Connan Mockasin returns from a five year hiatus with his third album’Jassbusters, which can only be described as an unconventional cabaret of weirdness. In that vein it’s a perfect addition to Mockasins body of previous work. A concept album of sorts, the story of the Jassbusters is one of forbidden love between a teacher and his student who “will do anything for good grades”. Sounds odd, right?
2018 has seen the return of the concept album with artists straying outside of their ‘brand’ to experiment with narratives and new sounds. Mockasins foray into this realm have largely rendered them all irrelevant. Never a man to do anything by halve (check out the video for ‘Forever Dolphin Love’ to see what I mean) his debut as the Jassbusters is accompanied by a self-made film which tells the uncomfortable story of the two protagonists. The short is shown on Mockasins current tour and is followed by a performance by the band under the pseudonym of the Jassbusters.
Were it not for Mockasins ability to lure the listener into a somewhat hypnotic comfort through his melodic guitar riffs, this album would be the musical equivalent of uncomfortable and awkward silence ,the kind that assaults your brain just as you’re about to sleep and leaves you with butterflies of unease. Yet he owns this awkward realm with confidence, in fact I think he might permanently reside there. As Mockasin invites us to enter this world of oddities which spans a short 34 minutes, it’s apparent that a concept as abstract and surreal as the story of the ‘Jassbusters’ is not one that’s meant to be taken with serious literalism. Through subtle nuances of comedy Mockasin manages to inject a surreal hilarity into an album that could stand purely on musicianship alone.
The eight track album features appearances from James Blake on track ‘Momo’s’, one of the only tracks on the album that is lyrically decipherable. However, one gets the sense that the lyrics take a backseat in this album. With tracks such as ‘Charlottes Thong’, the funky jass-eqsue rhythms take the forefront over some of the only transparent lyrics ‘Thong/ That’s a thong’. As listeners we are allowed to explore the entanglement of teacher ‘Bostyn’ and his student ‘Dobsyn’, while this relationship is morally dubious. Tracks such as ‘Last Night’ shows Mockasins ability to combine his crooning bedroom jazz with an essence of cynical humour.
Mockasins sound is largely comprised of reverby guitars that have a way of twisting and turning through tracks. However, under the Jassbusters he takes this a step further, although clearly identifiable as an expansion of Mockasin, they create a fuller bodied more rhythmic sound, that seems to be more stripped back than Mockasins previous work. Perhaps this is to allow the accompaniment of a narrative which overlays tracks such as B’nd. This narrative of Bostyn and Dobsyn is only one part of a five series melodrama. Considering Mockasins eclectic eccentricity it would be fruitless to predict in what form the future four instalments will come in. Based on the strength of Jassbusters alone, I’m expecting a genre bending amalgamation of sounds. I can only hope that ‘Bostyn’ is ready to be catapulted from his status as inappropriate music teacher, to the fame that ‘Jassbusters’ is bound to herald.
By Amelia Heffernan