A MINUTE JACK FORUM – Traction Blip
It’s pretty safe to say that A Minute Jack Forum is unlike anything else in Madison. How they achieve this with standard rock outfit instrumentation, without keyboards, is admirable. AMJF is one of those ensembles that blend retro rock influences with forward looking aesthetics. But where other experimentalist band like Orphan Bloom are more aggressive and in your face, AMJF is subtle, using texture and a variety of acoustic and electric guitar sounds to create a compelling sonic palette.
Traction Blip was recorded by Landon Arkens at Blast House Studios (formerly ELabs Multimedia) but the sound is far from generic, pro-studio production values, sounding more like it was recorded live in a big room with few overdubs.
These are expansive song structures; dare I say, bordering on progressive rock but in the motif of Radiohead or even Built to Spill rather than the shifting-time-signature or math-rock bands. Though they can break into falsetto, there are no tales of unicorns or starships. This is especially true on the opener, “Hello Patty,” where the band slows down to an almost Mazzy Star-like dirge; soaked in reverb and feedback. “At Sea With Scale” may be the apex of their progginess with shifting textures and snaky melodies. Brian Thorpe’s vocals display an effective range in songs like “The Awkwardly Titled ‘Belly Full of Me’,” a more conventionally structured folk-rock track and “Terry’s Got a Satellite View,” which stretches his voice to its upper limit without attempting to go beyond. Shades of R.E.M. surface in the latter song and elsewhere. For instance, “Thinner” sounds like an early R.E.M. composition before taking a hard left at the coda. There’s a lot going on there in three minutes.
As the album continues things get progressively more alt-country and indie-rock. The mid-tempo “Therapy” is a standout with an appealing melody and heavy mood.
AMJF saves the vocal harmonies for the last three songs, even going a capella for a stretch on “Elocution.” The band gets positively Marshall Tucker-ish on the closer, “Waiting for No One,” where harmony vocals float over distinctly country/rock cowboy chords with the odd, bluesy seventh chord thrown in for good measure. This results in the album sounding like a process of evolution in three stages, which makes sense when you read their bio and get a hint of the uncertainties leading up to its eventual recording. A Traction Blip is a solid debut and makes a strong case for keeping AMJF on the radar of interesting new bands.