Jealousy Mountain Duo - No_2, The Home of Easy Credit

I reviewed the debut record from Jealousy Mountain Duo back in April, and I'm pleased to report that they're already back with their second album. And it's another keeper--while staying close to the style and approach of their debut, No_2 finds Jealousy Mountain Duo digging even deeper into their unique style. Blending elements of math rock with creative looping and collaborative improvisation, this record shows continued growth and development for JMD: the interplay between Berger (guitar) and Schneider (drums) continues to improve as they play together.

The JMD sound will probably remind listeners most immediately of the duo configuration of Hella, but I like this band much more. They're capable of subtleties that one rarely hears from Hella--Berger's loop-layering techniques let him build vertical dimension in the music that gives space and support for some great melodic ideas, instead of having to blaze along with noodly horizontal passages most of the time. Berger writes beautiful melodies, and finds great ways to embellish them with thoughtful loops as real support, rather than layering a bunch of unnecessarily complicated figures. At times, he somehow balances Frippertronics-sounding layers, rich with backwards-sounding volume swells and occasional whammy pedal glissandos, with very listenable and memorable melodies, something often lacking in experimental rock circles. It sounds like guitar synths are getting some play on No_2 as well, with sub-bass tones and waspy synth textures added to tracks like "All Day Blizzard."

The "complicated figures" in JMD are mostly the domain of Schneider, whose drum work combines rhythmic density with a very light, free spirit. Although his playing in this band is very busy, it's much more jazz-influenced than the constant barrage of megabashing one gets from Zach Hill (I like Hill's approach sometimes, but he totally has the "Buckethead problem" of doing the same crazy over-the-top thing on almost everything he plays). Schneider balances his complicated ideas by spending a lot of time working the rims of his drums and paying attention to dynamics and shifts in volume and intensity, and he generally saves his cymbals for especially poignant emphasis.  He's certainly capable of being a hard hitter and playing more riff-oriented drum parts (hear his work in Nicoffeine for great proof of that), but the heart of the JMD sound is his transcendent thoughtful-yet-rocking drum work, at least to me. I love listening to this guy play--he's intense, but very deliberate.

Like the first Jealousy Mountain Duo record, I'm sure there's some improvisation involved in these tracks, but it's obvious that even on the most free-form cuts, a lot of planning and composition is helping to guide this music. It's awesome to hear math-y music that can feel composed and loose at the same time. The music has room to breathe, and listeners have room to have fun.

Schneider is a skilled producer as well. He does it up old school with JMD, recording live to 1'' tape and pressing vinyl. If you don't buy the hype about analog recording and vinyl sounding "warmer," you might change your mind after a few spins through this record. Tubes, vinyl, and tape make the world of Jealousy Mountain Duo go around, and the kind of beautifully warm, diffused light and heat one can expect from using them is reflected throughout this music and all the way onto the album art, which makes a great companion piece with art and design of their the first record. Another well done record! I'm excited to hear what the future holds for JMD.

Good news for America: Jealousy Mountain Duo is touring the US through October and part of November! I'm sure we're not likely to see this German duo play here often, so be sure to get out and see them while you can. Their tour started in Boston last night, and the rest of their tour dates are listed below. Maybe I'll see some of you at the Omaha show. And in case you're not able to make it to a show, check out the Jealousy Mountain Duo BandCamp site for record ordering information.

--Scott Scholz

October 2012
 2 whitehouse family records, Boston, MA, US
 3 The Flywheel, Easthampton, MA, US
 4 Shea Stadium, Brooklyn, NY, US
 5 The Space, Ithaca, NY, US
 6 Elm Bar (old Rudy's), New Haven, CT, US
 7 houseshow with hyrrokkin, Athens, OH, US
 8 Mickey Finn's Pub, Toledo, OH, US
 9 The Shop, Pittsburgh, PA, US
10 Bug Jar, Rochester, NY, US
11 Now That's Class, Cleveland, OH, US
12 Stone Taverne, Kent, CT, US
13 Borg Ward Collective, Milwaukee, WI, US
14 The Frequency, Madison, WI, US
15 Burlington Bar, Chicago, IL, US
16 Black Sparrow, Lafayette, IN, US
17 Slowdown, Omaha, NE, US
18 Replay Lounge, Lawrence, KS, US
19 Lemp Arts, St Louis, MO, US
20 Court House Co-op, Memphis, TN, US
21 SoundPony, Tulsa, OK, US
23 The Trunk Space, Phoenix, AZ, US
24 Bar Eleven, San Diego, CA, US
25 Solar Culture Gallery & Performance Space, Tucson, AZ, US
26 The Percolator, El Paso, TX, US
27 1919 Hemphill, Fort Worth, TX, US
28 Notsuoh, Houston, TX, US
29 Beale Street Tavern, Austin, TX, US
30 The White House, Conway, AR, US
31 The Owl Farm, Nashville, TN, US

November 2012
 1 Conondrum Music Hall, West Columbia, SC, US
 2 Roasted Lounge, Macon, GA, US
 3 The Goat Farm, Atlanta, GA, US
 4 The HandleBar, Pensacola, FL, US
 5 Burro Bar, Jacksonville, FL, US
 6 The Junkyard Saloon, De Leon Springs, FL, US
 7 Safe // Sound, Savannah, GA, US
 8 Chapel Hill Underground, Chapel Hill, NC, US
 9 Slim's Downtown, Raleigh, NC, US
10 subterreanea collective, Richmond, VA, US

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