulsive minor-key dance theme with bandleader/acoustic guitarist Petr Stambersky’s pensive fingerpicking alongside Dusan Navarik’s similarly thoughtful flute. They hand off to Cingl, who raises the morose energy a little before the dance kicks in.
Unfortuantely I Haven’t Met You Yet goes a moodily bouncing psychedelic Britfolk direction. There’s a hint that the gnomes will go frolicking at the end – whether or not they do is worth sticking around to find out.Old Indian Man is a sad, hypnotic take on what could be a Native American theme, although it sounds closer to Shonen Knife with more expressive vocals. Cingl hits his wah pedal and channels a century of deep blues as it winds out.
Forgotten Tull gives Navarik a chance to channel his inner secondhand Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Meanwhile, the rhythm section gets a chance to have devious fun with 70s disco (Kestranek’s lines are hilarious), and Cingl to offer a snide response via his wah pedal. For Anoushka Shankar reprises the opening theme as a moody fugue and then pouncing 70s art-rock, an eclectic elegy for her paradigm-shifting dad who like this band never met an idiom he could resist appropriating and adding his original voice to.
Malkova sings Starless – an allusion to the classic King Crimson dirge, maybe? – with a haunted resignation in contrast to the band’s slowly crescendoing dynamics and a lively, combative conversation between Cingl and Navarik. Greedy Pigs – Hungry Sharks is a funny juxtaposition between bouncy and sinister. There’s a final, closing benediction, a variation on the Scottish seaside theme that opens the album, Cingl”s psycho blues and Frantisek Tomasek’s terse, purposeful accordion signaling that all here ends well. Dare you to give this a spin even if Jethro Tull is no more than a signifier of wretched 70s excess to you.